It’s my privilege to write to you at the start of 2020 and to announce major events to launch Iowa’s observance of “Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month”. We invite you to join us for these events and thereby join the movement to end human trafficking in Iowa.

January 16th Governor’s proclamation signing for Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Iowans used to think of slavery as a barbaric practice of the past but more of us are now realizing that the practice of enslaving human beings as property still exists in our country and in our state. Globally, there are more people living as slaves right now then at any other time in human history.

The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery (NAHT) 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 Awareness and Prevention Month” will serve as a springboard for building public awareness and supporting legislative action at the Iowa Statehouse.

On Thursday, January 16th at 11:00 AM, Governor Kim Reynolds will be signing the 2020 Proclamation declaring January as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month. All anti-trafficking advocates and allies are encouraged to come to the rotunda of the State Capitol Bldg in Des Moines to participate as we recommit ourselves to eradicating this most heinous type of human exploitation. Following the proclamation signing, Governor Reynolds will present five Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Awards. The honorees are as follows:

  • Heather Brown – Trafficking survivor who has become a spokesperson for victims. She is now employed full-time and has her own housing and is a licensed foster parent. Heather is one of three Iowa trafficking victims featured in the documentary Gridshock. She speaks publicly about how teens are groomed and recruited by traffickers. She also shares insights into the traffickers’ control tactics.
  • Senator Charles Grassley – Has advocated and sponsored anti-trafficking public policy legislation starting in 2003 with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and later, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, and most recently, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2018.
  • 2019-anti-human-trafficking-award-vanessa-mcnealBrenda Long – Founder and driving force behind the non-profit Garden Gate Ranch, providing safe housing for trafficking victims and their children. She is a passionate advocate for survivors. She has also organized four annual statewide “Eyes Wide Open” anti-trafficking conferences.
  • Jim Townsend – A Des Moines business leader who has been an advocate and voice against the human trafficking industry in Des Moines. Upon learning of an illicit massage business operating near his Urbandale business headquarters, Jim spearheaded efforts to pass a massage business ordinance that led to the closing of illicit businesses.
  • Mark “Rocky” Vest – Founder and driving force behind Break The Cycle, an annual 200-mile bike ride to raise funds to break the cycle of sex trafficking. Since the first BTC 200 ride in 2011, over $750,000 has been raised and donated to non-profit prevention projects, rescue services, and survivor restoration programs.

The following is the itinerary for your participation in the January 16th Day on the Hill:

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM: Anti-Trafficking information table located in the Rotunda available to legislators and the public. The NAHT will be handing out its 2020 Legislative Priorities (link here).

11:00 – 11:45 AM: Governor Kim Reynolds signs proclamation and Presentation of Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Awards at the rotunda.

Noon – 1:30 PM: Iowa NAHT Board of Directors annual meeting in Room 116 of the State Capitol Building. Allies and the public are welcome to attend. Highlights of the meeting include:

  • Review of legislative priorities for 2020
  • Human trafficking training annual report from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy
  • Annual progress report from the Office to Combat Trafficking within the Department of Public Safety
  • Progress report from the Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Service (TAPS)
  • Presentation by the Nebraska Partnership Against Trafficking of Humans

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM: Meet with your local legislator and hand them a copy of the NAHT Legislative Priorities and solicit their support.

If you are unfamiliar with the process to request to speak with legislators, we can help.

Step one: Send in a note at the front of each chamber.
Step two: Introduce yourself and your involvement with NAHT.
Step three: Talk about the NAHT legislative priorities.
Step four: Ask for their support. Leave handouts behind, and thank them for their service.

Day-on-the-Hill-Flyer-2020-Final-VersionPlease add January 16th to your calendar and help us to spread the word in order to get as many advocates to participate as possible. Print off or email the Day On The Hill Flyer to help us spread the word. If you can join us on January 16th, please let your state representative and senator know that you will be planning to meet and talk to them about supporting legislation to fight human trafficking. If you cannot participate on January 16th, we ask that you send the “Save the Date” flyer to your legislator with a personal note expressing your concern with this growing problem. Ask your legislator to attend the 11:00 AM proclamation signing event.

Ask your City Council to adopt a local proclamation for January 2020

Another important request to all anti-trafficking advocates and NAHT Board members is to approach your city council or board of supervisors to locally declare January as “Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month”. A copy of an example proclamation that you could propose be adopted is found by clicking this link: Sample Proclamation

An example acceptance script to your City Council is as follows:

“Good afternoon/evening. My name is ____________________________ and I am a member of the _____________ (name your regional or local anti-human trafficking agency or coalition or faith community.) On behalf of the _______________, I would like to thank Mayor _______________ and the Council for recognizing the problem of human trafficking by issuing this proclamation. The _________________ was formed with the purpose of “working toward abolishing all forms of human trafficking through education, advocacy, and collaboration.” We look forward to working with the council, the police and the many agencies and concerned local citizens of _______________________ to end trafficking in our community. Thank you.”

bettendorf-proclamationTake a photo at your local government proclamation signing and submit it for publication in your local newspaper. What a great way to create public awareness and recognition of this growing problem across Iowa and within your own home community. Please send us a copy of your photo of your local proclamation signing to

Other Iowa Events Marking Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month

There are many other local events celebrating “Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month”. Here are just a few that are free and open to the public:

against-child-traffickingI Am Still Here – The Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery based in Dubuque, IA will present the award-winning film I Am Still Here at the Grand Opera House followed by questions and answers on January 11, 2020. For more information, contact Sister Mary Patricia Conlan at

mcneal-gridshockGridshock – Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids will show the documentary Gridshock on Tuesday, January 21st at 7:00 PM. Admission is free and open to the public. Teresa Davidson, Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator at Mercy Medical Center, will also speak following the film. Download a poster to share the event here.

Des Moines Demand an End Trafficking Awareness Program – On Thursday, January 23rd from 6:30-9:00 PM there will be two excellent speakers. One speaker facilitates a men’s group for those that have purchased sex and the other is an FBI agent, who works with victims.

6:30-6:45 – Introduction and factual basis of human trafficking
6:45-7:30 – Speaker 1: Don Gault from Men Breaking Free, St. Paul, MN – Men Breaking Free is a ground breaking Restorative Justice approach to working with men who have been arrested for attempting to, or purchasing sex from another human being. It engages men in an introspective, healing and learning process designed to break the cycle of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
7:30-7:45 – 15 min break
7:45-8:30 – Speaker 2: Karen Gale, HT specialist with the FBI
8:30-9:00 – Panel discussion and audience questions

The event will be held at Plymouth Church in Waveland Hall. The Church is located at 4126 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines. For more information, contact Shirlee Reding at or Sarah Shambrook at The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.

The NAHT hopes to see all anti-trafficking advocates January 16th!