ROCHESTER, Minn. - Olmsted and Dodge counties are among the five top counties in the state to refer sex trafficking victims to the Safe Harbor program.
This is according to Wilder Research, who conducted an evaluation of the program.
Stephanie Holt is the founder of Mission 21, a local non-profit dedicated to helping the sexually exploited youth.
While she said the county is getting better at identifying victims sooner, there is still more work to be done.
"This type of abuse...once it happens, it's like a lifelong journey to heal," she said.
She told us the average age kids are entered into sex trafficking is 12-14 years old.
Holt also said kids are typically referred to her program at age 15.
One way to help, is to keep an eye out for red flags in children who may be at-risk to being trafficked.
"Maybe you have this kid who used to excel in school, be really social, and now they're just withdrawing a little bit...maybe their friendship relationships are starting to strain...there's a lot of conflict...these are all red flags," Hold told us.
If a child might be at risk, don't be afraid to question his or her safety.
"We're afraid of being wrong, but we just need to trust our gut...it's better for us to be wrong and maybe upset somebody and maybe save a child from having this happen to them," she said.