A social worker and advocate for foster children says human trafficking is more common in Iowa than most residents probably realize.
Ruth Buckels of Story City has housed nearly 100 teenaged foster children, including some who were victims of human trafficking. Buckels spoke to a group last week at the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) campus in Carroll.
“The most common trafficking we have in Iowa is family trafficking, which is a family member trading, selling, bartering their children – or their nieces or nephews, or their neighbors, or somebody they consider family to somebody else for sexual pleasure or sexual benefits,” Buckels said.
According to Buckels, traffickers look for a potential victim’s “vulnerability” and they exploit that to gain control over the person. Buckels said it’s not uncommon for a victim to maintain contact with their friends and family – who remain unaware of the situation.
“Most of the people I know being trafficked, live at home with their parents or live in their college dorm rooms. They are in constant contact with their family,” Buckels said. Human trafficking victims can come from all walks of life, according to Buckels. In her work, Buckels has been in contact with victims ranging from infants to people in their 70s. Teenagers are the most commonly targeted age group and Buckels challenged teachers at her presentation in Carroll to question their students.
“Ask them who’s missing classes every single week. Ask them who’s late to school or super tired at school,” Buckels said. “I hear from students all over the place.” Buckels said the best way to stop human trafficking is for people to notify police if they have a suspicion something wrong is happening.
Earlier this year, the head of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking told state lawmakers that criminals working in Iowa are now making more money from HUMAN trafficking than they are from DRUG trafficking.
(Thanks to Nathan Konz, KCIM, Carroll)