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Advocates for crime victims say be aware of sex trafficking

Published 9:54am Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Local crime victims’ rights advocates are calling on the public to take an active role in preventing sexual exploitation of young adults.

“If people see something they don’t think is right or hear something from a teen or child, then that needs to have attention paid to it,” said Ilene Grosam with the Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center.

Ilene Grosam
Ilene Grosam

Grosam and Jennifer Lloyd-Benson, a volunteer with the crisis center and a member of Mission 21, an anti-trafficking organization in Rochester, met with the Tribune last week at the close of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Grosam said people may brush aside the notion that things such as child prostitution happen in the community, but instead they should learn to look for the signs of trafficking and work to educate others about intervention and prevention.

“There is an overall cost to our society when we don’t make an effort for everybody to do something about intervening and providing prevention,” Grosam said.

She said the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years. While many of these children are runaways, some have been kidnapped, some have started because of a boyfriend and others were threatened into it.

“People don’t understand how kids get involved in this,” Lloyd-Benson said. “These are broken kids and they are in need of so much love.”

She said these children are victims of sexual exploitation.

According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at least 100,000 children are a part of the sex trafficking industry in the United States alone.

The FBI has identified Minnesota as among the top 13 largest states in the country for child sex trafficking enterprises.

Grosam said while she is pleased the Safe Harbor Act was passed in 2011 to ensure that sexually exploited youth are treated as victims and not as criminals, legislators now need to approve funding for the program across the state and for safe housing.

The legislation goes into effect in 2014.

“These aren’t criminal children,” Grosam said. “They need support.”

Grosam said if people would like to learn more about prevention or would like to volunteer for the Crime Victims Crisis Center, they can call 377-5460.