Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Pierce, A. (November 2009). Shattered hearts (full report): The commercial sexual exploitation of American Indian women and girls in Minnesota. Minneapolis: Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center.


Copyright (c) 2009 Alexandra Pierce


Table of contents

Acknowledgements iii

Background 1

Organization of the report 3

I The context 4

Native women’s experiences during colonization 5

Native women’s experiences during national expansion 7

Native girls’ boarding school experiences 8

Impact of assimilation policies on Native women 10

The damage caused by life in prostitution 14

II Methods and definitions 16

III Prevalence 28

Involvement in prostitution 28

Involvement in the Internet sex trade 35

IV Patterns in entering the sex trade 36

Age of entry 36

Modes of entry 39

V Factors that facilitate entry 53

Generational trauma 53

Runaway, thrown away, and/or homeless 54

Repeated exposure to abuse, exploitation, and violence 61

Normalization of sexual exploitation and violence 68

Addiction 73

Risk due to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders 78

Involvement with child protection systems 81

Failure to finish high school 82

Mental and emotional vulnerability 84

VI Barriers to exiting the sex trade 89

Inadequate support to ensure safety 89

Limited resources for support and healing 93

Dependency, denial, and distrust of advocates 96

Fear, shame, and the “don’t talk” rule 98

Absence of a common, evidence-based approach 99

VII Conclusions and recommendations 101

Appendix 122