Nuns and Truckers Team Up To Fight Human Traffickingby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/22/2014
They may seem like an unlikely pair, but nuns and truck drivers in Cedar Rapids are standing together to fight human trafficking - a serious issue both in Iowa and across the nation. Advocate groups such as Truckers Against Trafficking have long been saying that with truck drivers being the “eyes and ears of the road,” they’re in a prime position to help stop it.
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“The trucking industry always has been a good partner when we’ve needed more eyes and ears out there. The more eyes we can put on this the better,” said Dave Lorenzen, Iowa Department of Transportation Chief of Motor Vehicle Enforcement. “If you look at Iowa, we’re in the middle of the country, with two of the biggest interstates in the country crossing in Des Moines. Folks in this activity are very mobile, and they don’t move long distances without trying to generate income. They’re traversing through our state and conducting business in our state,” Lorenzen adds.
Sister Emily Devine couldn’t agree more. She is a retired nun with the Sisters of Mercy, and just over a year ago she and fellow Sister of Mercy retiree, Mary Doughan, formed the Cedar Rapids based group, Sisters and Brothers Collaborating Against Human Trafficking. “In this area, people are surprised to hear this is taking place. But when you see all the information about human trafficking, it makes you concerned,” Devine explains.
The committee partnered with the national coalition of truck drivers, Truckers Against Trafficking to hold a workshop in Cedar Rapids on Monday. Thirty-four trucking companies from around Iowa have been invited to attend and the event is open to the public as well.The workshop will explain how human trafficking in the United States is overwhelmingly centered on the sex trade and the victims include anyone under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex, or even an adult coerced into commercial sex through force, fraud or coercion. The underage victims are usually runaways or other types of vulnerable youth and they’re often moved away from their hometowns to increase their dependence on their traffickers.
Truck drivers may likely encounter these victims in the state’s restaurants, gas stations, motels, rest stops and truck stops and knowing what to look for is key to determining suspicious activity. For example, a teenage girl in a truck stop in the middle of the night is an obvious indicator and truck drivers are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at: 1 (888) 373-7888 or text 233733. Truckers Against Trafficking also passes out wallet cards printed with the hotline number for drivers to carry with them.