Mayor Declares January Duluth Sex Trafficking Awareness Month

By KBJR News 1

January 10, 2013 Updated Jan 10, 2013 at 11:32 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The prostitution of woman and children is a pervasive problem that has lifelong consequences and it's happening here in the Northland.

"My dad was a pimp...and I don't want to say my mom was a prostitute, but she was trafficked...and then my aunties ran an escort service,"

A survivor of sex trafficking, Payton is rebuilding her life.

But dozens of other young women and girls are still trapped in the "sex for money" industry.

Many of them are from the Duluth area.

"It will never be addressed adequately unless and until we have the courage to talk about it openly," said Mayor of Duluth Don Ness.

That is exactly what the mayor hopes to achieve by declaring January Duluth Trafficking Awareness Month.

Made up of representatives from the local community groups, law enforcement and the courts the Duluth Trafficking Task Force is seeking to end sex trafficking by reaching out to the women caught up in the trade.

"This is a victim centered approach, victim advocacy driven, we are privileged to be a part of it and we are going to continue to work our hearts out for justice in this area, thank you very much," said Mark Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney.

The St. Louis County Board voted unanimously to support providing resources to eliminate sex trafficking of women and children.

Minnesota is ranked 13 in the United States for sex trafficking.

Native Women are at particular risk.

"As members of the Duluth American Indian Commission, and as native men, we say it is time to break the silence around the trafficking of women by standing up to the predators who destroy the lives of women," said Ricky DeFoe of the American Indian Task Force.

The Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault is on the front lines of the battle to end sex trafficking.

"Last year 39 people actually identified as being trafficking victims, that's out of 800-900 over all clients we serve," said Katy Eagle, PAVSA Staff Attorney.

Community leaders and task force members say even one victim...is one too many.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.