“Not For Sale: Standing Up to Sex Trafficking”
Thursday, Feb. 15
6:30-8:30 p.m., FREE!
Eisenhower Community Center Theater
It’s a topic that many people don’t really know about, and sometimes the language around it is even uncomfortable. However sex trafficking is a serious problem, and Minnesota is one of the largest hubs. A student-led initiative at Hopkins High School is raising awareness and fighting back with a new campaign called “Not For Sale: Standing Up to Sex Trafficking.”
Hopkins junior Jessica Melnik and the high school organization Girls United MN are the driving force behind the initiative, which has garnered enthusiastic support from local lawmakers, law enforcement, city leaders, and school officials. The idea for a community conversation about teen trafficking, Melnik said, was sparked after she recently learned more about the topic.
“I never thought something like this was an issue in Minnesota, because I didn’t ever hear about it,” she said. “But once you learn about it, it’s hard to not want to do something. I think there is a lack of education out there, especially in the suburban community.”
As a member of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s Student Council Advisory Board, Melnik got to work talking with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and reaching out to every corner of her community. Together with Girls United MN, they honed in on an event aimed at having an honest conversation about trafficking, with the idea that if more people knew about it, more people could help combat it.
The long-term goal of this initiative, Melnik said, is to expand it to a more permanent awareness campaign, and help advance more laws and school curriculum related to the topic of teen trafficking. Right now, a bipartisan bill is working its way through the state legislature that would allow schools to teach about sexual exploitation and prevention.
“I think it’s important for parents to be talking about this issue with their kids and for teachers to be talking with their students,” Melnik said, “not to scare them, but to be more aware.”
“Not For Sale: Standing Up to Sex Trafficking” is a free event that is open to the public. There is no registration and seating is first come, first served. A panel of professionals, including a sex trafficking survivor, will discuss the topic, with a question-and-answer session to follow. There will also be a resource fair after the event. Find more information about the event on Facebook.