Public Awareness Springboard
The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery has long advocated for Iowans to learn that this evil crime is an everyday occurrence in our own state. Declaring January 2020 as “Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month” served as a springboard for building public awareness.
On Thursday, January 16th Governor Kim Reynolds signed the 2020 Proclamation. The event took place in the rotunda of the State Capitol building and was attended by approximately 175 advocates and allies. We want to thank all of you who participated and stood with the NAHT Board of Directors. Above is a photo of the Governor and NAHT vice-chair Jonathan Causey holding the proclamation surrounded by the committed members of the Iowa NAHT Board of Directors.
Address by Governor Kim Reynolds
“It’s an honor for Lieutenant Governor Gregg and I to welcome you all to the Capitol as we Proclaim January as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month. My administration is committed to joining the mission to eradicate modern-day slavery in any form. As an honorary board member of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, I understand the urgent need to prevent human trafficking.
The harsh reality is that dozens of victims are being trafficked in our state every day and most traffickers go undetected and unreported. It’s the survivors’ stories that opened my eyes to the ugly truths of trafficking. A few years ago at this event I met a survivor named Brittany. Abused as a child, she was removed from her home and ran away from foster care when she was 14. A trafficker spotted her as she was attempting to steal a meal from a local grocery store. He identified her plight and offered to pay for the stolen food, then offered to also pay for modelling clothes. It was a glimmer of hope for a better life. Within a week, she was drugged, beaten, and transported to a hotel in Chicago where she was forced into commercial child prostitution.
Brittany survived. Her courage to share her story and become a champion for other victims is truly inspirational and is changing lives. Today we’ll meet and present an Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award to another survivor, Heather Brown. She’s become an outstanding spokesperson and educator for others on the grooming tricks and control tactics of traffickers. Thank you, Heather, for teaching our young people to be aware of the subtle cues that lead to devastating traps. You are truly making a difference.
The Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award winners we honor today shine a light on individuals who are doing just that: working to drive out the darkness and bring the human trafficking conversation into the light. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken here in Iowa. We’ve implemented legislative policies aimed at improving laws punishing traffickers, training law enforcement officers, and decriminalizing victims of human trafficking.
The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking is a tremendous partner. Together with regional anti-trafficking coalitions. They’ve educated employees in over 300 hotels and motels on identifying and reporting traffickers, worked with city councils to pass local massage business ordinances in over 20 Iowa cities, and distributed 10,000 Trafficking Rescue Stickers.
We’re building momentum, but there’s still more work to be done. It’s up to each of us to educate ourselves and open our eyes because it only takes one person to change a life. Human trafficking is a complex, global issue. But that doesn’t mean it’s a world away; it’s right here in Iowa.
Thank you for your commitment to this important cause. Now, it’s a privilege to read and sign this proclamation with you.”
45 Cities and Counties Adopt Proclamations
Another important request to all anti-trafficking advocates and NAHT Board members was to approach your city council or board of supervisors to locally declare January as “Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month”.
Here are just four of the communities that have sent us photos of their city or county proclamation presentations.
Maggie Tinsman is shown holding the proclamation presented by the Bettendorf City Council. Maggie and Braking Traffik staffers were able to get five proclamations from cities and counties in the Quad Cities. What a great way to make local government aware of human trafficking. Great work Maggie and Braking Traffik!
Holding the proclamation are George Belitsos, chair of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, and Linda Murken, chair of the Story County Board of Supervisors. Others pictured include Supervisor Lauris Olson, Supervisor Lisa Heddens, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald, Sgt. Elizabeth Quinn, Assistant Jail Administrator Micah Andersen, Detention Officer Natosha Gardner, Assistant County Attorney Tim Meals, Assistant County Attorney Tiffany Meredith, Jess Lundy with the Department of Human Services and Becky Lundy with the Ames Boys and Girls Club.
On January 14, 2020, the Story County Board of Supervisors adopted a proclamation designating January 12-18 as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness week. The proclamation encourages all of our citizens to become more informed on this growing problem, to be vigilant and report suspicious activity, and to work towards solutions to end trafficking in all its forms in our community. The supervisors also asked that every business, community organization, faith community, family and individual to make a difference by choosing products that are not made by forced labor; by working to protect our young people from sexual exploitation; by addressing the problem of internet sex trafficking and pornography; and by becoming more aware of the problem and possible solutions.
George Belitsos, chair of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Network and all those local allies pictured above. He thanked the Board of Supervisors for standing with local agencies in the fight to eradicate the evil of human trafficking in Story County.
President Douglas J. Fiore signing the Mercy College of Health Sciences Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month proclamation. Pictured with President Fiore is Dr. Nancy Kertz, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dr. Joe Moravec, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and a Board of Director member of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery. Mercy College is the first and only college in Iowa’s history to have made such a proclamation. We thank President Fiore and Mercy College for their excellent initiative and leadership in combating Human Trafficking. May other Iowa colleges and universities follow their example.
Scott Maddasion, Mayor of the City of Clinton, locally declared January as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” during the City Council meeting on January 14. Sister Eileen Golby read the proclamation on behalf of the Franciscan Peace Center’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee. Also pictured, at right, is Bill Schemers, Council At-Large and member of the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee.
Our vision for the future: “An Iowa without human trafficking and modern-day slavery.”