November 2018 Anti-Slavery Iowa News

There continues to be a lot of anti-trafficking news here in Iowa. Today’s blog post will help keep you up to date. If you have anti-trafficking news, events, trainings, meetings, or resources to share across Iowa, please send to

  1. We need your support!

    #GivingTuesdayWe at the Iowa NAHT are so grateful for the support of our blog subscribers. Together, we are advancing the fight to abolish trafficking (modern day slavery) in Iowa.#GivingTuesday, November 27th, is a new opportunity for you to support the Network. We have set a fundraising goal of $5,000 to prepare for January’s proclamation of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month. The kickoff will take place on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, at the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines.On November 27th, we ask each of you to go to our Facebook page and tap the donate button. Facebook will match all your donations. Facebook has partnered with PayPal to match donations and 100% of your gift goes to the work of the Network. If you don’t have Facebook, go to our website to donate.

  2. Dr. George Belitsos and Elizabeth Smart

    Dr. George and Elizabeth Smart

    1,700 attend anti-trafficking presentation

    Elizabeth Smart spoke to a huge audience of 1,700 about her journey from 14 year old sex trafficking victim to survivor. The Iowa NAHT was a cosponsor and staffed an information booth both before and after the event. The lecture took place at Stephens Auditorium on the ISU campus.

    Elizabeth began her story of empowerment by telling the audience three things she wanted it to remember from the entire night. “Each one of us is born special, and each one of us is born unique,” she said. “There is, unfortunately, a lot of things that happen in life that aren’t fair,” Smart continued. “It’s not our fault, it may be the consequences of someone’s actions, but that doesn’t change your worth.” “At the end of the day, no matter what you’ve gone through, no matter what it seems the world knows you for, it doesn’t define you,” she said. “What you do next is what truly defines you.”

    Her abusers tortured her and raped her during her captivity. A couple was convicted of abducting Smart, with the husband serving a life sentence in prison, while the wife was recently released. Smart said when she was raped for the first time, she felt a loss of hope. She felt physically hurt, but the event hurt her emotionally, mentally, and especially spiritually. She said her thoughts spiraled into thinking about the amount of time she would be away from her home. She said she was afraid of never being found and even forgetting who she was. “They’ve taken away so much from me, they could take away my life,” she said.

    She said when she was questioned by the authorities after her rescue, she thought the questions they asked blamed her for not trying hard enough to scream, run away from her abusers or find help.

    Smart, now 30, said the reason she would believe any victim, no matter how many years after their abuse, is because of the similar effect other victims have felt from their abusers. “My captors had been so abusive for so long, they seemed invincible,” she said. “If I tried to scream or run away, they would kill me, and if they didn’t kill me, they would kill my family.” Speaking to the media before Friday’s lecture, Smart said when she realized that her experience wasn’t making her a victim anymore, but a victor, she knew she had to help others become victors too. “The best thing I can do is teach them that they are loved,” Smart said. “I want women to take charge of their life without feeling scared,” Smart said. “What happened will never define you.”


    Network Information Table

  3. Iowa Gridshock Documentary to be Premiered

    An ISU graduate and trafficking survivor has completed filming and editing a feature length documentary that explores and investigates the sex trafficking industry within Iowa. Vanessa McNeal is an award-winning director and national speaker, with much of her work focusing on sexual violence. McNeal said that common misconceptions about sex trafficking are that it only happens in big cities, as opposed to locally, that it requires victims to permanently disappear and that people cannot be trafficked by their own family members. On a local level, there is also the “Iowa nice” stereotype that leads to the idea that sex trafficking can not happen in the state.She has recently announced that the film will be premiering at the Civic Center in Des Moines on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2018. Ticket information will be available in the coming months. It will be a red carpet evening event in benefit of Dorothy’s House. Dorothy’s House is a local nonprofit organization serving survivors of sex trafficking. Those who pre-purchased tickets during the $35,000 documentary production fundraiser will be sent ticket confirmation via email when the ticketing process starts. The Civic center holds over 2,500 people so this will be a large event.

