Lake County sex trafficking task force working to build awareness
TWO HARBORS, Minn. – There are more than 20 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, and the average age of a trafficking victim is only thirteen.
January is human trafficking prevention month. According to the FBI, Minnesota has the third highest number of trafficking cases of any state.
Trafficking can and does happen everywhere: In the Twin Ports, and in rural areas like Lake County where a vigil was held honoring the victims of trafficking.
“We said we’re going to stop this. We’re going to do whatever we can,” said Marlys Wisch, co-founder of the Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force.
The task force has worked since 2013 to build trafficking awareness.
“We feel we have done a good job of educating a lot of people in the area but there are still a lot that need to be educated,” said Wisch.
They tell us it’s important to notice red flags of people who might be victims of trafficking.
“Seeing somebody that could be being abused, actual physical effects to it, looking poor and raggy, homelessness, all of that stuff,” explained Wisch.
Native American women have some of the highest victimization rates.
“They’re targeted, groomed and, more recently we’re seeing though this drug epidemic, they’re groomed through the use of drugs,” said Rene Ann Goodrich, an advocate with the Native Lives Matter Coalition.
According to Goodrich, indigenous women are at a high risk because they’re often viewed as lower-class and disposable.
“Many of our women and native women as a whole are viewed as a commodity,” said Goodrich.
She says ending trafficking starts with teaching women and girls their value and changing their portrayals in media.
While it’s impossible to know exactly how many people have been victimized in the Twin Ports and Lake County, Goodrich tells us this has traditionally been a hot-spot.
“Just because it’s a world port, trafficking is huge,” she said.
That’s why organizers say educational events like the Two Harbors vigil are important to making the issue known in every Northland community.
“It is not okay for somebody to be bought and sold. It is not okay,” said Wisch.
People at the vigil tell us there is proposed federal legislation that can help in the fight against trafficking. The bills they mentioned are the Savannah Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.