When Americans think of Iowa, they think of kind, wholesome people. But how often do they associate Iowa with sex trafficking?
In 2016, Iowa ranked 26th out of the 50 states for sex trafficking, with a total of 56 reported cases. Though that may be significantly lower than California’s spot in first place spot with over 1000 cases, sex trafficking in Iowa is very rarely recognized as an issue.
There are hundreds of cases that go unnoticed and unreported. According to the Junior League of Des Moines, 150 children are being sex trafficked in the state every single day. That number can be up to five times larger during special events such as state fairs and relays.
The state government of Iowa has criminalized the sex trafficking of minors through laws and provisions, earning itself a grade of B from Shared Hope International, and it is currently working on a new initiative to battle the sex trafficking occurring at hotels and motels throughout the state.
Outside of the government, there are people taking their own steps to expose the amount of sex trafficking happening in Iowa. Three award-winning filmmakers – directors Vanessa McNeal and Alex Schuman and cinematographer Taylor Bluemel – will be releasing a documentary called Gridshock in fall 2018 that will focus on victims and survivors of sex trafficking, along with what traffickers look for and how they manipulate minors.
“It’s a story of trauma and survival,” the project’s IndieGoGo page says. “It’s a cautionary tale. It’s a wake-up call.”
The documentary will also feature law enforcement, social workers, and medical professionals, as well as former sex traffickers who will hopefully shine some much-needed light on how the trade persists in the state and how to combat it.
Gridshock aims to bring awareness to the people of Iowa and the country as a whole, because without awareness, the situation cannot be remedied. The IndieGoGo page says that people fail to recognize the signs of trafficking, so they frequently pass by it without doing anything to help, accidentally perpetuating the cycle of trafficking.
“This film will enable audiences to identify suspicious behavior, and share information with neighbors and law enforcement,” the page says. “It will also empower parents and caretakers to recognize potential vulnerabilities in children and loved ones. In short, audiences will be better prepared to ‘say something if they see something,’ and to get involved with organizations that help children, women, and men escape sexual slavery.”
The team behind the documentary is currently accepting donations on its IndieGoGo page to supplement the $35,000 budget, which will prevent it from sacrificing the “quality or integrity” of a film about something so important. If it raises over $35,000, it will donate the excess to organizations trying to stop sex trafficking both nationally and internationally.
“Our biggest risk is that we are investigating an industry that is very dangerous,” the page said. “We’re driven to expose the truth about sex trafficking in Iowa – knowledge is power.”
The efforts of Gridshock have the potential to make an effect on the sex trafficking industry as a whole – even the slightest bit of public awareness can lead to bigger things.
To donate, please visit the movie’s page.
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