  4. Wings of Refuge raises $317,019

    On November 1st, Joy Fopma announced that Wings of Refuge successfully completed its capital campaign. As a result, the faith-based restoration facility will be moving from Iowa Falls to Ames. According to Fopma, “together with 415 individuals, families, churches, and a generous grant from Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (USA), you gave $317,019 to offer hope and possibilities to many more girls. Because of you, Wings of Refuge has the funds to purchase a larger home and complete the necessary renovations—this is the first phase of expanding!”

  5. Chains Interrupted reaches fundraising goalFreedom Gala

    Mega kudos to Teresa Davidson for raising over $200,000 for direct services to trafficking survivors. Chains Interrupted held their first, annual “Freedom Gala” on October 12th, 2018. Over 200 attendees spent the evening dining on wonderful food, bidding on silent and live auction items, listening to live music, and learning about human trafficking’s presence in the Cedar Rapids area, as well as efforts to fight against it. Speakers included 2 survivors, International Junior Miss Iowa, 2 teens from Kennedy High School’s Teens Against Human Trafficking group, the president, fundraising chair and co-founder. Funds raised from the event will go towards prevention efforts, survivor support and the future opening of transitional housing for women coming out of restoration. A special thank you goes to Tish Young and the gala committee for all their amazing work in making this event a smashing success!

  6. Expanded Iowa Anti-Trafficking Resource Directory

    One of the NAHT’s strategic plan goals for 2018 is a major expansion of the Network’s Resource Directory. We have been working on this project for several months now, and have expanded the directory to include 21 pages of information. We invite you to review this important document, and if you see any errors or omissions, please let us know. The directory can be downloaded here (PDF). The directory has expanded from six sections to 16. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this major expansion of resources!

  7. New U.S. Federal Policy restricts T visas

    We are disappointed to report that US immigration officials have issued new guidelines that will make immigrant victims of human trafficking more vulnerable to deportation. The new policy, issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will affect foreigners who were trafficked to the US for forced labour or sexual exploitation. Under the previous US policy, immigrant victims of trafficking could apply for T visas, special permits that would allow them to stay in the country to work and access benefits while cooperating with police investigations against their traffickers. Even in cases where a T visa was denied, immigration authorities usually did not act to immediately deport immigrants. However, as Foreign Policy reports, the new policy changes that completely. Under the new guidelines, denial of a T visa will trigger an automatic summons of a hearing before an immigration judge, known as a “notice to appear.” Legal experts say such a notice effectively marks the start of the deportation process.

  8. Sex trafficked survivor wins 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

    Nadia Murad, a human rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State in Iraq, became the first Iraqi ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize when she received the honour earlier last month in Oslo. The award of the prize follows a year in which the abuse and mistreatment of women in all walks of life across the globe has been a focus of attention. Ms Murad was 21 years- old in 2014 when Islamic State militants attacked the village where she had grown up in northern Iraq. The militants killed those who refused to convert to Islam, including six of her brothers and her mother. Along with many of the young women in her village, she was taken into captivity by the militants and sold repeatedly for sex as part of Islamic State’s slave trade. She eventually escaped captivity with the help of a Sunni Muslim family in Mosul, the de facto capital in Iraq, and became an advocate for the rights of her community around the world. In 2017, Murad published a memoir of her ordeal, “The Last Girl.” She recounted in harrowing detail her months in captivity, her escape, and her journey to activism.

  9. Hotel/Motel workers required to attend trafficking awareness training

  10. “Eyes Wide Open” full day anti-trafficking conference draws over 200

    Our thanks to Garden Gate Ranch for hosting a free full-day anti-trafficking conference in Norwalk, Iowa on October 20th. The conference included lunch and was free to the 247 people who registered to attend. Presenters included:

    Presenter Topic
    Chief David Lorenzen DOT and Truckers Against Trafficking
    Terry Forliti survivor
    Pastor Christian Shields porn and the brain
    Ruth Buckels child trafficking

    Shirlee Reding, NAHT board member, volunteered to staff the Network information table during the conference

    Shirlee Reding, NAHT board member, volunteered to staff the Network information table during the conference