KIMT News 3 – A law in Minnesota intended to protect young victims of sex trafficking, is now completely taking effect.
Back in 2011, Governor Mark Dayton signed the “Safe Harbor Law”, as a way to provide resources to those who have been trafficked.
In August, two more additions to that law were made official. They’re additions geared toward the youngest victims of sex trafficking.
“There are a lot of people in this community that did not believe that human trafficking was going on, but it’s been going on for years,” said Olmsted County Attorney, Mark Ostrem.
As the Olmsted County Attorney, Mark Ostrem has worked for years to hold those responsible for prostitution in the area, accountable for their actions.
His main concern however, is for the young people who are the real victims.
“Obviously as a prosecutor, I want to get the pimp, but I want to make sure that the victim is being restored and getting the services that they need. If we never are able to get the pimp, that’s maybe okay. As long as we’ve been able to help the kids,” said Ostrem.
Beginning in August, the two final key changes to the “Safe Harbor Law” will take effect.
The first change, and possibly the most dramatic, will re-classify those under 18 as victims, rather than criminals.
An important distinction that will change the way we think of those young people lured into prostitution.
“The juvenile delinquency system does offer services. It’s all about rehabilitation, but it’s a complete mindset change when you stop thinking about them as criminals and you think about them as a victim,” said Ostrem.
This mindset change will also provide more services for young victims, through the second law amendment.
It’s called, “No Wrong Door”, which provides housing and shelter, as well as training for area specialists.
“First, it’s building the trust, then it’s getting all the knowledge out there to all the law enforcement, all the prosecutors and crisis intervention centers. By getting this training in line, we can help these kids, so that they don’t have to be afraid,” said Jennifer Lloyd-Benson, volunteer with Albert Lea Citizens Against Human Trafficking.
“The way I describe it is; I don’t know any little girl, or little boy who grows up, and says to their mom and dad, ‘I want to grow up to be a prostitute.’ Nobody does that,” said Ostrem.
Several Minnesota lawmakers, led by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobachar, are working to use the “Safe Harbor Law” as a model for national legislation.
The National Runaway Hotline says that one in three teens on the street, will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.