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Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in Rochester is dedicated to preventing sex trafficking among youth and to providing support for young people who have experienced sexual exploitation.

A virtual “Lunch and Learn” will be offered on Thursday, Jan. 27, from noon-1 p.m. to hear from Lutheran Social Service leaders across the state about what is being done to prevent trafficking and support youth, and how the community can get involved. The effort is part of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, designed to create awareness and support for individuals who have been affected by this issue.

“Sex Trafficking is a hidden issue in our community,” said Tammy Moses, director of Youth & Family Services for Lutheran Social Service in Rochester. “Our seven Youth and Family Services regional locations across Minnesota all support young people who have experienced this trauma in their lives.”

Lutheran Social Service Rochester Youth & Family Services address the critical need for intensive case management along with housing and outreach. A Lutheran Social Service youth worker assists youth with finding and renting a safe, secure apartment within the community.

Moses added that youth who have experienced homelessness are at an increased risk of sexual exploitation. An estimated 13,300 Minnesota youth on their own experience homelessness each year, according to Wilder Research. That includes an estimated 5,800 minors age 17 and younger on their own, and 7,500 young adults age 18 to 24. According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, an estimated one-quarter of youth who have experienced homelessness have been sex trafficked.

Sex traffickers may be family members, friends, recent acquaintances or boyfriends/girlfriends of the person who is trafficked. Traffickers use violence, threats and manipulation to control their subjects. According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, “Sex trafficking is the sale of a person for sex or sexual acts.” It can happen in any community and individuals can be any age, race, gender or nationality.

In 2021, Lutheran Social Service supported 55 youth statewide who had experienced sexual exploitation or trafficking by providing connection to safe housing, basic needs and referral to community resources. A major focus of their work is to provide education and awareness to the community who can help identify and prevent sex trafficking.

Moses said that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased danger for youth who are more isolated as they seek more community connection online and can be a greater risk of encountering predators. With more time at home, youth also have fewer adults watching out for them, such as teachers or school counselors.

If you or someone you know has been sexually exploited, needs support or is seeking resources, please contact Lutheran Social Service in Rochester at 507-316-8273.

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