St. Scholastica Students Present on the Issue of Sex Trafficking in Duluth

Alexa Jokinen

    Fifty thousand women and children are being sex trafficked every year in the United States. This is not only a problem across the country, but right here in Duluth, Minn. On Wednesday, April 5, a College of St. Scholastica Dignitas class and the Regional Coordinator from the Program for Aid of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), spoke on the realities of sex trafficking in Duluth, Minnesota.

    Sex trafficking is any act that involves the “use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor and commercial sex act,” said Kevin Sampson, a freshman at St. Scholastica. Sampson included a shocking statistic that approximately 213 girls are sold for sex each month in the United States – girls of all ages, sometimes starting at 11 years old or younger.

    “They [pimps or those who sex traffic] target those who have absolutely nothing else in their life. They are trying to find possible victims who will do anything to survive,” said Jack Korteum, another freshman at St. Scholastica.

    With the constant shuffle of ships moving in and out of the harbor along with the high tourist rates, Duluth is in a location where sex traffickers thrive. Many youth are brought to hotels to be purchased at hotel sex-parties and are also brought on and off the ships, sold for sex and various sex acts.

    Sampson and Korteum continued with an introduction of their guest speaker, Ann LaFrinier-Ritch, the Regional Coordinator for PAVSA for the Duluth area. LaFrinier-Ritch works on intakes and assessments for individuals who are sex trafficked; she also works in schools to explain what sex trafficking is and how children can recognize and avoid it.

    Children who grow up in violent environments and experience emotional and physical abuse are more likely to experience sex trafficking in their life. “Native American, African American and Latinos are at the highest risk,” said LaFrinier-Ritch. An audience member raised the question of why minorities are more at risk than other groups of people. LaFrinier-Ritch explained that it has to with the realities present in communities of poverty which lead to a lack of resources to fight back against sex trafficking.

    Additionally, “it has a lot to do with institutionalized racism,” said LaFrinier-Ritch. Whether implicitly or explicitly expressed, institutionalized racism occurs when a certain group is targeted and discriminated against because of their race. Many times, this racism is overlooked and is a contributor of the presence of sex trafficking in the United States.

    Hope Jensen, a freshman at St. Scholastica was concerned about the issues brought up during the presentation and was thankful for the opportunity to raise awareness about sex trafficking. “I could tell by the audiences’ horrified reaction to the reality of sex trafficking, which occurs more often than they thought, even right here in Duluth, really got them thinking about this issue,” she said.

    With the conclusion of the presentation, the speakers pushed audience members to spread awareness about sex trafficking and get involved with the community to help fight against it. PAVSA is currently looking for volunteers to work against the perpetrators of sex trafficking and to reduce the number of children who are victims to these vicious acts.

    “Donate your time, talents and research to help out our community,” said Korteum.