SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Every year millions of men, women and children are trafficked worldwide, including right here in the United States.
Bernadette Rixner, the outreach coordinator for Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking, said the number of labor and sex trafficking reports in Iowa has more than doubled. There were 263 cases reported in 2020, which is up from 98 reports the year before.
“It’s much more prevalent than people realize. People want to think it’s only a certain socio-economic group. That’s certainly not the case. It can be your neighbor. It can be your child,” Rixner said.
One victim of human trafficking said that was certainly the case for her.
“Well, it started off with somebody I fell in love with, and he asked me to do things I didn’t want to do and if I didn’t do them, he would physically abuse me and mentally abuse me, and this continued for about three years,” Susann Anderson said.
Anderson said she never knew what human trafficking was. It wasn’t until her abuser went to prison, and her therapist told her she had been trafficked.
“No one wants to say, hey, this is really happening in Sioux City and that’s the scary part about it. It was very terrifying, walked around on eggshells in the house that I could not leave. Always thinking that I’m going to get hit. Put in positions with other men that I didn’t want to be in. Just very scary,” Anderson said.
As the 2021 Iowa legislative session begins, a local lawmaker said combatting human trafficking will take priority.
“I’m going to make requests to add full-time employees and internet monitoring and things like that to kind of upgrade what we have to try and get more of those kind of cases investigated and prosecuted,” Jim Carlin said.
Anderson said it was a struggle breaking her silence and 13 years later, it still isn’t easy.
“It’s hard to get away. It’s not something you can just walk away from. The road to recovery was hard,” Anderson added.
Anderson said she hopes to bring awareness to what human trafficking can look like to help others who may be experiencing it.
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