Minnesota health officials say the state needs to put more resources into helping youth avoid sexual exploitation. State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says “certainly it’s possible” that interest groups or legislators themselves might want to do something in the very short term — but as for the state Health Department, “We will be looking to develop longer-range, bigger-picture recommendations for the next biennial budget around this topic.” The legislature sets the next two-year state budget in 2021, although adjustments could be made this year because of the expected surplus.
In a just-released survey 1.4 percent of Minnesota 9th- and 11-graders — at least five thousand — report being sexually exploited. U-of-M Associate Professor of Nursing, Doctor Lauren Martin, says that’s probably an undercount because youth who have been pushed out of school or dropped out, are not included. She says, “Lots of other research shows that young people who are not regularly attending school are actually more likely to be sexually exploited.” Martin says girls and boys are being sexually exploited at roughly the same rate, but overall percentages are slightly higher in northern Minnesota than the metro area. And sexual exploitation rates among Native American youth are twice the statewide average — and four times higher for transgender youth.