Letter to the Editor by Paul Pate Iowa Secretary of State

To the Editor:

There is a form of slavery taking place in Iowa right now. It’s called human trafficking, and it occurs when men, women or children are forced to perform labor services or sexual acts.

This horrific crime affects thousands of people across the U.S., and it can happen to anyone. The State of Iowa is taking steps to raise awareness about human trafficking and put an end to this danger, but we need your help.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This is an opportune time for Iowans to learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, stand with survivors, and inform them of available resources.

Human trafficking is a crime that can occur behind closed doors, in plain sight, at a workplace, and in any area of our country. One year ago, I announced the launch of a new initiative to bring Iowa’s business community together to fight back. It’s called Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking (IBAT), and our goal is to build a statewide army in Iowa. Since its launch, more than 600 businesses and organizations have taken up the cause.

The genesis of IBAT came in April of 2021, while I was attending a lunch-and-learn in my hometown of Cedar Rapids. Participants at the event detailed some of the horrors victims endure. There was also discussion about a human trafficking attempt that was thwarted by an alert employee at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. The employee had undergone a human trafficking awareness training and recognized the signs. I quickly realized there was an opportunity to bring this kind of awareness statewide to address this form of modern-day slavery.

If Iowa’s business community comes together, we can accomplish the goal of ending human trafficking in our state. Whether it’s a large corporation or a mom-and-pop store on Main Street with one employee, every business can join, and every business can make a difference. Something as simple as handing out a brochure or making a social media post can make a difference. It can create a ripple effect across the state.

My office, the Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking, and the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement are all working toward the same goal - to make Iowa a trafficking-free state. But we need your help.

There are several ways Iowans can make a difference. If you’re a business owner or manager, join IBAT. If you want to learn more on how to recognize the signs of trafficking, you can view free online training at STOPHTIowa.org.

If you want to show your support for survivors and raise awareness, Wednesday, January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Help us raise awareness and join thousands of people across this U.S. by wearing blue that day and posting a picture on social media, using #HumanTraffickingAwarenessDay and #IowaSAH.

We can all make a difference. Every added voice helps. Learn something, do something. Together, let’s put an end to human trafficking.

Paul Pate
Iowa Secretary of State