Governor’s press conference and Human Trafficking Prayer Day

Annual Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking

The Network has been asked to forward to the group a request for prayers. As you may know, The Salvation Army has been active in Anti-Trafficking from the start, over 150 years ago, before it was called human trafficking. For the last several years, The Salvation Army has set aside the last Sunday in September as the Annual Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking. They are requesting that everyone take a few minutes out of their schedule on Sunday, September 24, 2017, to say a prayer regarding human trafficking. In addition, if anyone would be willing to contact Jennie Kerger, Coordinator of Family Services, of The Salvation Army, you can reach her at jennie_kerger@usc.salvationarmy.org and let her know that they are going to (or had if after the 24th) prayed and how many people are involved in their group, She will report the numbers to The Salvation Army. Last year she had over 100 people let her know that they said a prayer regarding human trafficking. Jennie would like to double that number this year. With your help, she thinks that is very possible. Thank you so very much!

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg announce a new initiative to fight sex trafficking at hotels and motels

Gov. Kim Reynolds press conferenceGovernor Kim Reynolds, Lt. Governor Adam Gregg, Dr. George Belitsos, Board Chair of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, and Stephen O’Meara, President of the Coalition Against Human Trafficking utilized the administration’s weekly press conference to bring attention to the terrible crime of human trafficking and to announce a new statewide initiative to fight the growing crime of sex trafficking taking place in Iowa’s hotels and motels.

The press conference was held at the State Capitol Building on September 19, 2017 and was covered by 9 members of the print media and four TV news channels. 30 others packed the press room and included Network Board members, several mayors and 15 central iowa law enforcement officers. Roxann Ryan, commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety was in attendance, and representatives from several other state agencies were also present. Representatives from Senators’ Grassley and Ernst were also at the press conference.

“Iowa is not immune from human trafficking,” Governor Reynolds said. “That’s why I’m grateful to see this private sector partnership between our state and Nebraska. I know it will support the good work we’re already doing, from the strong laws we have on the books to the Office to Combat Human Trafficking we established within the Department of Public Safety to our law enforcement officers participating in training programs.”

“The governor and I support the efforts of nonprofit groups like NAHT to build public awareness,” Lt. Gov. Gregg said. “I would call on the hotel and motel managers and owners for full cooperation and workers in the hospitality industry for participation in this training.

Hotels and motels are primary locations for sex trafficking both across the nation and here in Iowa. The Iowa Network estimates that at least 50% of sex trafficking takes place in hospitality venues, often unbeknownst to managers and staff. Traffickers bring in women, many are minors, to hotels and motels especially during major events. These events are not the root cause of sex trafficking. The root causes are greed, and a subculture that accepts treating people, especially women and children, as sex objects that can be bought and sold. Poverty, child abuse and neglect, drug abuse and dependency, and desperation lead to maintaining a pool of vulnerable victims

According to Dr. Belitsos, the network has partnered with a Nebraska Coalition to launch the Iowa Hotel/Motel Training Project. The Nebraska Coalition has developed a training of trainers program and curriculum that Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery has adopted. On September 13th, three trainers from Nebraska came to Des Moines to conduct the first training of 30 Iowa volunteers who will be dispatched to Central Iowa hotels and motels. The cost of the trainers and the educational materials are being covered by three private donors through the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation.

Stephen O'MearaThe Nebraska trainers’ next training of trainers will take place on September 25th in Cedar Rapids. 55 volunteers are already registered for this training. Other training of trainers in four other regions of Iowa will soon be announced.

“We depend on law enforcement and prosecutors to hold traffickers accountable” said Governor Reynolds, “But we also count on schools, social service agencies, the hospitality industry and general public to take actions to recognize and prevent human trafficking, and protect vulnerable Iowans. This September 19th press conference will ensure that we do our part at the state level to draw attention to this heinous crime, and to support non-government initiated efforts, such as the hotel/motel project.”

Governor Reynolds added, “I am pleased to be able to serve as an honorary board member for the Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery and to have worked with Teens Against Human Trafficking in the past. We’ve made progress in our anti-trafficking efforts in Iowa but we still have more to do. Regardless of how human trafficking begins, it is important for hotel and motel employees and the general public to recognize the signs of trafficking and to report any suspicious activity.”

From left to right: Stephen O’Meara, Mike Ferjak, Chair of the Central Iowa Service Network Against Human Trafficking, Commissioner Ryan, Dr. George Belitsos“When the network began 10 years ago, human trafficking was not recognized as a problem in Iowa. Thankfully, that has now changed and the response by Iowa communities and government agencies has greatly improved,” said Dr Belitsos. “Both the Network and the Coalition are very grateful and encouraged by the support we have seen from Governor Reynolds and the Lieutenant Governor who have today put the spotlight on this horrible crime against humanity.

(From left to right: Stephen O’Meara, Mike Ferjak, Chair of the Central Iowa Service Network Against Human Trafficking, Commissioner Ryan, Dr. George Belitsos)

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