Human trafficking – a scourge on our state

The Safe Communities Coalition of Fort Dodge and Webster County is sponsoring a free town hall event on the tragic issue of human trafficking in Iowa. “GRIDSHOCK” is a 50-minute investigative documentary exposing the hidden and alarming reality behind the sex trafficking business in Iowa. After the documentary, a panel of experts including two local professionals who counsel human trafficked victims will lead a discussion and answer questions about human trafficking in Iowa, including the Fort Dodge area.

This riveting documentary will challenge everything you thought you knew about sex trafficking. “GRIDSHOCK” will bother you. It may shock you, but it will also educate you on how to spot and even help victims in our community and how to protect your children and grandchildren from becoming entrapped in this horrific criminal activity.

Human trafficking of women for sex is a serious criminal problem in our state and nation, and yes, it is even happening in our community. Human trafficking (also called sex trafficking) is often referred to as modern-day slavery. It is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world. Each year in the United States there are more than 365,000 missing children and it is estimated that over 30 percent of those missing are being trafficked. Sex trafficking occurs in all 50 states. It is no longer a crime that lives overseas or just in large cities as often portrayed in movies. It is a domestic problem requiring a community-by-community response.

An accurate number of victims is hard to determine because human trafficking is one of the most under-reported crimes in the U.S. because of its covert nature. Victims experience stigma and shame or are scared to report their trafficker to law enforcement. Many do not have a family or friend support system to help them. The traffickers often threaten victims, their families and loved ones with physical harm if they report their exploitation.

Human trafficked victims are generally teenage girls and young women, but young men and boys are also victimized by sex traffickers. Victimization can happen to anyone, but some are more vulnerable than others. A third of all identified children, usually girls, get trapped into the trafficking process between the ages of 14 to 17, whereas trafficked boys are often the age of 12 or younger.

Sex trafficking is not a crime that exists solely in dark alleys or in shady neighborhoods. Every day victims walk into the same restaurants, gas stations, malls, and grocery stores as everyone else. Some even attend high school or college. They go unnoticed and unrecognized.

Organized criminal networks, as well as individuals, perpetrate this crime. Traffickers develop control over their victims using intimidation, threats, physical violence, sexual abuse, drugs, isolation and providing them with food, money, and shelter. Victims find it extremely difficult to break away from the control of their traffickers and often consider suicide as their only way out.

Traffickers often use the Internet and social media to recruit victims and to proliferate their trafficking operations. 50,000 new escort ads are posted online every day. Mixed into all these ads are children who are bought and sold for sex online using the most common social media platforms. “GRIDSHOCK” will inform you about who the traffickers are and the men that are the buyers of sex.

We hope you will join us to learn more about human trafficking and the horrific impact it is having in our state and in our community, and what can be done about it. The “GRIDSHOCK” documentary will give you first-hand accounts from actual victims, and the men who are buyers of sex. This documentary may startle you; it will likely alarm you, and it will definitely inform you about this growing and tragic criminal activity in Iowa.

The “GRIDSHOCK” documentary will be held at the Laramar Ballroom on Saturday, April 13 at 10 a.m.. This event is sponsored by the Safe Communities Coalition of Fort Dodge and Webster County. The Fort Dodge Community Foundation is hosting this free event for the public.

Jeanette Potter is the coordinator of the Safe Communities Coalition of Fort Dodge and Webster County.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today