2020 Legislative Victories, July 30 World Day Against Trafficking & Anti-Trafficking News

Governor signs two anti-trafficking bills

The above photo was taken Monday, June 29 at the Hotel/Motel Employee Training Bill signing. Governor Reynolds signed HF 2259 and handed out 20 signing pens. As you can see, we had a great turnout from our NAHT board members, allies, and legislators. Iowa abolitionists owe thanks to Maggie Tinsman for her volunteer leadership as Chair of the NAHT Legislative Advocacy Committee. It took two years to get this hotel/motel bill to the Governor’s desk, and Maggie led this important effort.

Now the big task ahead will be to implement HF 2259. The NAHT Evaluation/Research and Best Practice Committee hosted a statewide Zoom meeting for all those who have already been volunteering their time to train hotels and motels. There were 31 participants on the July 14th call. Four Iowa regional anti-trafficking coalitions have already trained workers in just over 200 hotels and motels. With passage of HF 2259, we expect many hotels and motels to soon be asking for training. There are over 3,000 lodging facilities in Iowa. If you wish to help implement HF 2259, the next hotel/motel Zoom meeting will be Tuesday, August 4th at 2:30 PM. Contact administrator@iowanaht.org for more details. Learn more about this historic legislation here.

The second human trafficking related bill signed by Governor Reynolds is HF 2554. The NAHT signed on to this bill, as did the Department of Human Services. This bill, entitled Continuous Sexual Assault of Children, will result in increased time in prison to traffickers and other perpetrators who exploit children under age 14. Last year, 156 offenders were sentenced on sexual assault/abuse, and 60 had abused child victims. The crime for continuous sexual abuse (3 incidents by the same person to the same child 14 years or younger, with each incident occurring more than 30 days apart) has been elevated to a Super Class B felony, which carries a 50 year sentence. This legislation will help eliminate having to try a perpetrator or trafficker three times, which is the way this type of situation has been handled. Under the new law, all of the investigational materials and criminal history relating to these 3 cases can become part of the record. Learn more about HF 2554 here.

Thursday, July 30th is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Annually, the United Nations designates July 30th as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness of this devastating global problem and to promote the protection of people’s basic human rights. Trafficking is modern day slavery, and this heinous crime is growing not only globally, but right here in Iowa as well.

Word Day Against Trafficking in Persons is July 30Sex and labor trafficking is a thriving criminal industry, and traffickers continue to operate with impunity. Less than 1% of traffickers are ever brought to justice. Only a small fraction of victims receive trauma-informed, victim-centered support services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made exploitation by traffickers worse. The pandemic has resulted in a 40% increase in crisis calls to the Polaris US 888-3737-888 hotline (see report in Information & Articles section of this blog post).

Iowa is doing a better job than in the past at holding these evil perpetrators accountable. In 2019, 14 Iowa traffickers were convicted and sentenced to prison. This figure represents more convictions than 2017 and 2018 combined. Please make the Global Day against Trafficking in Persons the day that you become part of the solution and stand with us in this fight. We are aware that several local Iowa anti-trafficking coalitions are holding virtual seminars and events to mark this special annual day. Please send photos and reports on your event to administrator@iowanaht.org, and we will post them in the August blog post.

Dates announced for Iowa human trafficking conferences and meetings

As our blog subscribers know, Iowa had several major anti-human trafficking seminars and conferences cancelled and/or postponed due to the COVID-19 health threat. Here are three new dates plus the first announcement of the 2021 Iowa Human Trafficking Summit.

  1. Monday, August 10, 2020 9:00am-3:00pm
    Porn Epidemic Conference hosted by Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking at Sioux City Convention Center. Participants may choose to attend in person or via livestream. Link here.
  2. Monday, April 5, 2021
    Child Sex Trafficking Research Symposium at Mercy College of Health Sciences. For more information, contact Dr. Joe Moravec at jmoravec@mercydesmoines.org.
  3. May 26 & 27, 2021
    Iowa Human Trafficking Summit to be held at Prairie Meadows. For more information, contact Gretchen Brown-Waech at gretchen.brown-waech@ag.iowa.gov.

Iowa City Law Enforcement Task Force receives national anti-trafficking award

An Iowa City task force that carried out a sex trafficking investigation last year received what is considered the highest federal honor for victim services by law enforcement.

Iowa City Police CarIowa court records show the sex trafficking crimes occurred throughout Johnson and Linn counties and involved female minors. Investigators began collecting evidence in late 2018 and filed charges in May of 2019. One of the crucial aspects of the case was how much evidence and data detectives collected and analyzed: over 3.5 million pieces of data. With so much evidence brought forth, the reliance on witness testimony was reduced. Keeping teenage survivors and victims of sex trafficking involved from the start of an investigation to a conviction is very difficult as some victims fear for their lives and can be traumatized in the process.

As a result of a very thorough investigation, five defendants pleaded guilty and a sixth was convicted by jury trial.

The Law Enforcement in Victim Services Award was granted to a team including five Iowa City Police detectives, one Coralville Police detective, one Johnson County Sheriff’s detective, one Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent and one FBI agent, according to the release. Assistant US Attorney Virginia Bruner with the Southern District of Iowa United States Attorney’s Office and Sergeant Scott Stevens of the Iowa City Police Department nominated the task force for the federal anti-trafficking award.

Information and Articles

  1. Polaris findings on impact of COVID-19 pandemic on 800 crisis callsLink here (PDF)
  2. Labor abuse and discrimination. In September 2019, the government of Micronesia requested that the Department of State provide assistance to investigate abuse and mistreatment of Micronesian citizens who were recruited to move to the United States to work for a U.S. company in Iowa. Link to article here.
  3. NHTTAC’s SOAR program for health professionals is offering a training for SANE Nurses. Link here. There are prerequisite SOAR online trainings but both those trainings and this offer CE/CME credits.
  4. Registration is now OPEN for the 17th Annual International Human Trafficking & Social Justice Conference! Register here.
  5. The NO Project is an award-winning, global, educational anti-slavery campaign that specifically targets youth awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking through film, music, art, dance, theatre, journalism, creative writing, education and social media. More information here.
  6. World Day Against Trafficking in Persons Resource Packet – Link here (PDF)
  7. At What Cost to Victims Should Traffickers be Brought to Justice and are For-Profit Prisons Engaged in Labor Trafficking? Link to podcast here.