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Minnesota law defines sex trafficking as:
Some provisions under international and federal law require proof that force, fraud, coercion, or the abuse of power was used in order for an act to constitute sex trafficking. Minnesota law recognizes that sex trafficking encompasses a broader spectrum of abuse and exploitation, and that sex trafficking can occur even when traditional elements of force, fraud, coercion, or the abuse of power are not overtly present. Under Minnesota law, victims do not have the burden of proving their trafficker used force, fraud, coercion, or the abuse of power in order to be afforded victim status, and prosecutors do not have to show force, fraud, coercion, or the abuse of power in order to convict the trafficker.
Under Minnesota law, consent is not a defense to sex trafficking. Minnesota recognizes that a person cannot truly consent to being sexually exploited.
The reality is, if you're not seeing it, you're not looking.
Learn to look beneath the surface. Sex trafficking can take on many forms. Traffickers do not always look dangerous, and at least one third of victims report having an intimate relationship or bond with their trafficker. Pimps and traffickers may be a significant other, family member, or friend.
Traffickers use a variety of methods to recruit their victims. Acts of extreme violence, such as rape, kidnapping, beatings, psychological torture, forced drug and alcohol consumption, and threats to the victim or their family are combined with emotional manipulation, grooming, and the creation of a bond between victim and trafficker.
Victims are recruited from malls, bus stops, youth centers, social networking websites, and the streets. Stripping and exotic dancing often serve as a gateway to prostitution. Sometimes prostitution is generational, so family members set the example for younger victims in the home. And sometimes, victims are used to recruit other victims.
Many people ask, “Why don't they just leave?” The greatest myth is that a victim is in control of their situation, when in fact they are under the complete control of the trafficker.
Traffickers expertly employ the same methods of control and dominance used by domestic abusers. Victims are trapped by forced addictions, homelessness, economic abuse, emotional manipulation, violence and threats of violence, and threats to turn victims over to law enforcement. They are isolated, and have little access to the outside world. Victims live in fear – for many, leaving is simply not an option.
The effects of prostitution and sex trafficking will impact a victim for life. A majority suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, as well as chemical dependency and addictions. Physically, sex trafficking victims are at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections, assault with a deadly weapon, murder, and other forms of physical abuse. Sex trafficking victims have difficulty trusting others and are often unable to have meaningful relationships. As many victims are forced to engage in criminal activities, obtaining employment and safe housing are difficult because of criminal records.
Many victims will not self-identify as victims.
Recognizing the warnings signs and effects of prostitution is key.
Often, service providers, teachers, medical professionals, and others on the front lines will have contact with sex trafficking victims but will not recognize it. Recognition of red flags and the effects of prostitution is crucial for victim identification.
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