HUMAN TRAFFICKING UPDATE FROM SENATOR JOE BOLKCOM
IOWA FOCUSES EFFORTS TO STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking uses force, fraud or coercion to exploit someone for sex or labor. It is now a $150 billion industry, and it’s happening in Iowa.
SF 2191, approved unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law, establishes an Office of Human Trafficking within the Department of Public Safety to oversee and effectively coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking. The office will work with government agencies and community organizations with expertise in human trafficking prevention, victim protection and assistance, law enforcement and prosecution.
While awareness about the issue is growing, human trafficking has only recently been recognized as a crime by many. It’s hard to estimate the reach of human trafficking because related laws and definitions are changing quickly to address the problem. For example, those engaged in forced prostitution or survival sex were once considered offenders but are now regarded as victims.
The average age of entry into forced prostitution is 12 to 14 for girls and 11 to 13 for boys, according to the Polaris Project, a human trafficking victim advocacy organization. Many of these kids have run away from troubled homes and wind up in another horrific situation. The National Network for Runaway Youth reports that within the first 48 hours of being on the street, one in three kids are lured into sexual exploitation, usually with the promise of shelter, food or a fictitious modeling contract.