Rep. Dean Phillips convenes panel on sex trafficking
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips convened a round table discussion on sex trafficking and sexual violence July 27 at the Minnetonka Community Center. Phillips, a Democrat, represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Coon Rapids.
Joining Phillips were Kenosha Davenport, executive director at the Sexual Violence Center; Michele Garett McKenzie, deputy director at the Advocates for Human Rights; Nicole Matthews of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition; Terry Forliti, executive director of Breaking Free; and Caroline Palmer, Safe Harbor Director at the Violence Prevention Programs Unit, Injury & Violence Prevention Section for the Minnesota Department of Health.
“I am here to listen and I’m here to act,” Phillips said. “We aggregate what we learn, bring that to Washington to be shared with my colleagues so that we can do better by first listening and then acting. Take a few minutes to share with me what I need to know.”
Each expert spoke directly on their key issue. Common themes that arose throughout the discussion were a lack of resources and housing consistently being at capacity at the various organizations’ facilities. Every organization leader claimed that they were always at capacity with long waiting lists.
“We are always at capacity,” Forliti said. “Funding is a big problem. That’s one of our biggest struggles right now.”
Phillips highlighted the importance of sharing best practices with other organizations across the country and internationally in order to best serve individuals. This is something that the represented organizations had been doing and their leaders were open to.
“See this is exactly it, best practices that we share with others or what others share with us,” Phillips said.
After each expert discussed the work they are doing, Phillips asked them, “If you could wave a magic wand and effect change in one policy area at the federal level right now, what would you have me focus on?”
Almost every response to his question was stable housing for those impacted by violence and trafficking.
“We heard loud and clear the issues with housing,” Matthews said. “In fact, 98% of the women that we interviewed were currently or previously homeless.”