Human trafficking is modern day slavery. If you thought that we had seen the end of slavery, think again. There are more people being “trafficked” in today’s world than before the abolishment of slavery. Sex trafficking is estimated to make up 80-85% of all trafficking, making it the biggest criminal industry in the world! Make no mistake, those involved in sex acts are not always consenting. As far as sex trafficking is concerned, these individuals are victims. They are either under the age of eighteen engaging in sexual acts or sexual acts are conducted due to force, fraud, and/or coercion. Anyone buying into such activity and/or benefiting or facilitating in the transaction is participating in illegal trafficking.
Right here, in our very own backyard, sex trafficking is a reality. Siouxland is at significant risk because of the sheer level of traffic that comes through our corridor, but often times, buyers don’t want to engage in this activity where they live. They don’t want to get caught or exposed, so they are willing to drive an hour and a half. Sitting in the middle of two bigger cities, it’s no surprise Sioux City is a hot spot for trafficking. Except it is. It’s absolutely shocking; especially if you’re hearing about it for the first time. This isn’t your everyday topic of conversation, but addressing these uncomfortable conversations is the only way to become informed and empowered.
Junior Leagues across the nation have been on the forefront of social reform, identifying problems – pollution, illiteracy, domestic violence, foster children without a safety net – and finding solutions. The women within this organization, tackle the tough issues head on and make an impact in their communities. Currently, The Association of Junior League International has a large initiative on stopping child sex slavery, and building on their efforts, the Junior League of Sioux City has begun their initiative to combat this problem in Siouxland; starting the conversation at local hotels and motels.
Last spring, Omaha’s Coalition on Human Trafficking approached the Junior League of Sioux City about bringing hotel/motel training to the Siouxland area. Currently, 75% of sex trafficking occurs within the walls of hotels and motels. Operating there avoids detection and isolates the victim. Any establishment is at risk, even the most reputable and high-end establishments. Junior League had 35 volunteers from the League and the larger community sign up to be trained on how to deliver educational presentations to local hotels and motels.
Since Junior League is an organization primarily made up of women, this is a project League immediately embraced. Although victims can be of any gender, the primary victims are women. Members consider raising awareness and providing education about sex trafficking in Sioux City to be of the utmost importance.
Junior League is encouraging the community to continue the conversation and increase awareness in our community. It’s especially important for parents to host open dialogues with their children about stranger danger and bodily autonomy. Traffickers don’t only take advantage of homeless children or runaways—some victims return home to their beds each night as their trafficker is a school peer. Traffickers can be anyone who can lure the victim by first gaining their trust and then invoking false promises, expectations, and coercion. Traffickers may seek out potential victims who are traveling alone, are separated from their group, or have low self-esteem. Social media is often a factor. Therefore, it is important for children to understand what conversations, requests, and activities are acceptable and unacceptable.
The Junior League of Sioux City is committed, as demonstrated over the last century, to improving their community through education and action; through the shear force of persistence. Each person, each conversation, each action, has a ripple effect. Please help by continuing the effort to bring awareness to this sensitive topic and put an end to modern day slavery.
Katie Kruse is the manager of Field Services at SAP Concur, an expense management company. She has been a member of Junior League for 5 years and is currently the President Elect. She has served on the Membership, Community, and Placements committee, served as the VP of Community, and will be President 2019-2020.
Stacie Anderson is a Junior League Sustainer. She feels extremely passionate about the highlighted project to help identify and protect women from Human Trafficking. Thank you to all the women in our community who are working to create change.