New film "Gridshock" will tell the story of sex trafficking in Iowa

Filmmakers and native Iowans Alex Schuman and Vanessa McNeal are fundraising $35,000 on Indiegogo for "Gridshock," which they hope to premiere in Fall 2018.

Vanessa McNeal is a national speaker and filmmaker originally from the Quad Cities, now living in Des Moines. This March, she released a film about men who experienced sexual violence. Now, in a new film she is co-directing with native Iowan, journalist Alex Schuman, entitled "Gridshock" - she hopes to educate viewers about how common sex trafficking really is in Iowa.

"We're very proud of our 'Iowa nice' attitude and persona, but people truly don't believe the severity and the nature of this horrifying crime happening here," said McNeal.

State officials suggest that Iowa's proximity to major interstate highways contributes to sex trafficking, according to the Des Moines Register. They say the roadways make it easier to transport women for illicit sexual activity--a point that McNeal plans to address in the film.

In the Indiegogo trailer, the filmmakers state that at any given moment, 150 children are being trafficked in Iowa.

Karen Siler of the Anti-Human Trafficking Manager at Friends of the Family in Waterloo, says those numbers likely under-represent how much is really going on.

"We have some statistics, but we also know that that's just the tip of the iceberg because this is so underground and so mobile," said Siler. "It's not often that you can really pinpoint and get a really good idea of how prevalent it really is."

In the film, McNeal plans to interview a former FBI agent who has prosecuted cases in Iowa, survivors, legislators, and even traffickers themselves. And for her, this is more than just a movie: it is a mission.

"I am a survivor of sexual violence - not sex trafficking but sexual violence," said McNeal. "I am so passionate and so invested in eradicating sexual violence of all forms."

For more information about the documentary and how to donate, visit their Indiegogo page here.

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