It’s hard to fathom that human trafficking happens at all, much less that it is a growing problem here in the heartland.
Human trafficking is the buying and selling of people, who are often forced into sex work or other forms of slavery. Iowa’s interstate highways are prime routes for human traffickers transporting victims, so we must be vigilant.
Iowa is combating human trafficking through public awareness, training for law enforcement and tougher punishments for those who commit this heinous crime. Coordinated local, state and federal efforts have rescued some victims, but human trafficking still goes mostly unnoticed.
We’re continuing to update Iowa’s human trafficking law as we learn more about the crime and the unique situation of victims. For example, this year:
- We created an Office to Combat Human Trafficking to lead and coordinate Iowa’s anti-trafficking efforts and to be the point of contact for federal, state and local law enforcement (SF 2191, HF 2459).
- We defined sex trafficking of minors as child abuse, and set the expectation that state agencies and our partners in the fight against child abuse and trafficking recognize and respond to the crime (SF 2258).
- To bring justice to more victims, we extend the statute of limitations for kidnapping and human trafficking of children to the victim’s 28th birthday, or three years after a perpetrator is identified through DNA testing, whichever is later (HF 2278).
You can help fight human trafficking, too. Recognizing the signs is the first step in identifying victims and saving lives. Here are some things to look for:
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends and regular activities?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person shown a change in behavior?
- Is the person disoriented or confused?
- Do they show signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Is the person fearful, timid or submissive?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
Find more warning signs from the Department of Homeland Security at www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking. If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, report a tip at www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/identify-victim.