SUPPORT WITHIN REACH: Minnesota's Safe Harbor law protects sexually exploited youths


In our last commentary we talked about some of the programming we offer at Support Within Reach. This time we’ll be focusing on our Regional Navigator and SEY (sexually exploited youth) programs.

Minnesota is considered a national leader in its work to provide programs and services for sexually exploited youth under the age of 18. The Safe Harbor legislation was passed in 2011 and resulted in the development of the No Wrong Door model, a multi-disciplinary statewide approach to identifying and serving victims and training law enforcement, child protection, social workers and others who encounter victims of sexual exploitation.

Under Safe Harbor legislation, youth 17 and under can no longer be criminalized for engaging in commercial sex acts, but are recognized as victims, and should be directed to specialized services. Youth ages 18-24 are eligible for and should be referred to trauma-informed services. People often ask “Why 24?” The human brain, specifically the frontal lobe, does not fully develop until one is roughly 25 years of age; however it’s important to note that trauma can and does affect that development.

As part of the state’s effort to implement Safe Harbor, the Minnesota Department of Health administers grants throughout the state to fund Regional Navigators to serve as experts in sexual exploitation within their region of the state.

Gabrielle Congrave is Support Within Reach’s Navigator. As such, she serves as the main point of contact for referrals of sexually exploited youth in our region (Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau counties). She also works with the statewide Safe Harbor Director and the other Regional Navigators to develop protocols, train professionals and community members on the issue, and develop a system of coordinated care in the region. She is responsible for implementing the Safe Harbor Law/No Wrong Door Model in in the Northwest region. This is done by improving our community’s ability to identify sexually exploited youth, increasing effective services and outcomes for sexually exploited youth, and enhancing coordination between systems of care for sexually exploited youth. This includes conducting screening and needs assessments for youth, providing case consultations, referrals, and offering training and education to organizations and agencies.


Prior to accepting the Regional Navigator position, Gabrielle was the SEY (sexually exploited youth) Program Coordinator. SEY Coordinators work with the Regional Navigator to offer advocacy services, community training, and outreach specifically related to sexual exploitation and trafficking. As SEY Coordinator, she also chaired the HAASTE (Headwater Alliance Against Sexual Trafficking and Exploitation) taskforce. HAASTE meets the first Wednesday of each month and is comprised of community partners; some include North Homes Children and Family Services, Oak Hills, Evergreen and Bemidji State University. Some of the programming she has been able to offer includes creative writing groups for at-risk youth and (thanks to a generous product donation from the Doterra Healing Hands Foundation) essential oil rollerball blends.

Our SEY Coordinator position is part-time, and as such it is linked to our Clearwater County Coordinator position and housed in our Bagley office. In fact, we’re accepting applications for it right now.

Kori Nelson is the Development and Volunteer Coordinator at Support Within Reach.

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