Human Trafficking does occur in Iowa

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, September 20, 2017
What is human trafficking? It’s modern day slavery, according to Braking Traffik, which educated the community of West Liberty on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the Community Center.

Around 50 community members attended the presentation organized by Tom Barr and the West Liberty Rotary Club. It’s a somber subject that needs attention.

“This is a crime that has no boundaries,” said Barr. “It’s not something that we may like to talk about, may not even want to think about, but we can’t ignore it. It does exist.”

With that info, the Rotary Club decided to open up its weekly Tuesday evening meeting to the entire community in order to spread light on the subject.

Braking Traffik sent two members to speak on the subject. The organization is a program of Family Resources, dedicated to eradicating human trafficking in Iowa and Illinois.

It services survivors of trafficking in Scott, Jackson, Clinton, Muscatine and Louisa counties in Iowa, and Rock Island County in Illinois.

A big part of what Braking Traffik does is spread the word about the all too real topic, info that seems to be swept under the rug.

“Traffickers look for victims that are vulnerable, and there are many things that make our kids vulnerable these days, including age,” said Maria R. on behalf of Braking Traffik.

The average age of forced prostitution for boys and girls is 11 to 14. Kids are picked off by predators when they feel hopeless, abandoned and alone.

Often victims have turned to drugs or alcohol and away from family or adults that love them to fill the void. That’s when they’re approached by a trafficker.

“One thing to keep in mind is that if a person is taken from West Liberty they aren’t prostituted here, they’re taken somewhere else,” said Maria.

“If they’re here they might be able to run home or run to friends, so they’ll take them from here to Chicago, Nashville or somewhere else so they don’t know where they are and they don’t know how to get help,” she added.

West Liberty’s location near the interstate does play a role. The I-80 truck stop was also brought up as a place where human trafficking is known to occur.

However, it was made clear that trafficking, which is a broad term in itself, can be done from the home or by family members. There is no certain way to identify a trafficker.

Maria also explained that there are two types of trafficking that occur right here in Iowa. There’s sex trafficking, defined as compelled service into the commercial sex industry.

Then there is labor trafficking, which is compelling someone to provide labor or services through force, fraud and coercion.

Traffickers bring victims into the country and everything is legal, but then the employer steals the worker’s Visa. The victim has nowhere they can go.

“We think in the Quad Cities about 100 kids a year are pulled into trafficking,” said Maria. “The internet is a playground for predators; it’s where a lot of our boys and girls get taken.”

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act made trafficking a felony in the United States in 2000, passed by congress and signed into effect by President Bill Clinton.

The act was subsequently renewed in 2003, 2006 and 2008 when it was renamed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

However, the act of identifying a trafficker or a victim is difficult, and sometimes hard to prove. To learn more, visit famres.org.
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