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Duluth Agencies Take on Human Trafficking

Posted at: 01/09/2013 6:07 PM
Updated at: 01/09/2013 6:16 PM
By: Maarja Anderson
manderson@wdio.com

The Duluth Trafficking Task Force along with city and county officials proclaimed Wednesday they would recognize January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

For many, the proclamation Wednesday is just the beginning of a larger issue.

"They have words on paper, now we are asking them to take the next step and actually do the actions," said American Indian Commission Co-Chair Ricky DeFoe.

Katy Eagle is the staff attorney for PAVSA, an organization part of the Duluth Trafficking Task Force. She said Wednesday's proclamation marked an important turning point the public's understanding of the issue.

"It happens kind of everywhere, we just don't recognize the warning signs so we don't see the whole picture," said Eagle. "We don't put it together that it is actually a commercial sex act."

Eagle said many people get their  ideas of what sex trafficking is from TV shows and movies. She also added that 20 years ago, something that was considered prostitution now falls under human trafficking laws.

"They ended up in it and they are not acting on their own. There is some element of force, fraud, or coercion, or at least organization and profit off of it," said Eagle.

According to Eagle, under federal law, there must be proof of force, fraud, or coercion in a commercial sex act for it to be considered human trafficking. Minnesota law is a bit broader, said Eagle. If anything of value, whether it be money or simply a place to stay, is exchanged for a sex act, that person can be prosecuted as a human trafficker.

"Our legislature was really on it and has this great definition and some of the public conception hasn't really caught up to that broader picture of what trafficking looks like day in, day out," Eagle said.

Wednesday was just the kick-off of Duluth Trafficking Awareness Month. The Duluth Trafficking Task Force is hosting events throughout January to help bring awareness to the public.