Successful Anti-Trafficking Day on the Hill

Yesterday’s Anti-Trafficking Day on the Hill was a great success. We thank the 100+ allies of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery for their active participation.

For those of you who were unable to attend, I thought I would share the governor’s comments just before signing the proclamation declaring January “Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.”

Governor Kim Reynolds’ Speech

Welcome and thanks to all the anti-human trafficking advocates who have gathered for today’s proclamation signing. Before I sign this proclamation declaring January as “Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month,” I want to tell you how committed my administration is to joining you in your mission to eradicate modern day slavery. This evil crime has no place in our state.

As an honorary member of Board of Directors of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, I have become convinced of the urgent need to understand that human trafficking does happen in Iowa and that we each need to play a role to spot It. The harsh reality is that dozens of victims are being trafficked in Iowa every day, and it carries on undetected and unrecorded. By my signing this proclamation, I am asking all Iowa citizens to learn more about human trafficking and to report what you see as suspicious. There is no penalty for being wrong, but your call may rescue a victim or save a life.

Learning how to identify and combat the evil of enslavement is especially important for those who are most likely to encounter the victims of trafficking, including health care providers, educators, hotel employees, law enforcement officials, and human service professionals. All Iowans can learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking and how to report suspected incidences. By taking steps to become familiar with the tell tale signs of trafficking or the signals of their victims, Iowans can save innocent lives.

Unfortunately there are many examples of child and adult sex and labor trafficking that have gone largely unreported and the perpetrators unpunished. An example of this is a teenage survivor who is here today. I will be recognizing Brittany with an award in just a few minutes.

I met Brittany during a bill signing in 2014. The bill signed by governor Branstad that day allowed county attorneys to divert teen prostitutes from being charged with a crime. Instead, Iowa prosecutors can now avoid delinquency charges and divert girls under age 18 into services through DHS by filing a Child in Need of Assistance petition. This option is just short of a Safe Harbor Law which would ensure that all minors involved in prostitution are treated as victims and not as criminals. That day Governor Branstad gave Britney the first bill signature pen because of her advocacy for this bill.

At age 14 Britney ran away from her foster home. Britney was subsequently spotted by a trafficker at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Rapids. The trafficker observed Britney attempting to steal food. Within a week, Britney had been drugged, beaten, and transported to a hotel in Chicago where she was forced into commercial child prostitution. Her availability was advertised on line on the Back Page internet site. Britney is an Iowa victim who was rescued and with a lot of help became a survivor and later a spokesperson for other child victims. Britney’s captors were never brought to justice.

Although we can all be very proud of the progress we have made in fighting human trafficking in the last few years, there is still a lot of work to be done and that is why I said “yes” to endorsing the Hotel-Motel Employee Training Project proposed by Dr. George and the Iowa and Nebraska networks against trafficking. I held a press conference on September 19th to help to launch this new initiative.

As I now sign this Proclamation let’s all recommit ourselves to working together to drive out the darkness that human trafficking casts upon our state and throughout the world.