Sex trafficking play coming to Holmes Theatre stage, followed by panel discussion
What issue is of such concern in Minnesota that it is bringing together the congregations of three different local churches -- St. Luke's Episcopal, Detroit Lakes United Methodist, and Congregational United Church of Christ --as well as the Episc...
What issue is of such concern in Minnesota that it is bringing together the congregations of three different local churches - St. Luke’s Episcopal, Detroit Lakes United Methodist, and Congregational United Church of Christ -as well as the Episcopal Churches of White Earth, Circles of Faith UCC Church in Waubun, Joint Religious Legislative Council, Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community, White Earth Nation, Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, Down On Violence Everyday (D.O.V.E.), Lakes Area League of Women Voters, Historic Holmes Theatre, Otto Bremer Foundation and Bremer Bank of Detroit Lakes, The Refuge Christian Outreach Center and Detroit Lakes Community Foundation, not to mention U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar?
The answer is sex trafficking. All of these groups have come together to sponsor a special live theater presentation at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 12 inside the Historic Holmes Theatre. Admission is free, though it is recommended that attendance be confined to those aged 13 and up.
It’s an original play called “Bottom,” and it’s being presented by Blank Slate Theatre of Minneapolis.
The subject matter of this theatrical presentation is a serious one, and its purpose is primarily educational.
“Bottom” follows the story of Amber Cregg, recently defected from a sex trafficking ring, and her decision to either remain loyal to her former pimp, or to cooperate with law enforcement and help bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
The play will be followed by a 30-minute panel discussion featuring Rev. Mark Kuether of the Congregational Church, Becker County Attorney Gretchen Thilmony, LCRC Children’s Services Coordinator Susie Felt, DOVE Shelter Coordinator Sonia Christensen, and Bailey Wethern, regional navigator for the Safe Harbor program.
“I’ve learned so much about sex trafficking through this process,” says Rev. Georgia Hecock of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, who is part of the planning committee for the Oct. 12 presentation.
“It’s shocking to me,” she added, referring to her reaction upon learning that the problem is not just confined to the Twin Cities and other major metropolitan areas, but has in fact become quite prevalent in areas of northwest Minnesota - and may even be happening in Detroit Lakes.
“I consider myself fairly well informed about what goes on in my community,” Hecock added - but she was floored to learn that there was recruiting for the sex trafficking industry happening right here in Minnesota.
In fact, the state’s law enforcement authorities and women’s advocates all agree that sex trafficking of young girls is happening in every city and county in the state.
And it’s not just minorities who are targeted - it’s girls of all races, ethnicities and social classes.
According to statistics from the Minnesota Women’s Foundation, girls currently being recruited for sex trafficking rings range in age from 9 to 17, and roughly one-third of them are runaways.
Other risk factors include homelessness, drug and alcohol use, past child abuse or neglect, and being a pregnant or parenting teen.
Recruitment can happen not just in places like clubs and bars, but also in schools, libraries, juvenile detention centers, public parks and shelters, shopping malls and abandoned buildings, just to name a few.
It is statistics like these that led to the creation of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor law, which is meant to help young girls who are trafficked to be treated as victims and not criminals themselves.
For those who would like to learn more, the League of Women Voters-Minneapolis has also published a report, “Why Should We Care About Sex Trafficking?” that is available online at www.lwvmpls.org .
Follow Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .