Woman details her journey through sex trafficking

SLEEPY EYE – A Fairmont woman who fought and overcame the cultural realities of drug addiction and sexual exploitation talked about her journey in detail during a human trafficking presentation at the Sleepy Eye Community Center Monday night.

“I grew up in a prominent family. I loved to dance and sing, ran track and played volleyball,” Danielle Freitag said. “It looked good from the outside. My dad struggled with alcoholism. I was exposed to it at a young age, was sexually exploited by a boyfriend who was dealing (drugs) and supplying me substances.”

Freitag dropped out of high school, got her own apartment, skipped school often and spent time with an older man who took an interest in her, frequently taking her shopping. She wound up working in a Twin Cities strip club.

“A man was trying to break me, taking a lot of the money I made at the strip club,” Freitag said. “There was physical abuse. He tried to isolate and control me. A strip club manager took an interest in me and raped me one night after I made hundreds of dollars. He took about half my money. I wound up in a hospital emergency room due to a drug overdose I did not intend to do. I thought things were great until my drug addiction was so bad, I was hospitalized.”

Freitag told parents at the presentation that if they have a young child and an older person seems overly interested in that child, the situation is a “red flag.”

“Now I’m fine, but years ago, I was clueless, until I hit rock bottom and went to outpatient counseling. It took a lot of time to trust people,” Freitag said. “But I always believed (in God). I had faith. I encountered a loving God in my heart. … I learned to pray for people I didn’t want to instead of carrying around hurt and hate that would eat me up for life. If we seek revenge for what was done to us, we won’t get anywhere. I set new boundaries.”

Freitag received a five years of sobriety medal from her father, who had been sober for six years at the time.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in health service and became a licensed substance abuse counselor. She worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester before answering a calling to co-found Action169, a non-profit, justice prayer movement, built on an apostolic-prophetic foundation to abolish human sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“We try to be a breath of fresh air, baking cookies and giving them to strip club managers and bouncers,” Freitag said. “We’ve been pretty well received in many places.”

Action169 sponsored a safety room in undisclosed locations where human trafficking victims receive appropriate care in a 12-month program.

Sex trafficking stings

New Ulm Police Senior Investigator Jeff Hohensee said the Minnesota Legislature is funding programs to combat human trafficking and it appears it will continue to do so.

“I’m real excited about the future of this program the legislature allocating money for it,” Hohensee said at a presentation on human trafficking at the Sleepy Eye Community Center Monday night.

Hohensee said 45 men were arrested in sting operations in New Ulm, St. Peter and Mankato last year. Another four people were arrested earlier this year in a Mankato sting operation. “We got a $40,000 grant last year for stings and have another similar grant this year,” Hohensee said.

Southwest Minnesota Regional Navigator Juli Fast of Worthington said Minnesota is the only state appropriating state funds for programs dealing with human trafficking. “We need $13,9 million to provide human services for these programs statewide,” Fast said. “Right now, the coalitions in St. Paul are debating the creation of new laws that could define boyfriend’s as people in positions of authority in state laws against human trafficking.”

Fast said Mankato has a drop-in center for homeless youth, but many legal aspects of human trafficking need to continue to evolve.

“I hear of sex being traded for many things including cell phone minutes, food, clothing, shelter, rent and other things youth need to survive,” Fast added.

She read letters written by youth who described experiences in human trafficking in which victims said they were taken to jail, put on medication and told they were crazy. “I was punished when I tried to get help,” one letter said.

“I don’t trust others. I was sexually abuse by my mom’s boyfriend,” read another letter.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).