Deep in a catch-all spending bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a relatively small item that has the potential to help scores of young Hmong girls who have been raped or forced into prostitution.
The Legislature approved spending $98,000 on a pilot program in Ramsey County called Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth. The program will train police, educators, social workers, court officials, public defenders and others on how to interview and help young victims of sexual exploitation.
Edinburgh said the measure was prompted by a Star Tribune series in October that described how scores of Hmong girls in Minnesota—many of them runaways and some not yet in their teens—have been raped or forced into prostitution over the past several years, often by Hmong gang members.
The problem isn’t unique to the Hmong community. But professionals who work with sexually abused children noticed a troubling pattern there: Hmong girls were more often preyed upon by multiple assailants, given drugs or alcohol and threatened with serious coercion.
Edinburgh said Tuesday that her center treated 74 Hmong girls for sexual assaults last year. “It really is an issue,” she said.