Eastern Iowa students receive training to spot victims of human trafficking


    Non-profit organization Chains Interrupted is training students to spot signs of human trafficking to protect their classmates.

    The Human Trafficking Hotline says they received 110 calls of human trafficking in the first half of Iowa. It's why Teresa Davidson and her organization are making Eastern Iowa their stomping grounds against the issue.

    "Only one to two percent of people that ever get into human trafficking get out," said Teresa Davidson, the president of Chains Interrupted and the human traffic coordinator at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.

    Chains Interrupted received the "Outstanding Anti-Human Trafficking Service" award from Governor Reynolds on Thursday. The organization is focusing heavily on training people to spot the signs at some of Iowa's heavily trafficked locations. Massage parlors and hotels are the top two places human trafficking incidents occur in Iowa. Chains Interrupted is training Eastern Iowa hotel employees to spot signs of human trafficking incidents.

    Another area the organization is focusing on educating is schools.

    "The average entry age into human trafficking is around 12 or 13 years old," said Tom Ertz, the director of the Marion Home School Assistance program.

    The Marion Community School District is making anti-human trafficking training a priority for teachers, parents, and students.

    "It's important to reach those kids at that early age to inform them what to look for," said Ertz.

    One of the most important things for parents and students to know is who traffickers usually prey on: kids with insecurities.

    "They target that. They get into that child's life and they start to listen to them and they gain information that they can use against them," said Davidson.

    Davidson says kids can be some of the first to help their classmates who may be victims, just by noticing if their friends are going through uncommon changes.

    "The child will probably do a lot of changing so maybe start to dress a little differently, or have expensive items at first, talk differently," said Davidson.

    Both Davidson and Ertz agree, the most important thing for kids to know is that human trafficking is unfortunately going in communities and they need to be informed.

    If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, it's important to remember you're not alone and you can find immediate help by reaching out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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