ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC)- It is a $34 billion-a-year industry and it is growing more and more each year. It is human trafficking, something that is an increasing problem in Minnesota.
Many communities are rallying to put an end to what is considered modern-day slavery, including Rochester.
It may be one of the greatest human rights battles of our time. People sold as slaves for labor or sexual exploitation. Minnesota sees itself near the top nationwide in trafficking cases, a trend Rochester hopes to turn the other way.
The "Breaking the Chains" program put on by the Sisters of Saint Francis is meant to inform and influence change. It offered panel discussions from people trying to help.
"We had a victim in one of our local high schools that was recruited at a local high school, and in five months she was trafficked in three cities," explains Stephanie Holt from Mission 21.
There were also moving performances put on by those who have been victims of human trafficking themselves and survived, saying it is their mission to save others from a similar terror.
Mayor Ardell Brede also made a proclamation of his own to coincide with a national movement.
"I, Ardell Brede, Mayor of the City of Rochester, hereby proclaim January Human Trafficking Awareness Month and call upon the citizens to recognize the vital role we can play in breaking the chains and ending modern-day slavery and work to end this terrible injustice."
It all culminated with Lourdes High School students portraying real-life examples human trafficking.
"I did not know what I would have to endure that night. For how long, or if I would ever return home. I was a sex slave for two years, moved from one place to another in the dead of night. I still cannot talk of some of the abuse. Not yet."
It is Rochester's attempt at breaking the chains.
The Sisters of Saint Francis as well as Mission 21 will be hosting similar panel discussions and events on human trafficking in the coming months.
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