Created: 08/04/2014 10:58 PM KAALtv.com
By: Jenna Lohse
(ABC 6 News) -- Minnesota is now the fifth state to treat teens who have been sexually exploited as victims, not criminals.
The Safe Harbor Law has been implemented in phases since it passed in 2011, but on Friday it took full effect. On top of no longer criminalizing exploited youth, there's also stiffer penalties for sex traffickers.
The Safe Harbor Law also created regional navigators, in other words, official groups who victims can turn to for help across the state. Dodge, Fillmore and Olmsted County Victim Services here in Rochester is our area's navigator. They'll be the point of contact for agencies who've identified a victim of sex trafficking and be that support system these youth need.
"It's really about the young people that are needing the help, needing to escape, needing to recover,” said Jeanne Ronayne, with Olmsted County Victim Services.
While Safe Harbor is now a statewide law, Olmsted County has been ahead of the curve. County Attorney Mark Ostrem says they don't criminalize teens under the age of 18 who are victims of sex trafficking and haven't for many years.