The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 31, 2013

Group sheds light on human trafficking issue

The Clinton Herald

---- — A communitywide committee has been formed to work on a plan to create strategies to eliminate human trafficking.

Initiated by the Sisters of St. Francis Center for Active Non Violence and Peacemaking, many concerned Clinton area citizens have banned together to work on this horrific crime.

What is human trafficking? It is controlling a person through force, fraud or coercion making them victims of sexual exploitation or forced labor.

This problem does not just exist overseas; it is huge in the USA, more importantly in the Midwest. It does exist in Iowa and unfortunately Clinton, Iowa, is not excluded.

There are currently more slaves on earth than at any time in human history. In 2007 the Quad City task force on Human Trafficking began; they estimate that in one year 1,300 youth in Iowa are at risk. I am sure that number has grown. One in three runaways are approached for commercial sex within the first 48 hours of being on the street. The average age of victims is 11-14 years old. The internet has become the new market place for trafficking our children.

We cannot sit back while this billion dollar organized crime preys on our youth. Our group will focus on sexual exploitation, which strips victims of their basic right to freedom. It is a crime.

We have developed sub committees to work in several areas.

1. Specifically education. Public speaking engagements that educate the public about trafficking and its ramifications.

2. We will be advocating to legislators for stiffer penalties for the pimps and johns.

3. In addition, we need to help victims, seeking services and resources for them.

4. Prevention. Preventing the crime before it happens for both the perpetrator and the victims is of utmost importance.

5. Social Media. Training to inform the public, parents or caregivers on keeping kids safe.

Many concerns were voiced at the meetings. Working with the schools, after school programs, and teaching the teachers were concerns. A big question was raised as to what resources we have in our community for victims, especially those with substance abuse issues.

How do we protect at-risk, throwaway kids, remembering that this can happen to any child. One of our goals is to build self-esteem in our young people. The purpose of this committee is to educate, motive and activate a plan to end human trafficking.

We ask that churches will step forward to help, to mentor and to pray for our children and families.

January is Anti-Human Trafficking month and there will be programs set into action.

Another goal is to make sure everyone knows the hotline number: 1-888-373-7888. If someone is a victim of trafficking or if you think they are, please call this number and they will help wherever you are.

Remember, your voice matters. Speak out on behalf of those who do not have a voice. Be an advocate for justice.

If you would like to join the committee, or would like someone to speak to your group, please call Lori Freudenberg at 242-7611.

Merlyn Law,