This past weekend the Women of the ELCA from all three Iowa Synods, Western Iowa, Southeastern Iowa and Northeastern Iowa, came together for business, worship and bible study, fellowship and education.

There were many workshops offered.  One of the most popular offered with standing room only was on Human Trafficking led by Curt Henderson, the Iowa State Patrol liaison to the Attorney General’s Office on Human Trafficking.  He trains patrol officers to recognize child exploitation cases encountered on Iowa roadways.

Human trafficking, modern-day slavery, is the second largest and fastest growing illegal trade in the world where people are in bondage through fraud, force, or coercion.

Many people think this is a problem only in large cities. Officer Henderson, our presenter, brought information about how this is an issue in small towns.

Modern day slavery is very much present in Iowa in these forms:

  • Sex trafficking
  • Forced marriages
  • Involuntary domestic servitude
  • Debt bondage among migrants

Sex trafficking is a particular problem for youth.

The average age girls are when they get into trafficking is 12-14.

Most of these are runaways who are running away from abuse and neglect in their homes.

4200 youth are missing in Iowa each year.  Three-fourths of these children will end up in sex trafficking.  They end up being manipulated and coerced into even more abusive situations.

Even when if they can physically escape, which is not often possible, shame and hopelessness keeps them from leaving.

Officer Henderson talked about his own change of view during his career.  He used to think of prostitutes as criminals but then came to see that they are victims.  This change of view in law enforcement has led to a change in approach that seeks to provide women and girls with a way out of this life, rather than treating them as criminals.

What can you do?

  • Educate yourself.  (See Resources Below)
  • Do not support prostitution or pornography.
  • Call or write to your congressional leaders, urging them to take a strong stand on anti-trafficking and protection for survivors.
  • See something.  Say something.
  • Look for these signs:

Evidence of being controlled
Inability to move or leave jobs
Signs of physical abuse
Fear or depression
No forms of identification

Call 1-888-3737-888.

Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to take reports from anywhere in the country related to potential trafficking victims, suspicious behaviors, and/or locations where trafficking is suspected to occur. All reports are confidential.


Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Another resource is Cherish All Children, an organization affiliated with the ELCA that focuses on commercial sexual exploitation, including sexual trafficking. It provides resources for congregations for education, collaboration, and advocacy.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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