Monday, May 20, 2024
Sister Mary Eliot Crowley is one of the Sisters of St. Francis in Rochester who are actively involved in educating people about sexual trafficking and how to recognize it.

Human trafficking: no one is immune

Human trafficking is a problem even in southeastern Minnesota, members of the St. John’s Lutheran Church women’s group and their guests were told recently.

Sister Mary Eliot Crowley of the Sisters of St. Francis in Rochester and Kathy Flippin, a retired nurse at St. Marys Hospital who now is a co-journer involved with the Sisters of St. Francis, spoke at the Kasson church earlier this month.

Human trafficking, Crowley said, is the violation of the dignity of a person. And though it’s often thought that most who are trafficked are girls, she said, there are about as many boys who are victims. In families, she said, it can start as early as two years old but in other situations it’s usually between 11 and 13.

Trafficking, she said, can be labor trafficking or sexual trafficking and it can happen anywhere.

In 2016 a ring was broken up in Minneapolis and 12 were arrested. In the same year there were arrests in Stewartville, Winona, Rochester, Dover in southeastern Minnesota, she said.

In the Minneapolis ring, she said, women were forced into sex up to 12 hours a day. The pimps, she said, can make up to $500 a day.

“It’s everywhere,” Crowley said. “There’s no getting around it.”

What’s the largest criminal industry in the world, she asked. Drugs are the largest but you can only sell drugs once, but there is a huge industry selling people. Twenty-seven million are enslaved in the world. This includes both sex and labor trafficking, she said. Worldwide global profits from human trafficking is $150 billion.

Crowley said that she was on a committee against trafficking during the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. There were 10,000 volunteers who received training in spotting trafficking including health drivers on buses, light rail, taxis, semis, Lyft and Uber and health care workers in small clinics and on the streets.

There were not as many people picked up for trafficking because everybody was out their watching. They were also out in force at the Final Four.

One of the biggest trafficking events in Minnesota, she said, it actually the fishing opener. “So it’s not just in big cities,” she said.

Among the risk factors for trafficking are poverty, youth, race, history of abuse, history of prostitution in the family, lack of resources, chemical dependency, lack of support systems, lack of immigration status, Flippen said. It’s also, she said, not the one being trafficked who is the criminal, they are the victim.

There is a link to pornography, she said, and the traffickers may be men or women. In addition to the sellers there are the buyers, the johns, she said.

Why is trafficking so attractive to criminals? The profits, low risks, Flippen said. Only one percent of traffickers are prosecuted because so few people are educated about trafficking, she said.

Crowley told the audience that individuals should educate themselves about trafficking and promote human dignity and gender equality.

“If you see it, call the police,” Crowley said. “Don’t interfere. Just call the cops and tell them what you saw.”

If you try to get involved yourself, she said, it can jeopardize the person being trafficked as well as yourself. Tell the police what you see and they will follow up, she said.

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