A clothing line that sends profits to survivors of trafficking has a new storefront in Uptown.
My Sister’s messages are printed on t-shirts and tanks: “Stop traffic,” “I Don’t Buy It,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and the men’s shirt “Feminist” — men who wear it say they’ve noticed appreciative smiles from women.
“People really connect with those messages,” said owner Mandy Multerer. “It’s such a great billboard and an easy way to get conversations started.”
“With every product you buy in the store, you’ll be supporting people who have been affected by trafficking, poverty, abuse or domestic violence,” Multerer said.
The FBI identified Minneapolis in 2003 as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high incidence of child sex trafficking, creating a local task force to tackle the issue.
Although trafficking may feel like a distant issue, it’s one that recently came to light in the Lyndale neighborhood, where residents tracked the court proceedings of a trafficking case.
According to court documents: A 49-year-old man was sentenced to 75 months in prison last fall on charges that he forced a woman to perform oral sex in hotels in Hennepin County and on Lake Street. The victim said that when she met the man, he was kind to her and bought her nice things. But after a while, he threatened violence against her family if she refused to perform sexual acts for money, and when she did, he took all of the money.
“I wasn’t happy about it at all, but he taught me everything I needed to know,” said another woman, recorded in court documents in a second trafficking charge that was dismissed. “… I hated my life while doing this. It was so degrading. But if I refused to do it, [he] would get very violent with me. I was so afraid of this man but had no way out until I finally got stopped by the two Minneapolis detectives while walking Lake Street [to] make [him] money. They saved my life. I then gave my statement and went home to my family.”
The woman said in court she became depressed and started having nightmares every night.
“…thanks to the good Lord above my life is getting normal again,” she said. “That man ruined my life.”
My Sister is a public benefit corporation, which is a new classification for companies that place “public benefit” among their primary objectives. Rather than use all profits as dividends for shareholders, the companies are allowed more flexible use of profits.
“I got the classification the first day it was available,” Multerer said.
In the future, she’d like to launch a survivor-run screen-printing shop. Nonprofits are always searching for employment opportunities for survivors, she said.
When Multerer became aware of trafficking, she started digging into books and documentaries on the topic.
“How can you not want to do something?” she said. “With my background in marketing, it was kind of a perfect fit.”
She’s interested in connecting with young people and tweens — the average age of entry into prostitution or sex trafficking is 12-14 years old, according to the city of Minneapolis.
“Part of our mission is getting out in the community and telling about how sex trafficking is happening locally,” she said.
For more information, visit mysister.org.