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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Laurie Pryor (DFL)

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Legislative Update - January 29, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

Dear Neighbors,

This coming session, I’m excited to co-author a bipartisan piece of legislation addressing sexual exploitation of youth. The bill will enhance current sexual abuse prevention curriculum in public schools to also include sexual exploitation. I signed onto the bill last week, and it was unveiled at a news conference this afternoon.

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I was one of several legislators approached by Jessica Melnik, a junior from Hopkins High School and Founder of Girls United MN, after she and her friends observed one of their classmates being trafficked. Through working closely with Beth Holger-Ambrose, Executive Director of The Link, to find a way to address the crisis of sex trafficking in our schools, the idea for this legislation emerged.

Jessica and her Girls United colleagues have worked tirelessly to bring legislators together to take action on this issue, and with all the attention the Twin Cities area is receiving with the Super Bowl, the efforts are quite timely. While the Super Bowl may not be unique in this regard, cities hosting high-profile events tend to see an uptick in sexual exploitation activity, including placement of online ads, and law enforcement agencies plan to step up efforts to disrupt demand for this.

This initiative to add sexual exploitation prevention to school curriculum comes following years of progress we’ve made to move to a “Safe Harbor” approach regarding sexual exploitation. This model seeks to treat those who have been trafficked as victims – as opposed to criminals – while making sure housing, health care, and legal and other supportive services are available.

Here in our community, the Link has played a vital role in this. Founded by Minnesota Vikings greats Jim Marshall and Oscar Reed in 1991, The Link supports nearly 3,000 youth and young families each year. I’m particularly pleased that Marshall is supportive of this legislation.

Additionally, Girls United MN is hosting a workshop about the topic on Thursday, February 15 titled “Not for Sale: Standing Up to Sex Trafficking.” I'm honored to be able to speak at this event, which will be held at the Eisenhower Community Center Theater in Hopkins at 6:30 p.m. It will feature a panel of representatives from local organizations and law enforcement agencies discussing how they are combating sex trafficking, as well as sharing ideas about warning signs of trafficking and steps to take if we suspect it’s happening.

While we continue to increase resources available to survivors and decrease demand for commercial sex, educating young people about this is a strong component of our work to eliminate sexual exploitation in Minnesota entirely. I’m extremely proud of Jessica’s remarkable leadership and look forward to helping this bill become law.


Laurie Pryor

State Representative