By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every month in Minnesota more than 10,000 ads are posted online selling victims for sex. One Minnesota family is sharing, for the first time, its story so others can see how quickly a person can be coerced into sex trafficking.

The family says they prove victims come from every racial, economic and educational background.

“Things like this don’t happen to families like us.”

The family did not want to be identified but did want people to know how quickly young people can be groomed to be part of the sex trade.

“Our daughter is the type of person who wants to trust she wants to trust everybody.”

Sex traffickers begin by gaining access on line to the young and vulnerable. Beth Holger, executive director of The Link, says some victims are as young as 11 and 12.

“These youth victim survivors of sex trafficking are our own Minnesota boys, girls and transgender youth,” she said.

These young people are isolated from friends and family and then lured into sex trafficking.

“In 2021, we worked with 134 unduplicated victim survivors of sex trafficking and we are only one of the service providers for the safe harbor network,” Holger said.

The pandemic that forced many to work and study from home also saw traffickers increase their efforts. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is working with its partners to put a stop to what they say is a troubling trend.

“Whether it be in our sex trafficking operation or children being exploited online, our number of tips in our child exploitation for example has almost tripled in three years,” said the BCA’s Drew Evans. “This is people in our state who are willing to buy other human beings for sex. And we’re bringing awareness that this will not be tolerated in our state.”

And now parents are speaking out and sharing their journey, to educate others about the signs and what to do if your loved one falls victim.

Victims come from rural areas, the inner city, suburbs, as well as reservations.

Reg Chapman