MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A media blitz is underway to draw attention to a need for housing to deal with the growing number of children caught up in sex trafficking.
The “MN Girls Are Not For Sale” radio campaign is in support of the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth bill that’s currently making its way through the state legislature.
The illegal activity of child sex trafficking is hard to measure, but Minnesota law enforcement has seen an uptick in the number of girls being sold for sex.
Lee Roper-Batker, CEO of The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, says victims lack options for a safe place to stay.
“They try to reach these girls only to have them disappear because there is no place they can bring them that’s safe right now,” Roper-Batker said.
There are only four shelter beds across the state that are designated for child sex trafficking victims. On any given night, there are more than 50 girls who need a safe place to sleep.
“We are poised to become the first state in the nation to set up systemic shelter and treatment for girls who’ve been sex trafficked,” she said.
Jeff Bauer of The Family Partnership says the bill making its way through the legislature is designed to create safe space for these young victims.
“It’s $13.5 million for a safe shelter and housing, for comprehensive services and treatment and for training for law enforcement to better identify victims and investigate cases,” Bauer said.
Bauer and Roper-Batker are behind the media blitz, designed to bring attention to the problem
“The commercials are hard hitting,” Bauer said. “They’re pretty direct.”
Roper-Batker says no community is immune to this growing epidemic.
“This is an unimaginable crime of violence against our children and we have a chance now to be part of this solution to end it,” Roper-Batker said.
They’ve invested $20,000 for radio spots in six different cities across the state to gather support to protect the children.
“We need people in every community across the state to stand up right now to end this thing,” Bauer said.
He says the girls involved in the sex trade are as young as 13 years old.
Click here for more information on the “MN Girls Are Not For Sale” campaign.