MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota is one of the worst states for sex-trafficking of women and underage girls in the country.
Each year here in Minnesota, more than 500 of them escape that life and make a change for the better.
This year’s Twin Cities Film Festival will feature a documentary that sheds light on the problem through the eyes of survivors.
“For 22 years I was trapped in it, from escort services to stripping to street walking,” said Joy Friedman.
Joy Friedman became a victim of sex exploitation at age 15.
She was one of hundreds of young girls forced into sex trafficking.
Friedman says at first she was lured by what she thought would be a better life.
“This is glamorous, I’m my own boss, I can do this myself,” she said. “No one told me what would happen to me after that first trick violated me. Or when money was handed to me, and this is all I was worth and it’s 20 dollars or a thousand dollars. What I had to go through for that money is with me permanently, for the rest of my life.”
Friedman is a survivor. She now helps get women and girls away from sex trafficking by working at Breaking Free, an organization that helped her get off the streets.
“The average age of entry is between 12 and 14 years old,” said Vednita Carter, who founded the organization in 1996. “We have to let people know this does happen right here in Minnesota–in our own backyard–and it has no respect for people. It doesn’t matter who you are: it’s about buying and selling a human being.”
Carter and Friedman partnered with the Twin Cities Film Festival and are a part of a documentary called “Breaking Free From the Life.”
It takes you inside the lives of women trapped in the sex trade here in Minnesota.
“It’s a huge problem when you think about our runaways that we have and how many of them are out here doing survival sex,” said Friedman.
They hope the film brings about awareness of a growing problem and provides an escape for those who want to get out of the shadows.
Carter said sex trafficking has gone hi-tech, with many turning to the internet to sell sex.
Breaking Free not only helps women get away from sex trafficking.
It also has an offenders prostitution program. Johns are court ordered to attend sessions where they learn how their behavior affects the community.
The film will be shown as part of the Twin Cities Film Festival’s “change-makers” series.
It begins Friday night at the West End. The film and the panel discussion are free to the public.
Here’s an extended version of our interviews with Carter and Friedman: