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MN Girls Are Not For Sale

A Strategic Campaign to End Sex Trafficking

As a result of efforts funded through our Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale campaign, we were the first state in the nation to create and fund a statewide comprehensive plan — $47 million to date — to end sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

About the Campaign

Working Together, We Drove a Sea Change

Since 1983, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota has served as a catalyst for social change to achieve equity for all women and girls.

MN Girls Are Not For Sale launched in 2011 to galvanize resources to end the sex trafficking of youth in Minnesota through grantmaking, research, public education, and policy change. Using a collective impact model and working alongside cross-sectors partners, we changed laws and the narrative, published groundbreaking research on sex trafficking, inspired and advocated for federal legislation, developed model protocols for law enforcement, increased sex trafficking charges and convictions, and trained thousands in how to spot the signs of sex trafficking as co-chairs of the Anti-Sex Trafficking Committee for Super Bowl LII.

The eight year, $8 million campaign proved to be an extraordinary success. As WFMN continues to invest in women’s safety, we are working with communities to combat gender-based violence, a continuum that includes sexual harassment, assault, rape, and sex trafficking.

Why We Launched the Campaign

Since our founding in 1983, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota has served as a catalyst for social change to achieve equity for all women and girls. Our work to advance safety and security and stories from our grantee-partners and colleagues in the state’s criminal justice system informed our growing concern about the sex trafficking of girls in Minnesota.

We quickly learned that sex trafficking is both complex and systemic, its causes deeply rooted in gender and economic inequity, while its effects and opportunities for prevention exist within a complex, cross-sector field of public agencies, businesses, nonprofit service providers, and the public. Using a collective impact framework – which assumes that no one sector can single-handedly move the dial alone on complex, systemic social and economic issues – we exercised our positional leadership as a statewide community foundation with statewide reach to identify key stakeholders and convene the field.

In 2010, we convened over 100 leaders from all over Minnesota – donors, elected officials, state agencies, philanthropies, advocates, corporations, law enforcement, judges, faith communities, and many others – and created a strategic, multi-sector plan to combat child sex trafficking.

This plan resulted in MN Girls Are Not For Sale, our eight year, $8 million campaign to galvanize resources to end the sex trafficking of Minnesota girls and boys through grantmaking, research, public education, and convening.

Campaign Successes

The success of the MN Girls campaign and critical impact it has had on the work to end sex trafficking is undeniable. With cross-sector leaders, the Women’s Foundation invested $8 million (2011-2019) and driven a sea change in our communities’ response to this unconscionable crime.

As a result of efforts funded through our Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale campaign, we were the first state in the nation to create and fund a statewide comprehensive plan$47 million to date — to end sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Passage of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law

Passage of Safe Harbor changed state laws to ensure that children under 18 years of age who are sold for sex are no longer criminalized, but treated as victims of a crime in need of safe housing and specialized services. In May 2016, we increased the age of Safe Harbor eligibility from 18 to 24.

We paid the $12,000 fiscal note (July 2011) that enabled the passage of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor. At that time, tight public budgets and a fiscally conservative state Legislature would have rejected any bill with a price tag. Our quick action to pay the appropriation and active lobbying were critical factors in the Safe Harbor’s passage.

Crafted Minnesota’s No Wrong Door Model

We helped to create a comprehensive statewide response in the No Wrong Door model, which went into effect in August 2014. No Wrong Door has resulted in the following outcomes:

  • Increased housing and trauma-informed care for victims, from two beds in 2011 to 65 beds today.
  • Established a statewide director of child sex trafficking prevention at the MN Dept. of Health; eight regional navigator positions to connect trafficked children with the shelter, support, and services they need; and a training fund for law enforcement and prosecutors.
  • Issued state grants to select nonprofits for housing and trauma-informed care for child sex-trafficking victims across Minnesota

Developed Model Protocols to Improve Statewide Systemic Response

We supported police investigations and a policy provision to increase penalties for perpetrators apprehended during the course of undercover operations is now included in the Safe Harbor law.

Since 2013, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office (MN Girls grantee-partner) has trained nearly 2,000 law enforcement officers on protocols it developed with statewide partners about child sex trafficking and how to proceed in a victim-centered approach.

Production of roll-call videos, resource guides, multidisciplinary conferences, and other trainings for patrol and other frontline officers.

Increased Sex Trafficking Charges and Convictions in Minnesota

Convictions of sex trafficking perpetrators nearly tripled through increased law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.

Between 2010 and 2013, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office (MN Girls grantee-partner) reports that charges and convictions against sex traffickers in Minnesota increased by 76 percent — from 17 in 2010 to 72 in 2013.

Inspired for Federal Legislation Modeled on Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law

Our direct outreach to educate, update and engage Minnesota’s Congressional delegation through multiple meetings in Washington, D.C. (2012, 2013) resulted in federal child sex trafficking legislation — Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178) — modeled in part on Minnesota’s Safe Harbor. The Act was passed by the U.S. House and Senate in January and May 2015, respectively.

Published Groundbreaking Research on Child Sex Trafficking

We funded first-of-its-kind research and approaches to understanding how the overall market for sex trafficking manifests in Minneapolis and the state.

Dr. Lauren Martin, lead researcher on Mapping the Market for Sex with Trafficked Minor Girls in Minneapolis: Structures, Functions, and Patterns (2014), conducted new research commissioned and funded by the Foundation. Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in Minnesota (2017) revealed an in-depth look at the purchasers of sex with children in Minnesota.

Elicited Public Support & Engagement to End Child Sex Trafficking

Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in Minnesota reveals the surge in media coverage after the MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign began in 2011 and the Minnesota Legislature passed the state’s Safe Harbor legislation, which reclassified sex-trafficked minors as crime victims in need of protection.

UROC’s research findings also reveal a significant shift in language used in media coverage once the MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign was launched and Safe Harbor was passed. The public awareness and education campaign has changed the narrative and driven a sea change in how media partners and the general public frame the issue. Media coverage began referring to the crime as “sex trafficking” rather than “prostitution,” and public perception has shifted to viewing children and adults caught in the web of sex trafficking as victims, rather than criminals.

Co-chaired the Anti-trafficking Committee for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis

As co-chairs of Minnesota’s 2018 Super Bowl Anti-Sex Trafficking Committee, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Hennepin County, and Ramsey County led the statewide effort to confront this daily reality and increase awareness of the issue. Together, we shaped a solution to prevent and disrupt sex trafficking during the Super Bowl with more than 40 organizations, including advocates, victim/survivor service providers, law enforcement agencies, businesses, cities, counties, and victims/survivors.

We developed Minnesota’s replicable plan to prevent and disrupt trafficking at any major event. See the report.


The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota built the MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign on our ethos of listening and responding to community concerns. We know that problems and solutions are found in the same place, and to create a statewide solution, we look to the strengths that already exist in our Minnesota community. Our goal is to inspire and strengthen the potential in our communities, and one important way to do this is through grantmaking.

As part of MN Girls Are Not For Sale, the Women’s Foundation awarded grants to nonprofits for programs that are creating necessary changes in attitudes and behaviors and shifts in institutions and policies to ensure that Minnesota girls are not for sale.

Through MN Girls Are Not For Sale, we made grants to change state laws to recognize youth who’d been sex trafficked are victims of a crime, not the criminals; ensure that advocates can create and sustain holistic shelters for survivors with trauma-based services; develop a statewide county team/multi-jurisdictional strategy for intervention; include the support of training youth outreach service professionals; and education for youth about sex trafficking prevention.

