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‘Don’t Buy It Project’ launches in Duluth

Men as Peacemakers program director Sarah Curtiss speaks the public at Trepanier Hall about the preventative Don't Buy It program which seeks to reduce the demand for human trafficking and sexual exploitation. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
Dani Grutkoski and Charlie Johnson fill out signs to take photos with as part of the "#Don'tBuyIt" social media campaign led by Men as Peacemakers. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 2

As a part of human trafficking awareness month, local nonprofit Men As Peacemakers hosted a preview of the “Don’t Buy It Project” at Trepanier Hall on Jan. 20.

The Don’t Buy It Project is a public awareness campaign focused on educating boys, men and the broader community about commercial sexual exploitation of girls and women. The goal of the project is to decrease the demand for commercial sex by providing resources to help individuals, groups and communities understand the damage caused by sexual exploitation.

“When we say commercial sexual exploitation, what we’re referring to is any action which abuses a position of vulnerability, differential of power or trust for sexual purposes. That basically means, any way you create a differential of power whether it be through the use of money or food or basic needs,” said Ed Heisler, executive director of Men as Peacemakers. “So we’re talking about sex trafficking, strip clubs, pornography, any kind of sex act that’s being bought or sold.”

Heisler and program director Sarah Curtiss spoke about the background of the project, the planning stages used to create the model and plans to move forward.

“Ending commercial sexual exploitation is about ending the demand. Ending the demand requires getting men involved to change something that’s become very accepted and normal in our culture for a long time,” Heisler said.

How to end that demand? Throughout 2017, the DBIP will roll-out in three phases. First, an outreach campaign consisting of a new public service announcement video and other awareness materials and tools aimed at engaging, educating, and mobilizing boys and men. Heisler and Curtiss hope individuals will share the information and videos on social media platforms with #Don’tBuyIt attached.

Secondly, MAP has created a website with an online training module to provide further education on the topic. This online module is based on a model discussion group hosted by MAP last year. About a dozen individuals gathered at MAP every other Thursday for a year to learn about and discuss commercial sexual exploitation.

“The topics we discussed were very new to me. I used to be one of those people who thought this was something that didn’t happen here,” said DBIP group member Sean Hayes. “I signed up for the class because I wanted to take some time to learn and grow into the type of man I wanted to be.”

Hayes took the class as community member last year and has now been hired by MAP as an executive assistant and training coordinator. A new session of this group will begin on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 5:30 p.m. If interested, email seanhayes@menaspeacemakers.org for more information.

The third phase is the creation of a program manual and facilitator's guide so that this program can be replicated by other groups and organizations.

More information about the Don’t Buy It Project can be found at dontbuyitproject.org and/or menaspeacemakers.org.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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