Northland communities come together to battle sex trafficking

By KBJR News 1

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 10:34 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- Men as Peace Makers has taken action to eliminate sex trafficking in the Twin Ports. The initiative is called "Men Against Sex Trafficking," also known as MAST. The program gets men and businesses involved in the effort to combat sex trafficking.

"The 'MENding' project is the specific project that gathers together resources from local businesses for people who have been victims of sex trafficking," said Ed Heisler, executive director of Men as Peace Makers.

The effort is putting men on the front line to change conversational norms.

"Instead of it being normal to have prostitutes and strip clubs at a bachelor party," said Heisler, "we want to have a strong group of men who are saying that stuff hurts women and children and is not going to be tolerated in this community."

A panel discussion held Tuesday night at the Two Harbors community center featured sex violence advocacy agencies from around the Northland.
Panelists reiterated the fact that sex trafficking does not just happen in big cities.

"It happens all over, and it's really easy to say that it's not happening in some of our small suburbs," said Patti Larsen, program manager of the American Indian Community Housing Organization, "but the reality is that these small suburbs are really easy for that to happen because of small police departments."

The Two Harbors Police Department is taking steps to get ahead of the sex trafficking problem.

"The biggest thing that we are doing right now is education. It's a good step for law enforcement and the public to be aware of sex trafficking," said Police Officer Ken Anderson.

Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressmen Rick Nolan are also working on a bill titled "Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act."
The bill treats people who are being trafficked as victims and not criminals.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.
kanderson@kbjr.com

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