A topic that most Iowans prefer not to acknowledge nor discuss is human trafficking. However, it is a serious matter in our society that we can no longer afford to ignore. With the I-80 and I-35 corridors that crisscross our state – and the I-29 corridor that runs along our western boarder – this issue is likely more prevalent than what we are willing to admit.
Human trafficking turns people into commodities – sexual objects that can be bought, sold, used and then discarded. No person should ever be treated this way.
Sexual exploitation typically harms vulnerable young women and children in our society. According to the latest report from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, of the known cases reported in Iowa, 82 percent were female. 73 percent of those cases involved minors.
This past week, I floor managed House File 2254, a bill designed to especially protect minors from this degrading and predatory practice.
Specifically, this bill grants county attorney’s the discretion to refer minors – who they suspect have been forced into prostitution – to the Department of Human Services; alleging that they are a child in need of assistance, rather than prosecute them for the crime. HF 2254 also increases the penalty for anyone engaged in the practice of pimping for minors.
Human Trafficking, however, is not just a problem of supply, but also demand. That is why HF 2254 also increases the penalties for those who proposition a minor for sex.
I was grateful to work with several colleagues, from both parties, to craft this legislation so that it would garner unanimous support in the Iowa House (98-0). HF 2254 sends a message that Iowans are serious about this issue and will not tolerate the sexual exploitation of young women and children.
Also this past week, a bill which toughens penalties for those convicted of crimes against children, specifically kidnapping, was passed by a margin of 94-3. House File 2253 was generated after a last summer’s kidnapping of Kathlynn Shepard and Desi Hughes, near Dayton, which resulted in the murder of Shepard, who was 15.