Grantee-Partners 2011-2019:

  • 180 Degrees, Inc
  • A Call to Men
  • Airline Ambassadors International
  • Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
  • Breaking Free, Inc.
  • Casa de Esperanza
  • City of Mankato
  • City of Minneapolis
  • City of Waite Park
  • Cornerstone Advocacy Service
  • County of Nicollet
  • Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs
  • Girls United MN
  • Heartland Ranch
  • Hennepin County
  • Hmong American Partnership
  • Independent School District #625
  • Kwanzaa Community Church, PCUSA
  • Life House, Inc.
  • Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota-St. Paul
  • Men as Peacemakers
  • Mending the Sacred Hoop
  • Minneapolis Pathways
  • Minneapolis Police Department
  • Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
  • Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center
  • Minnesota Public Radio
  • National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc.
  • Oasis for Youth
  • Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA)
  • Ramsey County Attorney’s Office
  • Shared Hope International
  • Source, MN
  • St. Paul Police Department
  • State of Minnesota
  • The Advocates for Human Rights
  • The Family Partnership
  • The Link
  • TrueChild
  • University of Minnesota
  • unPrison Project
  • Voices for Racial Justice


As is true for any hidden illegal activity, determining the number of individuals being sex trafficked in Minnesota is incredibly difficult. But a growing body of research provides a critical, early sketch of what’s happening in our state.

Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in Minnesota” is the second in a series of research reports commissioned and funded by the Foundation and produced by the University of Minnesota. Released in August 2017, the research focuses on the buyers who drive the market for sex trafficking: who they are, how they enter the market, and their relationship to sex trafficking operations. The research can be used to shape early prevention and intervention activities and support current law enforcement practices in combating sex trafficking. (August 2017) View or download the executive summary.

Mapping the Market for Sex with Trafficked Minor Girls in Minneapolis: Structure, Functions, and Patterns” is a first-of-its-kind approach to understanding how the overall market for juvenile sex trafficking manifests within communities in one city. Research focused on Minneapolis, though the findings have implications for other cities and regions. (September 2014)

The following reports were foundational to expanding awareness and understanding of groups most impacted by trafficking at the inception of the MN Girls campaign.

Get Involved

Reduce the demand

Talk to the men and boys in your life about the harmful attitudes and exploitation in the commercial sex industry. Take the Don’t Buy It Project’s pledge to end the demand for commercial sex in any form. Take the action steps to end the demand by reducing every day examples of gender inequality and sexual violence.

Educate yourself and others

Contact Men as Peacemakers to learn more about the Don’t Buy It Project‘s educational resources. This free prevention curriculum can help increase awareness about commercial sexual exploitation, its root causes, and how men can help end demand in their own communities. Learn more about this issue and the research commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota to help fund this statewide response.

Get your business involved

Contact us to learn more and connect with others in the business community working to end sex trafficking and gender-based violence statewide.

Make a gift to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

Other things you can do

  • Support the WFMN Safety Fund: Make a financial donation and spread the word about the campaign to end all forms of violence against women.
  • Contact your elected officials and let them know you are concerned about the issue and support efforts to end sex trafficking in Minnesota.
  • Use the Minnesota District Finder to find out how to contact your legislators directly.
  • Talk to the boys and men in your life about sex trafficking, and keep talking. Because men are at the core of this issue, the conversations may be uncomfortable — but just do it, and keep doing it. To end sex trafficking and stop the demand, boys and men must be drivers of the solution.
  • Talk to your child’s school and ask that information that protects children from sexual exploitation to be included in the school curriculum.
  • Monitor your child’s use of the Internet, social media, and other sites visited.
  • With their help, schools tell teachers, social workers, counselors and others to look for the signs of a possible victim.
  • Now that you know more about the issue, be aware of street activities you see and take note of people you suspect may be at risk of harm and/or sexual exploitation. Do not question your concern. Trust your instincts and call 911 immediately.

If You Need Help

If someone you know has been forced into prostitution in Minnesota, please call the MN Day One Crisis Line at 866.223.1111 or text 612.399.9995.

Hotline call specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to take reports from anywhere in the state related to potential sex trafficking victims.