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This paper describes the findings of a preliminary study of the involvement of American Indian women and girls in commercial sexual exploitation in the state of Minnesota. The study was conducted by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center in Minneapolis, and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Though several studies have been conducted in Canada, there has been no published research on the domestic sex trafficking of American Indian women in the U.S. Anecdotal data from providers of direct services to high-risk American Indian women and girls strongly suggest that this is a significant and rapidly growing problem. Several data sources inform the findings presented in this paper. Secondary analysis was completed of 1) statewide and regional data on homeless American Indian women and girls women and girls; 2) statewide and county-level data on the self-reported behaviors and experiences of American Indian girls attending Minnesota public schools, and 3) statewide and regional data from public health, criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child protection systems on the representation of American Indian women and girls in these systems as they relate to risk factors for involvement in commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, primary data were collected by two American Indian agencies providing social services, domestic violence services, and sexual assault services to high-risk Indian women and girls in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The two agencies added a new screening form to their normal intake process used to determine which services an incoming client will need, focused on experiences with commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, two full-day round table discussions were held with American Indian advocates providing direct services to homeless American Indian women and girls, runaway or throwaway girls, women and girls on probation for prostitution, and American Indian female victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or attempting to escape prostitution. One round table was held in Duluth, Minnesota’s international port on Lake Superior, and one was held in Minneapolis. Dr. Pierce will present the research findings and Ms. Koepplinger will describe the direct-services developed in response to those findings. The findings of this study will be used to inform the design of a larger, more comprehensive and rigorous collaborative study to establish prevalence rates for the commercial sexual exploitation of American Indian women in the Midwest.
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