Raising awareness about human trafficking across Iowa

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(ABC 6 News) – January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is informing Iowans about recognizing the signs of trafficking and how it can be prevented.

In January 2022, Pate announced the launch of the Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking Initiative. Now, one year later, over 600 businesses statewide have joined the effort to end human trafficking.

Pate is joining forces with Chains Interrupted, a Cedar Rapids-based organization focused on human trafficking prevention, to educate the public and raise awareness about the issue.

According to Chains Interrupted, the number of identified human trafficking victims is on the rise in Iowa. In 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 218 calls from the state, and of the cases reported, half were from minors.

Pate and Chains Interrupted CEO Teresa Davidson say in the past year, the awareness raised through the IBAT has led to an uptick in human trafficking charges.

“In Iowa alone, we’ve seen quite a few more crimes that have been charged with trafficking than we’ve ever had before, and I don’t believe for one minute that’s just happened overnight,” says Pate. “It helps us measure whether or not we’re making an impact and also helps bring the awareness higher to others that this is a real issue. And I would say in the last year, we’ve seen a significant uptick of people being much more aware of this issue.”

Knowing how to recognize human trafficking is the first step in preventing it.

Davidson says some tell signs of trafficking are odd behaviors and interactions, as well as indications of abuse. Including, abusive or controlling relationships, relationships with wide age gaps involving minors, and physical signs of branding such as tattoos.

Learning to recognize these signs allows members of the community to combat the issue.

“It’s really important that you learn something, so that you know what you’re looking for and then you do something if you see it,” says Davidson.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, or suspect human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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