In 2014, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Although slavery is thought to be a thing of the past, there are more slaves today than at any other time in history. Human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by using force, fraud or coercion to trap millions of people throughout the world to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will.
From January to June, 2017 there were 42 human trafficking cases reported in Iowa. Thirty-three were potential sex trafficking cases; four were potential labor trafficking cases and five were not specified.
Runaway and homeless youth, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are most vulnerable to traffickers who employ a variety of control tactics, including sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, and isolation from friends and family to name a few. Traffickers identify and leverage vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for many reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their family’s safety.
Editor's note: Freudenberg is community outreach director at Franciscan Peace Center.