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Video: Human Trafficking Awareness Month focusing on dispelling myths

Jan 05, 2021 07:03AM ● By Editor

Watch the WDIO-TV Report here

Photo: WDIO-TV

By Alejandra Palacios of WDIO-TV - January 4, 2021

Local Duluth community leaders participated in a virtual opening ceremony to mark the start of Human Trafficking Awareness Month Monday.

The virtual event was streamed via Facebook on PAVSA's page. This year marks the ninth annual Trafficking Awareness Month opening ceremony in Northeastern Minnesota.

Although Trafficking Awareness Month will look different this year with events going virtual, community leaders said that isn't taking away the important message of highlighting this crime and collective efforts to put an end to it.

This year’s theme is “Spilling the realities of trafficking: Vulnerabilities, intersectionalities and communities.”

"There was a lot of dangerous and scary misinformation being shared so we want to make sure to let folks know that there are resources and folks doing the work here in Duluth," said Mel Alvar, the Safe Harbor regional navigator at PAVSA.

The virtual opening ceremony featured a presentation of the red solidarity shawls and MMIW shawls followed by a round dance and MMIW songs.

"The color of the shawl is red to honor all native people who have survived many forms of violence throughout history, native woman being killed two times more often than other races by domestic violence, one out of three native women being sexually assaulted in their lifetime," said Marcia Kitto, a sexual abuse advocate and member of the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition and Sacred Hoop Coalition.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and suicide prevention specialist Solomon Trimble spoke on the impact human trafficking has had in our community.

"This is an issue that Duluth has been really clear about identifying discussing, exploring, protecting survivors," said Larson.

Trimble said he works with age groups of 10 to 24. He said many are native youth who are victims of sexual exploitations. He reminded people of the Minnesota Safe Harbor laws that protect youth.

"We are asking you to be brave and reach out if anyone is in need of help," said Trimble.

Community leaders said we all have a role to play in preventing exploitation and trafficking.

Alvar said 2020 presented challenges with not being able to meet people in person but they found ways to continue offering services to victims.

"I think my numbers actually doubled for professional and community training so that's been really nice we've been able to reach a larger audience with being able to do zoom presentations," said Alvar.

Alvar also said they saw in uptick in referrals over the summer for adults and youth survivors of exploitation and trafficking.

"We are seeing increased levels of exploitation as well especially online with youth and youth who have more access to social media and maybe trying social media pages or apps that they hadn't before. We're really highlighting a lot of information this month targeting awareness things for youth," said Alvar.

A list of virtual events being hosted can be found here. 

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized annually on Jan. 11.

To reach a non-governmental organization for confidential help and information, contact the numbers below:

-PAVSA’s 24/7 HelpLine: 218-726-1931

-The National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888

-The StrongHearts Native Helpline: 1-844-762-8483

To schedule a virtual training on trafficking in Minnesota, contact Mel Alvar, Safe Harbor Regional Navigator at PAVSA [email protected]

To see the original report and read related stories, follow this link to the WDIO-TV website.