MUSCATINE, Iowa–Ending human trafficking represents one of the Muscatine Rotary Club’s loftiest goals. Over the past several years, they have invited a variety of speakers to address them on the topic, raising awareness about the warning signs of human trafficking and giving them ways to stop it. As their efforts to prevent human trafficking in Muscatine County, Iowa, and beyond continue, they welcomed Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to present on the Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking program Oct. 17.
As Pate started his presentation, he commended the work of nonprofit organizations in eastern Iowa for their work to end human trafficking, including the area’s many Rotary Clubs. “The Mississippi Valley is very aggressive on human trafficking,” he said. “You’re pulling the whole state into it.” He later observed. “Rotary has been a shining star, not just locally, but nationally.”
Pate then when on to explain the origin and scope of Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking. In January of this year, the Secretary of State’s Office launched the program. “We felt real strongly that we could do something to make a difference,” he explained. Currently, any business of any size in Iowa may visit the Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking website and apply to join the program. After completing their applications, businesses will receive information to share with their employees about how to identify signs of human trafficking, the importance of calling local law enforcement, and resources to share to help inform others about human trafficking and what to do to escape from it. Participating businesses also receive a window cling to put up sharing their participation in the program.
In collaboration with the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Transportation, the Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking, and the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking, Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking can provide additional and updated information to businesses. With resources for stopping human trafficking, implementing best practices, and spreading awareness both online and through posting at the businesses, these resources can help businesses educate themselves and the clients and vendors they work with.
Since bringing Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking online, approximately 600 businesses in 89 out of Iowa’s 99 counties have joined, bringing increased visibility to the issue of human trafficking and helping get more information on what to do in suspected cases into the hands of people who really need it. “We’ve been very successful it being able to promote this,” shared Pate. “We want to keep doubling and doubling the numbers.”
With both small local businesses across the state and large employers such as Hy-Vee, Fareway, and even county and city governments getting involved, Pate looks to see the program grow even further, and for even more people to have the information they need to help them identify people experiencing human trafficking and get them out of bad situations. In response to questions from members of the Muscatine Rotary Club, Pate shared that he believes that Iowa Businesses Against Human Trafficking can work in tandem with other state of Iowa programs to make a dent in this difficult and often under reported or misreported crime. Pate also intends to look into the progress of the safe harbor law currently moving through the senate, which if passed would protect victims of human trafficking from prosecution from crimes their traffickers forced them to commit.