by Mary Stroka
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced Thursday the creation of a statewide alliance of businesses to end human trafficking.
The Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking coalition is open to businesses and nonprofits that are promoting both awareness of human trafficking and the Iowa Safe at Home confidentiality program for survivors of human trafficking and other violent crimes, a news release from Pate’s office said. The office is administering the coalition and the Iowa Safe at Home program and inviting all businesses to join the mission, Pate said in the release.
Members are asked to commit to completing tasks for two themes: “Learn Something” and “Do Something.” “Learn Something” tasks educate employees, customers, and industry partners on the signs and impact of human trafficking in Iowa, while “Do Something” tasks empower people to take actions to prevent human trafficking. Businesses can apply for membership in the coalition at IBAT.Iowa.gov. They receive a window decal of the IBAT logo to post at their business.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery, and it must end,” Pate said in the release. “It affects thousands of people across the U.S., and it happens right here in Iowa. 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.”
Iowa Restaurant Association and Iowa Hotel & Lodging Association are among the businesses and organizations that have joined IBAT.
“The hospitality industry can offer eyes and ears on the ground in ways few others can,” Iowa Restaurant Association President and CEO and Iowa Hotel & Lodging Association President Jessica Dunker told The Center Square in a texted statement Thursday. “Helping restaurants and bars access free training resources to stop trafficking in its tracks will only make us better at helping law enforcement stop this egregious practice that takes advantage of some of our most vulnerable population.”
Pate announced the program in a ceremony held at the State Capitol with Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery. The Network’s legislative priorities this session include asking for $10 million in state funds for victim services and that the state adopt a Safe Harbor Law for victims of human trafficking.
Lodging owners and operators began having their employees undergo human trafficking prevention training to receive state or local public funding under a law that went into effect this month. Dunker said that while the mandate is new, the hotel industry had already been partnering with local law enforcement to shut down trafficking and training employees to speak up if they observed a situation they found concerning.
“Training is going well in large part due to the largest brands’ longstanding commitment to prevention,” she said. “We will work hard to help small operators access training resources as quickly as possible.”
The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking is providing a free online training at StopHTIowa.org. Iowans who see a situation in which they believe someone is a victim of human trafficking can call 911. For victim services, call the Iowa Helpline at 1-800-770-1650 or text “IOWAHELP” to 20121. To report a tip or request services, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
– – –