Duluth Trafficking Task Force

Various reports throughout the last few years have expressed the need to work against trafficking and prostitution. In these reports, some even went further to identify the groups most affected by trafficking and prostitution, reporting that Native American girls and women are the most vulnerable of being trafficked into prostitution and the ones who have the least access to any kind of resources. Duluth, being a small metropolis, an international water port, and having a relatively large Native population, has become one of the major hubs for trafficking and prostitution in Minnesota as indicated in some of the reports mentioned.

Recognizing the dire need to create a common platform for the community, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) and American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) have collaborated on a grant to address this issue. With a three year grant from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, PAVSA and AICHO hope to bring in service providers, systems personnel, advocates, and community organizers to form a task force which will reframe the issue of trafficking and prostitution through the creation of focus groups; identification of service gaps; and, development of protocol and curricula. Throughout the process, the aim will be to build and strengthen our relationship with the girls and women in the city of Duluth and nearby reservations so that their experiences become central in identifying the needs.

The Task Force will be a multi-disciplinary group comprised of individual/s representing different fields listed below:

  • Law Enforcement Officials – Investigators, Patrol Officers, Probation Officers, and Sergeants
  • Medical Personnel – Doctors, Nurses, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE)
  • Service Providers – Counselors, Advocates, Case Workers, and Community Organizers
  • St. Louis County Attorneys
  • Clergy
  • Teachers/Faculty – University of Minnesota (Duluth) and College of St. Scholastica, Lake Superior College, Fond du Lac Community College
  • US Coast Guard
  • Duluth Seaway Port Authority
  • Others – (League of Women Voters, Duluth; Business Communities, Civic Leaders, Elders, Association of American University Women etc.

Sex trafficking is not only an international problem, but a domestic problem as well. Since trafficking has been greatly identified with the transfer of humans between international borders, this has made it difficult to recognize trafficking as a domestic problem and hence a lack of concern. This has significantly marginalized the many girls and women who are trafficked within the United States and used in many forms of prostitution: escorts, pornography, exotic dancing, call girls, etc.

Understanding the interconnectedness of trafficking and prostitution, Minnesota has recently passed a bill that has defined sex trafficking as…

  • receiving,
  • recruiting,
  • enticing,
  • harboring,
  • providing, or
  • obtaining

…by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual or receiving profit or anything of value, knowing or having reason to know it is derived from an act described (609.321). The Statute has linked trafficking and prostitution as crimes that feed each other, and placed emphasis on johns and pimps (traffickers) rather than the victims. Reframing the issue from a victim-centered approach will help to reduce trafficking and prostitution.

In simple terms, trafficking is buying and selling of an individual or individuals for sexual exploitation. Trafficking occurs when an individual is made to perform any kind of sexual activities in exchange of money or anything of value: shelter, food, clothes, drugs etc.


Survival sex means exchanging sex not necessarily for money but shelter, food, and protection. The victim of survival sex might not view herself/himself as a victim of trafficking.

If someone makes a person, regardless of age, have sex with other people in exchange for money, drugs, shelter, clothes, or any other goods or services, she/he is being trafficked.

Currently, PAVSA offers the following services:

  • Counseling
  • Legal Assistance
  • Advocacy/Case Management
  • Women’s support group
  • Housing/Daboonigan Shelter (AICHO)

We are in the process of coordinating services with other agencies in Duluth. If you need other kind of services, please call PAVSA.

Please, contact Shunu Shrestha at shrestha@pavsa.org if you want to learn more about this project and how you might participate.