In two days, National Human Trafficking and Slavery Awareness Month will begin. The Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking (SCAHT) will be asking city and county government offices to present proclamations to bring awareness of this inhumane crime. It may surprise you that many Siouxlanders are totally oblivious to the reality that human trafficking is happening in our local communities.
In September, SCAHT, in partnership with the Junior League of Sioux City, launched our Hotel/Motel Project in which we educate the employees of hotels/motels to understand the signs of human trafficking and how to respond to what they are observing. Community members can help by asking the hotels/motels in their area to engage in this training even if they have previously been trained. Refresher courses are always a good thing.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing a human trafficking survivor from Siouxland. I hope this reinforces the fact that human trafficking happens here. I will share that interview with you.
Linda: ”How would you describe your life before you were trafficked?”
Survivor: “My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. My mom moved away when I was a teenager so I was on my own at age 16. I had already been using drugs by this time. I ended up moving in with some older friends who also were involved in drug use.”
Linda: “How did the trafficking begin? Did you know your trafficker?”
Survivor: “My trafficker was at first my boyfriend and we did drugs together. At that point in my life, the men in my life were father figures to me so I was very compliant. At first, there was no abuse, but after about a year, that changed. He paid for the drugs by selling drugs. If I wouldn’t do what he wanted, he would beat me. When the money from selling drugs wasn’t meeting the cost of the drugs, he forced me to have sex with other men. He would bring the men into our apartment. If I wouldn’t do what he wanted he would beat me up. I had my nose broken ten times. I had a child with this man and he would hold my baby upside down and dangle him out the window if I wouldn’t do what he said. My son was used to control my behavior. He was controlling and manipulative. I was not allowed to go out on my own. He would buy for me whatever personal needs I had.”
Linda: “Did anyone offer you help to get out of this life along the way?”
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Survivor: “No, but if anyone had tried to rescue me or offer me help, I would have been beaten up because my boyfriend/trafficker would have thought I instigated it. So even if someone had tried to help me, I would not have taken them up on it especially after my son was born.”
Linda: “How long were you trafficked?”
Survivor: “I was trafficked between two to three years. It came to an end when my boyfriend was arrested for selling drugs and was put in prison. When the police came to arrest him, I was crying. I had bruising on my face and arms showing I had been abused. But the police did not charge him with assault. However, the police did ask if there was anywhere they could take me. They took me to the only relative I had in town which was my aunt. He tried to contact me while he was in prison many times, but I did not get in touch with him. He ended up dying in prison and his power over me died there, too.”
Linda: “What is going on in your life today?”
Survivor: “I have eleven years of sobriety. Eleven years ago, my boyfriend and I had made goals while in recovery and met them together. I am married with a daughter. My son is living a successful life. I have made a 360-degree turnaround. Therapy has been helpful. I am in school and I have a job as a mentor which I love.”
Linda: “What advice or warning would you give to parents or young adults that might prevent them from becoming a victim of human trafficking?”
Survivor: “Be aware and concerned if the person you are in a relationship with becomes controlling or abusive. Set boundaries for yourself in those relationships and then get out if those boundaries are breached ...”
Human trafficking is happening in Siouxland. Let’s all choose to be part of the solution while praying for the rescue of the victims.
Next week: Jim Rixner
Linda Holub, of Dakota Dunes, S.D., has lived in the Sioux City metro area for more than 40 years. She and her husband, Dave, have four adult children. A certified life coach professional with a master of arts degree from Liberty University in Human Services, Counseling: Life Coaching, Holub is co-chair of the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking.