Q&A with New PRIDE Director Mikki Mariotti
We would like to introduce Mikki Mariotti, the New Director of The Family Partnership’s Anti-Sex Trafficking program. We asked Mikki to share why she is passionate about Anti-Sex Trafficking work and how she plans to serve a wide range of people through The Family Partnership’s PRIDE program.
What are your goals as the new PRIDE Director?
I look forward to using my passion for this work to serve a wide range of people. That includes youth, people from Indigenous backgrounds, all genders, and LGTBQ populations – these are the people most often marginalized by society.
I hope to build a strong and confident team that works cohesively together and fully understands the dynamics of prostitution/sex trafficking, addiction, and domestic violence so that we can better serve individuals who are impacted.
How did your previous work prepare you for this position?
For six years, I worked with the DIGNITY Program operated by Catholic Charities in Phoenix. I started as a volunteer and then became a supervisor and case manager of five long-term housing programs. I also managed and trained hundreds of volunteers. My experience as the program’s outreach coordinator will directly translate to the work that PRIDE does in Minneapolis, as I also supervised the DIGNITY street outreach team.
What makes it is so hard for people to leave commercial sexual exploitation?
Individuals become isolated because traffickers manipulate and control all aspects of their life. The trafficker’s goal is to separate each individual from their support systems and other people, so they become solely dependent on the trafficker.
“Trauma bonds” (the belief that your trafficker is the ONLY one that cares for you) keeps people in the life from leaving abusive relationships with their traffickers. Many individuals also struggle with chemical or relationship addiction, loss of income, or have no place of their own to live.Finally, the trafficker will seek out those who dare to leave.
What is the biggest misconception about sex trafficking?
Most people think it can’t happen to me or my family. But, all age groups, genders and races are recruited into commercial sexual exploitation. I recently had a friend whose daughter quit coming home after work. As I was talking with her, I realized her daughter was being groomed by a trafficker. The trafficker told the girl that she was 18 and didn’t need to tell her mom anything she was doing.
I told my friend to call the FBI and a local intervention program, but initially she replied, “But Mikki, that’s not happening to my daughter. Stop scaring me.” Eventually, my friend did contact the FBI and when her daughter came home, she said to me “Mikki, you were so right.” Isolation from support systems and secrecy are big warning signs. Often it is a choice of no choices as the trafficker grooms their victim to become totally dependent on them.
You have lived in most major cities in the U.S. and in the Bahamas, what are your ties to Minnesota?
I was born in Korea and adopted at the age of five and a half by a family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and that is where I lived until I was 18. I came back to Minnesota to visit family and friends when one of my lifelong friends suggested I apply for this position at The Family Partnership. I love Minnesota’s four seasons and visiting the farmers markets.