Is Human Trafficking A Real Threat?
By Kristin Fairholm, Executive Director
We have all read the headlines and they scream with frightening tales of abduction, enslavement and violence. Mothers whisper in semicircles around school parking lots of midday kidnappings at our local department stores. Girls hover innocently in small packs over the glare of their phones while we as parents question and clutch to their hemlines. Is it possible that sexual enslavement is a reality in the rolling hills of Iowa? Can the internet bring criminals to our front porch? Are our girls safe nowhere?
EyesOpenIowa wants to inform and protect the children and families of our state. Our allegiance goes beyond comprehensive sex education. We are most interested in prevention; the prevention of ill outcomes for young women. Our only weapon against violence: EDUCATION.
Human Trafficking is defined by the National Human Trafficking Hotline as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.”
Approximately 100,000 individuals are trafficked in the United States every year with 10,000 reports being child sex trafficking. It is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
What we know about human trafficking in the state of Iowa:
● We have a total of 385 trafficking victims since 2007.
● 74 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2017.
● The average customer that victims see per day is 15.
● 30% of buyers of human traffickers are married couples.
● 50% of pimps and traffickers are female.
● It is easier to traffic in a small town than a big town.
● Risk factors: relocation/migration, substance abuse, runaway/homeless youth, mental health concerns and involvement in the child welfare system.
Numbers are increasing yearly for human trafficking. This is how we can help prevent the crime in our communities:
● Education/Communication: Talk to your friends, family and children about human trafficking. The more people know - the safer we will all be.
● Pay Attention To Your Surroundings: If you see a young girl out in the middle of a school day - Question it. If something seems out of the norm - Report it. It doesn’t matter if you are near an airport, a massage parlor, nail salon or small farm - Take Action. You will never - Regret it. (You can dial 911 or the National Hotline: 1-888-373-7888)
● Be Involved In Your Child’s Life: Children who come from healthy households are much less likely to be the victims of human trafficking. Ask questions. Listen actively. Know their daily schedules. (Victimization typically occurs during after school hours from 3pm - 6pm and from 4am - 8am) Know their friends and partners.
● Monitor Social Media: There are 12,000 daily ads on social media aimed at targeting our children. Limit screen time and when they do use technology make sure your children know about appropriate boundaries and internet safety.
It is not healthy to live in a state of fear. We can rest well at night knowing that the threat of human trafficking in our lives is an unlikely one. However, as adults we owe it to our children to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Educating ourselves and then our children about the world in which we live in only serves to prepare them for the reality that awaits outside our front door. We will all be healthier and happier when we realize prevention in the form of education is not only necessary for the well-being of our own children but for all children in the state of Iowa.
To learn more about human trafficking, please visit www.polarisproject.org.