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Reflections on the impact of sex trafficking on community health

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On October 18th, over 100 individuals packed the conference room of the University Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) to have a critical conversation about the impact of sex trafficking and trading on community health. The demand for this conversation was so high, that another conversation is being hosted on the evening of January 24th. For more info and to register, click here.

The co-sponsors - UROC, the Northside Women's Space, and the Center for Integrative Leadership - hosted the gathering based on our foundational belief that conversation drives action and that - as Rev. Alika Galloway of the Northside Women's Space echoed from Mother Teresa - "We are each other's business." As one participant acknowledged, "There are things we know but don't really talk about."

Though the conversation was hosted in North Minneapolis, the conversation explored the issue broadly. As one participant put it, "It doesn't matter where you are when you are being dominated, dehumanized and terrorized. It is up to us all to help rescue, remove stigma, and reintegrate survivors."

Those gathered expressed frustration over not seeing change even while they expressed hope seeing such a mix of people present. They voiced the complexity of the issue but were not paralyzed by it, diving into small group conversations that surfaced deep understanding, probing questions, proactive solutions, and valuable resources. What follows is a summary of those conversations:

Contextual Factors

  • Generational poverty & sex trading

  • Victimization, oppression, and racial discrimination at a young age

  • Connection with drug & substance abuse

  • Notions of power, violence, control and body image that are developed early

  • Childhood trauma, abuse and resulting mental health issues

  • Homelessness/running away from home

  • Media that glamorizes the issue and does not feature missing non-whites the same as whites

  • Movies/music/media/jokes/communication that objectifies human beings - particularly women

  • Immigrant community members may not speak up for fear of deportation

  • Boys as well as girls are in danger

  • Legal disparity in penalties between pimps & victims.

  • Perception of stripping as a profession

Ideas & Solutions - "Don't just get angry, Do something!"

  • Health care practitioners: patient education & advocacy (particularly those involved with reproductive care)

  • Faith-based/religious organizations: Developing spirituality/self-compassion/love in oneself and others important

  • Funders: Need for additional funding for housing and safe spaces

  • Schools:

    • Runaway/homelessness prevention

    • Health education standards/curriculum could be modified to include earlier dialogue about sexual violence & trafficking.

    • Education institutions can make education more accessible for survivors.

    • Children can be part of the solution. The best way to find young people is to have other youth find them.

  • Language matters

    • "human trafficking" vs. this is happening in our community.

    • Power of reframing sex trafficking as modern-day slavery.

    • Personal experiences motivate; stories make it real.

  • Employers: Hiring survivors. Providing job training for human trafficking identification (e.g., Carlson Companies)

  • Direct Service Providers:

    • People who work with vulnerable kids add question of sexual abuse in assessment.

    • How can we create a one stop shop for survivors to access money, education, healthcare, food, shelter, employment?

    • More collaborative & non-territorial partnerships between agencies working on this issue.

  • Community, broadly: Community must take charge! How can a community be the "eyes"?

    • Get involved with Safe Harbor Task Force/Statewide Legislative Activity

    • Increasing awareness in community through schools, police, parents

    • Creating more safe & intergenerational spaces - churches, community centers with employees or volunteers educated in the issue

    • Inform and educate (e.g., signs in bathrooms)

    • Engage a broader group of people

    • Connect with those in sex trafficking as individuals. Listen & be accessible to individual's particular situations and needs

    • Promote community healing to create a sense of safety

    • Develop neighborhood 'watch teams'


  • What do we mean by "sex trafficking?" What's the formal definition of this?

  • What resources are specifically available to give voice to transgender women?

  • How do individuals become a supplier--a pimp? A seller?

  • What allows pimps to operate with impunity? What has to happen to put a pimp out of a job?

  • What are the critical 'enablers' that must change?

  • What research has been done around formal versus informal economy? What takes away from a community's stability?

  • How do you change the conversation online?


  • Men Against The Trafficking of Others (MATTOO)

  • Khadra Project

  • Broadway clinic

  • Safe Harbor Task Force/Statewide Legislative Activity

  • Books: "The Johns," "The Natashas"

  • Breaking Free, PRIDE

We hope to add to this summary with the January 24th conversation. If you are interested in participating, you can register here.

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