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January has been Human Trafficking Prevention Awareness Month, At the Capitol, the observation on January 13 brought the members of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery to Des Moines to be recognized for their multiple efforts to bring attention to, educate prevent and address the enslavement of vulnerable people by criminals selling them for sex and other forms of work involving abusive labor practices..
The event, organized by the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, also honored Kim Hilby, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Dubuque, who led the research and writing of best practice guidelines for services to adult survivors. Kim also teaches classes onhuman trafficking and mentors a student group that has organized a Run the Runway fundraising and awareness 5K event at the Dubuque Regional Airport.
In her comments, Sister Mary Lechtenberg of the Tri-State Coalition counted the group’s activities:working with city councils to proclaim January as human trafficking awareness month, training city bus drivers, hosting a booth at the Dubuque County Fair, posting a billboard on Highway 20 during the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville and coordinating training of teachers and students in Dubuque schools.

Perhaps most important, the group helped develop a video for the Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking to educate lodging facility workers in Iowa to recognize and respond to the signs of human trafficking, most of which takes places hotels and motels. Along with the Braking Traffik group in the Quad Cities, the Dubuque-based coalition first advanced the legislation that I wrote and co-sponsored with State Rep. Lindsay James, later joined by State Rep. Gary Mohr of Bettendorf.. Beginning this year, the law specifies that public funds in Iowa can only be spent at lodging and hotel-based meeting facilities where employees have received training on human trafficking. The list of such certified locations can be found here. I encourage people to patronize these hotels and motels when you look for places to stay.
At the Capitol event, two other key announcements were made:1) the state Department of Transportation reported that all school bus drivers in Iowa have been briefed on human trafficking; 2) the Secretary of State announced the formation of Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking with the initial support of some three dozen businesses and associations.
Thank you to the congregations of Religious Sisters and their friends from the Dubuque area and elsewhere for their persistent leadership and stalwart advocacy to protect vulnerable people from this scourge and to help victims and survivors recover. I was pleased to join the group for lunch. In front: Kim Hilby, Mary Lechtenberg OSF, Irene Lukefahr BVM and Diane Rapozo BVM. In the back: M. Patricia Conlon RSM, Nancy Miller OSF, Marilou Irons PBVM, Kira Finifrock, Mira Mosle BVM, yours truly and Reg McKillip OP.

Author: Chuck Isenhart

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