MUSCATINE, Iowa–The evening of Saturday, Aug. 29, about 70 Muscatine residents came together on the front lawn of city hall to hold the March for Our Children. Organized by Jesus Gonzalez, the march raised awareness about child sexual abuse and human trafficking and to encourage people to work to end it.
Gonzalez opened started the event by explaining that the Muscatine March for Our Children represented one of several marches around the country put on by the organization Where’s Our Children. He explained the group has a mission to find missing children and those sold into human trafficking, help found children recover, work to prosecute child molesters and traffickers, promote stricter laws against child sexual abuse and human trafficking, and educate the general public on these issues. In Gonzalez’s own words, ” I hope you leave educated and I hope you leave with a desire to do better.”
After emphasizing the importance of knowing the signs of human trafficking and situations that can lead to child sexual abuse, Gonzalez gave several guest speakers opportunities to present. Captain Quinn Riess and Detective Jake McCleary of the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office explained how the sex offender registry works, how people can search it to learn about sex offenders living in the county, and how the county prosecutes sex offenders who do not update their registry information (which includes details such as their address, place of business, social media pages, etc.) in a timely fashion. Riess and McCleary also stressed the importance of monitoring children’s internet use and discussing the importance of not speaking with strangers online through social media.
Kevin Kinney, current state senator for Johnson County and a retired sheriff’s deputy then shared how his experience running sex trafficking sting operations in eastern Iowa led him to run for office to create stronger state legislation for prosecuting sex traffickers. He also worked to ensure law enforcement officers across the state received better education on how to identify cases of human trafficking and catch the people behind them.
Gonzalez then briefly spoke again, encouraging local residents who experienced or suspected child sexual abuse or human trafficking to contact Family Resources for assistance. He especially encouraged anyone to call their 24 hour crisis line at 1-866-921-3354 for emergencies and to learn more about the organization at https://www.famres.org/.
Before marchers walked a route pre-approved by the Muscatine City Council, Gonzalez allowed some open microphone time for people to share their stories. One woman spoke of a time her child nearly got kidnapped, while another, Amber, whose father sexually abused her as a child, emphasized the importance of speaking out, both to get help and for empowerment.
The march left city hall peacefully, carrying signs created by several local artists.