What is sex trafficking?

 Minnesota law defines sex trafficking as:

  • receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing, or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual; or
  • receiving profit or anything of value, knowing or having reason to know it is derived from prostitution.

"By any means" - Why is this important?

 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 broad 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 to prove 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. 

What about consent?


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.

What does sex trafficking look like in Minnesota?

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 boyfriend, family member, or friend.  


Methods of Recruitment

Traffickers use a variety of methods to recruit their victims.  Acts of extreme violence, such as rape, kidnapping, beatings, psychological torture, forced drugs and alcohol, and threats to the victim and/or her family are combined with emotional manipulation, grooming, and the creation of a bond between the victim and her trafficker.  

Women and girls 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.   

The Myth of Choice - Barriers to Escape

 Many people ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”  The greatest myth is that a victim is in control of her situation, when in fact she is under the complete control of the trafficker.

Traffickers expertly employ the same methods of control and dominance used by domestic abusers.  Women 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.  

Effects of Prostitution on Victims and Survivors of Sex Trafficking


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.  Recognizing the effects of prostitution and other red flags is the crucial for the purposes of victim identification.