Vigil shines light on human trafficking
Soft music filled the air as residents filed into the Lake County Courthouse atrium in Two Harbors on Tuesday, Jan. 9, for the Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force's (LCSTTF) fifth-annual candlelight vigil.
More than 25 people crowded into the atrium for the vigil, which LCSTFF co-founder Sue Hilliard, said was their biggest in the event's history.
Members of the Lake County Board of Commissioners and the Silver Bay City Council read proclamations from their respective boards declaring January as Human Trafficking Month. Ida Rukavina, who works in U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's Virginia office, read a letter from Klobuchar about her work in the fight against human trafficking in Congress.
Lake County Commissioner Rich Sve, who has attended each of the candlelight vigils, said during his travels, he visits rest stops and convenience stores. He tends to walk more slowly past the rows of semi-trailers, where much of the commercial sex in Minnesota takes place.
"Something we're doing is working and I'm learning," Sve said. "That's something that I wouldn't have done before."
Sve said he had learned the average age of a victim lured into the sex trafficking world is 13. After coming from the chess club he works with regularly, it struck him that the average age of the kids he works with is also 13.
The event was highlighted by Joy Friedmann, a former prostitute who was lured into the life as a teen. She spent 22 years in and out of the world of sex trafficking and emphasized that it's not just sex workers who are allowing the practice to continue — there is a market of people who keep it alive.
"Somebody is selling, somebody is buying and someone is being viciously affected by it," she said.
In addition to events around Duluth, the LCSTTF will also host a human trafficking workshop Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Two Harbors Community Center. Residents can learn how to recognize, respond and prevent sexual exploitation.
Events like Tuesday's vigil and the workshop later this month are a ray of hope for those who have been exploited sexually, Friedmann said.
"This light represents hope," she said. "This light represents some kid that doesn't have to go through what I went through."