Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Human Sex Trafficking Addressed at the Capitol

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Movies like Pretty Woman make prostitution seem glamorous, but legislators at the Capitol Monday said its more like slavery.

Senator Ann Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) is sponsoring a bill that would provide protection to victims and prosecute traffickers.

Joy Friedman became a victim at the age of 13 and remained a part of the human trafficking system for 23 years.

"I didn't choose to do any of it," Friedman said. "I was forced into it. I didn't like anything about it. It was not a lot of money as far as what I make. Everyone else makes money and gets their satisfaction off it, but not me. It's about them getting theirs."

According to the United States Department of Justice, Minnesota is currently ranked 13th in the country for sex trafficking.

Sen. Pappas said that could be because Minneapolis has an international airport, boarders Canada and has a high immigrant population.

Sen. Pappas says it's not just immigrants who become victims. She says women who have low self confidence and self worth are easily manipulated into becoming victims.

And the recession doesn't help. Cheryl Thomas with the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights says when there's desperate economic times, human trafficking increases.

The currently law recognizing and prostitution and human trafficking for work and prostitution, but does not recognized human trafficking for sex acts. This law would change that

"Fear is used as a method of control," Friedman said. "That's why it's difficult for victims to get out of the system.

Non-profit group Breaking Free works with women and girls involved in systems of prostitution and sex trafficking as well as other battered women involved in the criminal justice system

Joy Friedman works with the group and says, "They look beyond the labels of sex trafficking victims and help them get back on their feet by providing a place to live for one thing."

"The housing piece gave me a place to lay my head and lock the door and I held the key no one else," Friedman said.

Friedman has been out of the system for eight and a half years and is helping other victims of human trafficking as an advocate with Breaking Free.


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