Thursday, December 14, 2017

II. AMERICAN INDIAN SEX TRAFFICKING: A DISTINCT PHENOMENON

In order to understand how current laws are failing American Indian women trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation, one must first consider the specific characteristics of sex trafficking in this population. Data and research on the prevalence and characteristics of American Indian sex trafficking are scarce. The phenomenon must be pieced together through news articles, incomplete federal crime statistics, and human trafficking reports produced in Canada and states with significant Native American populations. The most comprehensive data available to date comes from the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center's (MIWRC) 2009 report, Shattered Hearts: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of American Indian Women and Girls in Minnesota, and the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC) 2011 report, Garden of Truth, an extensive case study of prostitution and trafficking of Native women in Minnesota. As the first--and only--reports to attempt to holistically describe the situation of trafficked Native women both on and off-reservation, this Note draws heavily from Shattered Hearts and Garden of Truth.

While these reports are limited by their geographic scope and sample size, the source of the primary data used in both reports--Minnesota-- presents a strong case study because it lies on an international land border and an international water port, has a relatively large sex industry, and is part of a region with a relatively high population of American Indians. In addition, both reports define sex trafficking as “receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing, or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual.” This definition is more inclusive than the much more restrictive TVPA definition, which is the definition used in DOJ trafficking statistics. However, given what little is known about the phenomenon, an over-inclusive trafficking definition can allow for a better assessment of all potentially relevant data. Although these two studies make clear that we are just beginning to fully understand the problem, the data will allow evaluation of apparent trends in who is being trafficked, how, and where.

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