‘Gridshock’ film shows impact of human trafficking

Presentation set for Saturday at Laramar

A town hall meeting Saturday will enable people to learn how human trafficking takes away the choices of those who are forced to undertake sex acts for money.

Randy Kuhlman, chief executive officer of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way, said human trafficking is a scourge that negatively impacts people. He wants people to come and learn about the topic, which they may not know a lot about.

The majority of criminal activity in human trafficking goes unreported. The victims are trying to extricate themselves from the power imbalance, and fear being arrested for prostitution if they contact law enforcement officials.

The event set up by the Safe Communities Coalition will begin at 10 a.m. in the Laramar Ballroom, 710 First Ave. N.

The session will begin with a 50-minute documentary by a native Iowan, then a question and answer portion will follow. The documentary “Gridshock” is by Vanessa McNeal, who is a survivior of sexual violence.

Kuhlman said “Gridshock” is a great way to frame the trafficking topic for people. McNeal on her website notes that while she’s proud of the documentary, it is a difficult topic and can trigger some people as they hear the first-hand details of sex trafficking survivors from Iowa.

The question and answer session will be led by Ray Fiedler, coordinator for the state Office to Combat Human Trafficking, and two counselors who work with victims and survivors. Kuhlman said the trio has a hands-on perspective that comes from working with those who have been trafficked.

People may erroneously think sex trafficking only takes place in large cities. However, according to the Blue Campaign, a national public awareness campaign devoted to preventing human trafficking, it is a problem everywhere, in all 50 states, including rural communities.

According to a report by the Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking, there were 71 human trafficking tips and leads received by the agency in 2023.

Law enforcement authorities report that trafficking victims are often teenage girls and young women. Young men are also victimized by sex traffickers, with LGBTQ people particularly vulnerable. The traffickers often aim for people on the margins of society, since those who are poor, are runaways or who have mental health or substance abuse issues can be vulnerable to control.

A similar event with the documentary in Humboldt County drew 200 people.

If You Go

What: Presentation of human trafficking, including the documentary “Gridshock:”

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Laramar Ballroom, 710 First Ave. N.


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