To the Editor:
In 2014, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to bring attention to the fact that human trafficking, or modern day slavery, exists today. Approximately 20 million to 30 million slaves live in the world today.
Although slavery is commonly thought to be a thing of the past, human traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by trapping millions of people in horrific situations around the world, including here in the U.S. and even Iowa. Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to manipulate people to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will.
From January through June 2017, 42 human trafficking cases were reported in Iowa. Thirty-three were potential sex trafficking cases; four were potential labor trafficking cases and five were not specified.
Human trafficking spans all demographics. Runaway and homeless youth, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or war or conflict are more vulnerable to traffickers. These perpetrators employ control tactics such as physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, and isolation from friends and family. Traffickers identify and leverage vulnerabilities to create dependency. They make promises to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for many reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment or physical threats to themselves or their family’s safety.
Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking are key steps in identifying more victims and helping them to find the assistance they need. If you suspect a victim, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
For more information or to join the Sisters of St. Franciscan Anti-Trafficking Committee, visit: www.clintonfranciscans.com.
Community Outreach Director
Franciscan Peace Center, Clinton