Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Pierce, A. (November 2009). Shattered hearts (summary 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

Background 1

Definitions and terms 2

The context 5

Prevalence 8

Patterns in entering the sex trade 10

Age of entry 10

Modes of entry 11

Factors that facilitate entry 17

Generational trauma 17

Runaway, thrown away, and/or homeless 17

Repeated exposure to abuse, exploitation, and violence 20

Addiction 25

Failure to finish high school 27

Mental and emotional vulnerability 28

Barriers to exiting the sex trade 29

Limited access to emergency and supportive housing 29

Absence of other options for self-sufficiency 30

Distrust of law enforcement 29

Child protection policies 30

Limited resources for support and healing 31

Dependency, denial, and distrust of advocates 32

Absence of a common, evidence-based approach 33

Conclusions 34

The social ecology of Native girls’ vulnerability to sex trade recruitment 34

Influence of the majority society 35

Influence of neighborhood and community environments 38

Influence of families and friends 39

The cumulative effect on Native girls 40


Next steps 42

Recommendations for action 42

Project limitations and future research 46