Photo credit to guidestar.org
By Anna Quincer
As an undergraduate social work student here at Scholastica I am working on a project to raise awareness about human trafficking, specifically in our region. Recently, my group and I attended the Rachel Lloyd event at U.M.D. Rachel Lloyd is the founder of GEMS, or Girls Educational and Mentoring Services in New York City. According to the GEMS website, "She was driven by the lack of services for commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls and young women."
Rachel's main message was to change people's perceptions about what human trafficking is; a domestic issue. When many people think of human trafficking they think of some girl from another country being taken across countries for the purposes of prostitution-this may happen but it is not usually the case. According to "Human Sex Trafficking in Duluth: A Study of the Current Situation, Contributing Factors, And Appropriate Adverse Action," by Kelsey Fuhrman in 2011, "It is estimated that anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 women and children are in some way involved in prostitution on any day in the state of Minnesota." It is not only an issue that is domestic but it also hits close to home.
Rachel Lloyd also talked about the many misconceptions that people have about human trafficking. A point she made very clear was that human trafficking was not simply a "woman's issue" but rather a human rights issue. This issue may seem like it mainly affects women, but what about men's involvement? Rachel called on the need for male allies in the community, that we need to "mobilize and engage men" to change cultural attitudes about masculinity. That women deserve as much respect as men and that we should strive towards gender equity in all things.
Duluth has some great resources in the community if you are interested in making a change. I would encourage those interested to read Rachel Lloyd's book "Girls Like Us" which has many testimonials from women who were involved in the sex industry. Also, PAVSA or Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, and Safe Haven have some opportunities to volunteer and learn more about human trafficking.