MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is a heavy topic to talk about. Sex trafficking takes place in the shadows of the Twin Cities, but a new Minnesota company is hoping to shed light on the issue in a new way.
“We wanted to bring some light and color to the situation and say, ‘Hey, we know it’s scary, but we do need to do something about it,'” said Mandy Multerer, co-founder of My Sister.
Multerer and Jonathan Sipola say sex trafficking is a bigger problem in the Twin Cities than most realize.
“Sex trafficking is the number one human rights violation,” Sipola said.
They say it’s on display just on a drive down Lake Street in Minneapolis.
“You can see the patterns of walking and then their pimps and traffickers might be around the corner and you could see them in their cars,” Multerer said.
A 2010 study by The Schapiro Group found that each month in Minnesota at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services.
“The FBI actually identified Minneapolis as one of the top 13 for child sex trafficking, so that’s really important for us to talk about,” she said.
To get people talking, the two created My Sister, a Minneapolis-based company geared toward raising awareness, especially among men.
“If men started seeing all women as their sister, they wouldn’t exploit them,” Sipola said. “Most guys are good guys, but they stay silent on the issue.”
The organization sells not only T-shirts, but also glittery tattoos and hand-crafted jewelry made by sex trafficking survivors in Nepal. A portion of proceeds go to support prevention and intervention programs through MN Girls Are Not For Sale and Maiti Nepal.
In the first two months, sales have taken off, locally and online nationwide. Even Woody Harelson was photographed wearing the group’s “Sisters Before Misters” shirt.
“I’m blown away, personally,” Multerer said.
Since its launch in May, My Sister has already raised $30,000 to fight sex trafficking. It may be a drop in the bucket to combat a problem of global proportions, but it’s enough know the conversation they wanted to start has begun.
“It makes me really excited for the future and how much impact were all going to be able to make,” Multerer said.
Along with raising awareness, an important need in the community is employment opportunities.
“If you’re not able to stay on your two feet economically, you’re at risk to be exploited again,” Sipola said.
My Sister has goals of growing the company to employ as many trafficking survivors as possible, hoping to have one of them eventually become CEO.
For more information on My Sister, click here.