ST. PAUL, Minn. — Juvenile victims of sexual exploitation are the focus of a recent model aimed at ensuring they are indentified, receive effective services and are housed safely, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
The model is highlighted in the recently released report No Wrong Door: A Comprehensive Approach to Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth. The model features 11 recommendations from 65 stakeholders, including representatives from The Family Partnership—an organization that strives to build strong families, communities and better futures for children through counseling, education programs and advocacy.
“These recommendations ensure communities across Minnesota have the knowledge, skills and resources to effectively identify and serve sexually exploited youth and youth at risk for sexual exploitation,” said Jeff Bauer, director of public policy and civic engagement for The Family Partnership. “This victim-centered model will help prevent youth from future exploitation and move our communities toward a better understanding of what sexual exploitation is and how to prevent it.”
- Creating a statewide human trafficking director position. This full-time position with the Department of Health would be responsible for coordinating trainings, and collecting and disseminating information on sexual exploitation and services across the state as a resource to stakeholders.
- Creating six regional navigator positions. These grant-funded positions would serve as experts in their region of the state and a resource to professionals needing information on how to work with juvenile sex trafficking victims.
- Providing comprehensive training on juvenile sexual exploitation. Training on how to recognize, screen, refer and investigate sexual exploitation would be available to professionals who come into contact with youth.
- Ensuring effective outreach to youth. Outreach efforts would be made to sexually exploited youth to connect them with services and support.
- Supporting coordinated law enforcement investigations across Minnesota. Law enforcement would increase their ability to effectively conduct victim-centered investigations focused on arresting traffickers and commercial sex abusers.
- Providing appropriate, effective diversion opportunities to youth ages 16 and 17. Law enforcement and county attorneys would divert victimized youth as a means of keeping them from becoming more deeply involved in the juvenile justice system.
- Modifying the Juvenile Protection Hold Statute to meet the needs of sexually exploited youth. This modification would ensure that sexually exploited youth being held by law enforcement would be placed in the least restrictive setting possible.
- Ensuring access to safe and supportive housing. Four types of shelter and housing services would be available specifically for sexually exploited youth across Minnesota to meet the different needs of youth.
- Providing appropriate and accessible supportive services to sexually exploited youth. They would have access to several types of trauma-informed, victim-centered services including advocacy, health care, education and employment.
- Supporting efforts to prevent the sexual exploitation of youth. Prevention activities would be undertaken to address the environmental, organizational and cultural norms that allow for the sexual exploitation of youth.
- Conducting comprehensive evaluation to ensure the No Wrong Door Model is an effective model of intervention.
Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Law
The creation of the No Wrong Door Model is one of five provisions included in Minnesota’s Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Law.
Passed in July 2011, the law affirms Minnesota’s recognition that it is a best practice to treat sexually exploited children and those at risk for exploitation as victims rather than as juvenile delinquents. The legislation also ensures that those who purchase juveniles for sex are held accountable, and that there is a system of response in place to move victims of sexual exploitation toward recovery and healing.
In addition to development of a victim-centered response model, provisions of the law:
- Define sexually exploited youth in Minnesota’s child protection statutes/laws (effective Aug. 1, 2011).
- Increase the penalty against commercial sex abusers (effective Aug. 1, 2011).
- Exclude sexually exploited youth under the age of 16 from the definition of a delinquent child (effective Aug. 1, 2014).
- Create a mandatory first-time diversion for any 16 and 17 year old who has been exploited in prostitution (effective Aug. 1, 2014).
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides leadership and resources to reduce crime, improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and assist crime victims. To accomplish this, OJP administers grants; provides training and technical assistance; provides research and data; works to protect crime victims’ rights; and provides reparations benefits to victims of violent crime.