Changes in Minnesota law will help protect victims of child prostitution
As a victim of sex trafficking from age 15 to 37, Joy Friedman knows the meaning of pain.
But as a communications specialist with Breaking Free, a group that helps victims of prostitution – many of them children, Joy is finally now seeing action.
"It's about time someone has gotten up and did something," she said.
Currently in Minnesota, children arrested for involvement in prostitution are charged with misdemeanors, and become part of the juvenile justice system.
But starting in 2013, no charges will be filed for children 16 and under, and the state will start cracking down much harder on the Johns – customers of the prostitutes.
Last week Fox 9's Tom Lyden was there to greet Mickey Cupkie as he left Ramsey County Jail.
Cupkie, a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, has the distinction of being the first John charges under the tough, new sex crime laws.
No longer a misdemeanor, Cupkie is facing four felony counts.
"Off the bat, it says there's hope," said Friedman. "And what our victims don't have is hope."
According to the group Minnesota Girls Are Not For Sale, each month in the state at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of 5 times per day, often on Internet sites like backpage.com.
"This problem is not just an isolated problem or an inner city problem, this is a statewide problem," said Dan Pfarr, Executive Director of The Bridge, a shelter in Minneapolis that helps troubled kids ages 10 to 17 – many the victims of prostitution.
The Bridge works with groups like Breaking Free to not only help victims find a place to live, but also help them with how to live.
"Because of the developments where things are in their lives, they don't understand the trauma going on around them," Pfarr said.
Friedman says she understands the illness, as well as the treatment.
"We give a lot of hope to a lot of people," she said.
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