A Joint Session of the Iowa Legislature was called Wednesday morning to listen to Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark S. Cady deliver the Condition of the Judiciary address. Throughout the duration of the address, Cady focused on a few key issues, such as the use of family treatment courts and working to create a more impartial justice system. However, the huge issue that stuck out was not one that we hear much about: human trafficking.
Cady kept a semi-aloof and professional air as he went through the majority of his speech, but when he hit this section, he had to pause and collect himself for a moment. It was obvious that this was something he felt very strongly about. He continued on and spoke about the trip he and State Representative Zach Nunn took to the Dorothy House, a shelter for children who have fallen victim to the horrors of sexual trafficking. He stated,
“We can no longer view human trafficking as a problem reserved for major cities in America. It exists as a dark underworld in many communities across Iowa and is associated with some of Iowa’s most iconic places and events. There is no justice when children are abused and exploited. A prompt, comprehensive, and coordinated effort is needed to identify victims of human trafficking and provide the services and protection they need.”
Moving on with his speech, Cady informed the listeners on what the Iowa Judicial system is doing to help prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute offenders. Bringing human trafficking up was enormous, as so many Iowans, both constituents and legislators alike, are unaware of the facts of human trafficking in Iowa. However, a hard look at the statistics about human trafficking is devastating.
According to Allies Against Slavery, between 100,000-300,000 children are at risk of being forced into the commercial sex industry each year in the United States. Not only that, but 83% of confirmed sexual trafficking cases are U.S. citizens, and 86% of the counties in the United States with populations of over 250,000 report that sexual trafficking is a problem that they are facing. (http://www.alliesagainstslavery.org/slavery/) Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office backs these statistics up, and also adds that the average age of U.S. citizen first being trafficked into the commercial sex industry is between 12-14 years old.
We must stop viewing human trafficking as an international issue, and start taking it personally. It is not just an international issue; it is a United States issue and it is most certainly an Iowan issue. Containing both Interstates 80 and 35, Iowa is the perfect middle ground and crossing state for traffickers, both in terms of location in the Midwest and infrastructure. Since 2007, there have been over 100 reported and confirmed cases in Iowa alone, and that does not include the hundreds of cases that go undetected. (National Human Trafficking Resource Center)