Branstad, Reynolds declare January “Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month” in Iowa
Today, Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Dr. George Belitsos, founder and CEO emeritus of Youth and Shelter Services, used the Administration’s weekly press conference to seek awareness and bring attention to the terrible crime of human trafficking.
“We depend on law enforcement and prosecutors to hold traffickers accountable,” said Branstad. “But we also count on schools, social service agencies, community groups and the general public to take actions to recognize and prevent human trafficking, and to protect vulnerable Iowans. I’m pleased that we can do our part at the state level to draw attention to this heinous crime.”
Lt. Gov. Reynolds added, “I am pleased to be able to serve as an honorary board member for the Network Against Human Trafficking and to have worked with Teens Against Human Trafficking in the past. We’ve made progress in our anti-human trafficking efforts in Iowa. But we still have more to do. Regardless of how human trafficking begins, it is important for justice system professionals and the general public to recognize the signs of trafficking, and raise awareness so that officials are able to appropriately respond.”
Last year, Gov. Branstad signed bi-partisan legislation to create the Office to Combat Human Trafficking in the Iowa Department of Public Safety. This effort was the result of repeated legislative actions to create stronger enforcement laws that punish human trafficking. The effort also was to provide better resources and create awareness around human trafficking.
“When the network began 10 years ago, human trafficking was not recognized as a problem in Iowa. Thankfully, that has now changed and the response by Iowa communities and government agencies has greatly increased,” said Dr. Belitsos. “The network is very grateful and encouraged by the support we have seen from Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Reynolds and advocates like first lady Chris Branstad who have put a spotlight on this horrible crime and thereby raised public awareness. Today we are asking all Iowans to learn more about trafficking, become aware that it is happening and to report suspicious activity. If you see something, say something.”
Following the press conference, Gov. Branstad signed a formal proclamation declaring January 2017 as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” to recognize the anti-trafficking efforts by community groups and state agencies.