ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - With the Super Bowl just days away and crowds already descending on the Twin Cities, one enterprising teen brought her own gameplan to the State Capitol in an attempt to crack down on sex trafficking and other sexual abuse in the state.
Hopkins High School junior Jessica Melnik helped a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduce a new bill Monday to change curriculum in public schools to include issues of child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation in an attempt to stop these crimes before they start.
"It’s something that can be prevented--and we’re definitely not doing a good enough job at doing that," she said. "So I think that fact motivated a lot of this."
Melnik and others with Girls United Minnesota, a non-profit made official last week, call it the "Sex Trafficking Prevention Bill," an effort that started after the group of girls discovered that one of their peers had been targeted. More than 400 victims in Minnesota have been recorded since 2007, with at least 37 last year alone. Experts say that people of color and low-income individuals are most at risk, with one in four middle schoolers reporting sexual harassment at school, according to the American Educational Research Association.
"The fact that they are from your community and it really could be anyone is really scary," Melnik said.
If the legislation is passed it's up to the Department of Education and each individual school district to implement the curriculum.