Hopkins High School Junior–and Girls United founder–Jessica Melnik spoke to lawmakers this morning at the State Capitol in support of a bipartisan bill that would provide instructional information in school health curriculums about preventing sex abuse and trafficking. Melnik says “K-12 education is supposed to equip us students with the proper resources and knowledge to be good citizens and right wrongs where we see them, but we can’t right the wrongs if we don’t know about them. I’m here as a high school student asking you to allow our public schools to give us information that will keep us safe.” Melnik founded Girls United when she was in 7th grade to raise awareness about gender equality and help develop leadership skills in young women. She says five years ago at her school, “a girl was trafficked by one of her classmates. Although I don’t know the details of that case, I do know that something like this shouldn’t be happening to anyone anywhere. I’m also confident that this incident and many others could have been prevented.” Melnik says each month in Minnesota at least 213 underage girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the internet or escort services and that does not include, hotel, street, or gang activity. Melnik says trafficking is not just a problem in metro areas–it’s happening statewide and is “pervasive in all walks of life.” The House version of the bill is co-authored by Republican Representative Randy Jessup of Shoreview and Democratic Representative Laurie Pryor of Minnetonka.
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