Women on Wednesday guest speakers discuss sex-trafficking in MN

Imagine yourself trying to find a summer job to help pay off your college education. You and your friends find an ad online looking for “exotic dancers”. Your friends think it might be kind of a fun and rebellious idea to try and swing some cash. You go to apply, and next thing you know, you’re in someone else’s bed, with no idea where you are. Then you hear a voice bellow, “You’re going to be having sex with five to 10 people a day to make money.”

This is exactly what happened to Vednita Carter, founder of Breaking Free, a non-profit organization that helps women who have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution.

Carter and Joy Friedman, a personal consultant for Breaking Free, spoke at St. Cloud State University in the Atwood Little Theater for this week’s Women on Wednesday. They spoke about the danger of sex trafficking and what students can do to prevent it.

What exactly is sex trafficking?

Sex trafficking is the exploitation of a person who is bought and sold, forced to perform sexual acts on individuals who pay them. They are often attracted to an advertisement or are led to believe that it’s only going to be for a few months to make some extra cash. These are the three stages of sexual exploitation after kidnapping.

  • Recruiting: This is when the victim is enticed by an offer from a pimp, who usually sticks around for a few months to gain the victim’s trust.
  • Initiation: This is when the victim is made to feel that they are worthless and defenseless through extreme verbal abuse and threats.
  • Enslavement: This is the stage at which the pimp has full control over your thoughts and feelings.

“Runaway girls will get sold into a prostitution ring if they’re not careful,” Friedman said. “I was beaten with a metal pipe multiple times a day if I wasn’t compliant with their orders. You have no set hours; this is not a 9-5 job. You may get paid, but they’re the ones who control where your money goes.”

How do people get lured into prostitution?

Some of these men present themselves as everyday workers, Friedman said.

“They can pose themselves as whoever they want—a Star Tribune deliverer, a priest—anyone who a kid would trust,” Friedman said.

Carter talked about a group of girls they had found from Minnesota that had been shipped down to Chicago who came into Breaking Free.

“When they buy you, you are their property,” said Carter.

Friedman said a lack of education can also make one more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

“They don’t want you to know about college. If you had gone to college, you would have been no use for your pimp,” Friedman said.

What are some of the negative long-term effects working as a prostitute?

The poor living conditions and mental setbacks that the girls endure can cause some serious physical and mental health problems. Friedman said many cope with the lifestyle through heavy drug and alcohol use.

“You can’t bear that kind of pressure sober,” Friedman said. “If you’re in a state where you don’t know what’s going on, that’s probably for the best.”

Addiction problems have also led to PTSD and depression for these women, Carter said. Carter talked about women in Breaking Free who had attempted suicide because of the trauma they endured working as a prostitute.

Where do people get kidnapped when taken into prostitution?

In Minnesota, kidnappings can happen just about anywhere. Believe it or not, college campuses are one of the biggest hot-spots for finding women to work as sex traffickers. While there are a lot of places to kidnapped, Minnesota has very strict rules and regulations on sex trafficking. Under Minnesota law, if a women said she was sold in a prostitution ring, she does not have to prove that she was forced by anyone. 

What can we do to stop sex trafficking?

While sex trafficking may be growing – especially around the Minnesota area, there are plenty of things people can do to make sure that they are aware of what is going on and how to prevent kidnappings. Some things to consider are…

  • Paying attention to public policy issues regarding prostitution
  • Educate others on why prostitution is bad for young girls – share their stories, make their voices heard
  • Know when you feel endangered around someone, know the signs that someone is trying to kidnap you.
  • Don’t go to anywhere they have strippers or pornography, this only encourages sex traffickers because they are making a profit.

Some basic facts and statistics about sex trafficking

According to Friedman:

  • 27 million people are trafficked around the world every year
  • 450,000 children run away from home annually
  • 1 in 3 children will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of running away from home
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