January is Sex Trafficking Prevention Month, and here in the Northland, dozens of organizations are working every day to put an end to the issue.
On Monday, several of those organizations, led by the Duluth Trafficking Task Force, hosted a community gathering in downtown Duluth to highlight those efforts.
People were encouraged to bring donations of personal care items which will be distributed to agencies providing services to victims and survivors of sex trafficking.
The event is highlighting years of work being done by dozens of organizations across the Twin Ports every day to put a stop to trafficking. Some of that work includes identifying the signs that someone might be at risk of falling victim to trafficking at a young age.
Those on the front lines of this issue say minors are all-too-often victims.
"Sexual exploitation, [or] the act of someone being solicited for sex, like survival sex also, which used to be called prostitution--someone engaging in sexual acts to survive for basic needs--that is happening on a daily basis," says PAVSA youth advocate Mel Alvar.
According to 2017 numbers from Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault--or PAVSA--63 victims of sex trafficking in Duluth participated in a point-in-time survey last year.
49 were female, and 14 were male. 43 percent were American Indian, or Native, 30 percent were African American, and nine percent were of mixed racial heritage.
Going further, 85 percent say they have experienced domestic violence, while 71 percent say they've experienced sexual violence.
In this episode of Beyond the Headlines, Dan Wolfe sits down with PAVSA Youth Advocate Mel Alvar, along with Duluth Public Schools Climate Coordinator Ron Lake, and Men as Peacemakers Executive Director Ed Heisler for a closer look at the issue of trafficking.
Men As Peacemakers is also spreading awareness of the issue of sex trafficking in several ways, including several PSA's as part of the "Don't Buy It" project:
You can also learn more about sex trafficking, and the resources available to those who need help, at End It Duluth's official website.
Along with Monday, there are several events scheduled throughout the months of January and February that highlight the issue of sex trafficking in our region.
Schedule of events:
Jan. 8 - Noon Press/Public Kickoff Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center [++ Lighting of Enger Tower @ dusk] - 202 W. 2nd Street – Duluth
Jan. 8 - 4:30 pm Two Harbors Candlelight Vigil Lake County Courthouse/Law - Special guest: Joy Friedman, survivor/advocate Enforcement Center Atrium Sponsored by Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force
Jan. 11 - National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Enger Tower remains lit
Jan. 13 - all day Gichi Manidoo Giizis Traditional Pow Wow, Black Bear Casino Resort - Grand Entries: 1:00 & 7:00 pm; Feast @ 5:00 pm
Jan. 16 - 6:00 pm MOVIE: “The Mask You Live In” Lincoln Park Middle School Auditorium "How do we raise our boys?" A probing documentary - 3215 W. 3rd St. – Duluth on what it means to be male in American society.
Jan. 23 - 6:30 pm Two Harbors Community Event: Bystander Activism - Two Harbors Community Center - Sponsored by Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force
Jan. 24 - 6:00 pm MOVIE: “I am Jane Doe” + Panel Discussion - UMD Bohannon 90 - Follow the epic battle that several mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, victims of sex-trafficking on Backpage.com Hosted by: UMD Women’s Resource & Action Center and AAUW
Jan. 30 - 6:00 pm KEYNOTE Presentation: Theresa Flores - UMD Bohannon 90 - Trafficking Survivor & Creator of ‘Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution’ S.O.A.P. Project: www.soapproject.org Hosted by UMD Women’s Resource & Action Center, Essentia Health & IGO Hotel Group
Feb. 1 - 5 - 7 pm Brave Art Exhibit/Youth Resource Fair - Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center - 5:30 program Sponsored by PAVSA Youth Advisory Board 202 W. 2nd Street – Duluth
Feb. 10 - 5:00 pm Nepali Dinner for PAVSA’s Emergency Fund Unitarian Universalist Congregation - Reservations required. Please email: email@example.com 835 W. College Street – Duluth