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Locals Try To Combat Sex Trafficking In North Dakota - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Locals Try To Combat Sex Trafficking In North Dakota

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According to the US Department of State 27 Million people around the world are victims of some type of trafficking. The average age of a child that is brought into sex trafficking is 13 years old. Today is national human trafficking awareness day, and many local officials met to crack down on those crimes right here in North Dakota to discuss the Exploitation Through Trafficking Act.

Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Senator says sex trafficking is a growing problem, especially out west. "We will never protect young women," she says, "We will never protect these families, if we don't believe it hasn't come here." She says many times North Dakota women and children are being groomed for the trade. "Getting them into the trade, in a gradual way, and then pretty much pimping out," she says, "Our homegrown, a lot of our children."

They're pushing for minors sold for sex to be treated as victims not criminals.

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Senator is backing the act as well. "When it's a kid, whose a victim of sex-trafficking, they are not suppose to be prosecuted," she explains, "They are victims here."

"At a certain age you can't give consent," Heitkamp says, "So if you can't give consent to a consensual relationship how could you possibly give consent to commit a crime."

Klobuchar  and Heitkamp are not the only ones pushing for this act. Fargo deputy of police chief says they come into contact with a lot with victims of sex trafficking, and this act would train law enforcement to handle these circumstances.

Sitting in the audience today is Anna Frissell director of Children's Advocacy Center. "It is incredible," she says, referring to the act, "It is incredible for North Dakota, it is bringing the team of professionals together." She says education is the key here.

"It is everyone's business," Frissell says, "The children that are the victims of these crimes, become adults that are troubled, that it is it's a difficult road for them all their lives, and if we can intervene, and help them than we would have made a great difference."   

They all agree it takes a community to end the growing problem of sex trafficking right here in North Dakota. Senator Heitkamp says too often in North Dakota, right now teens and young adults caught in trafficking rings are being labeled as felons or criminals, rather than receiving the help the community can give them.

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