Northwest Iowa — Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. That’s the definition from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
This is National Slavery And Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day was earlier this week. Bernadette Rixner is the Outreach Coordinator for the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking, based in Sioux City. She tells us the message they’re trying to get across this month.
We asked Rixner to tell us what a typical human trafficking case looks like in northwest Iowa. She said that it was impossible to narrow it down to an average type of case.
She says people often think of victims being abducted. She tells us that does happen, but it’s not the most common way people are trafficked.
She says there are things to look for when you think someone is the victim of human trafficking for sex or labor, but it’s not a cut and dried list.
She says if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone has all the answers for all of your issues, if they promise a fun job with wonderful pay, and field trips, and you can bring your friends — that’s not a real job. She reminds us that these types of situations are happening right here, right now — not just in the cities.
Rixner says if you see something, say something. She says you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or the Iowa Victims’ Call Center at 800-770-1650 or text ‘IOWAHELP’ to 20121 and tell them what you’re seeing. You can also contact one of those organizations if you think you or someone you know is being trafficked for labor, sex, or other purposes.