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In response to this growing crime, state legislators crafted a new bill strengthening penalties for both prostitution and human trafficking offenses.

It passed both the Senate and House and was sent to Gov. Terry Branstad, who ed the bill into law on Thursday, April 24, Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton. Yet in Iowa, the law had considered human trafficking less serious than drug cases.

Many drug charges are class B felonies bringing up to 25 years imprisonment.

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In contrast, most trafficking charges carry five-year maximums as class D felonies. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center provides a hotline for anyone to call to report human trafficking. Init received 63 calls from Iowa.

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Inthat increased to 82 calls. Init received 54 calls from January to June alone.

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The calls received most likely only represent a small percentage of the actual trafficking taking place. Without being reported, human trafficking victims have almost no way of escaping. Brittany Phillips, a human trafficking survivor from Iowa found in Chicago in at age 14, said many girls try to run but are found and hurt by their pimps, so they stop trying.

Phillips herself was rescued during an undercover raid on her captors but stressed that many girls are not so lucky.

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A common misconception about human trafficking is that it only involves foreigners brought into the United States, or that most human trafficking victims are kidnapped, but this is not always the case. Phillips was trafficked as a runaway after being offered what she thought was a modeling job.

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Many traffickers target vulnerable teens and first build a relationship with them. In some cases, parents even traffick their own children to pay the bills.

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The bill also allows for expunging prostitution convictions from minors after two years of good behavior with no other convictions, other than traffic convictions or simple misdemeanors. NOTE: This paragraph was updated from the original after the bill was ed into law.


Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, who sponsored the bill, said it was important not to criminalize minors who are not prostitutes but, instead, are victims forced into sexual acts against their will. Trafficking in Iowa is not a new topic.

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InJennifer Hemmingsen wrote a part series on a trafficking situation in Iowa for The Gazette. However, children and adults still are being bought and sold in Iowa every day.

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Human trafficking is a crime that occurs whenever an individual is exploited for labor or sex through force, fraud, deception, or coercion, except if the victim is under Then coercion does not need to take place. Downing-Matibag said and year-olds in prostitution sometimes will be waived out of juvenile court into adult court to be tried for prostitution and receive a permanent criminal record.

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Other times they stay in juvenile and may have to serve probation. Phillips was arrested for prostitution but eventually her charges were dropped.

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Phillips did not end up testifying because of safety concerns. She said more options should exist for victims to testify, such as over the phone, so they can receive justice for what has been done to them without fearing for their safety. They are just going to go back to it when they get out or released.

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At least if you turn them over to DHS they will have someone attempting to give them the counseling and love they need. Buckels said she believes county attorneys will recognize human trafficking and not criminalize minors. A common problem is that victims do not see any other way of life for themselves.

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In many cases, victims develop a traumatic bond with their traffickers, which happens when a person cannot fight or run, so they are forced to develop a relationship with their captor. This is why many women never make it out of human trafficking, experts who work with the victims said. Plus, if they are charged with prostitution as adults, it is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. Soliciting services from an adult victim is a Class D felony. There initially was some debate over these aspects of the bill because of the general victim fund already in place.

Heartsill said that, considering the low of human trafficking cases prosecuted, the surcharge money will not go far.

Experts say stings are starting to happen at illicit massage parlors across the country, like the one that ensnared Patriots owner Robert Kraft. But none have happened in Iowa, Reader's Watchdog found.

Ruth Buckels said any amount that hits traffickers in the pocketbook is a good thing, but she wants human trafficking charges to be as strong if not stronger than drug charges. Since Brittany Phillips first shared her story, she and Buckels have been involved in helping raise awareness about human trafficking.

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Brittany Phillips, a human trafficking survivor from Iowa who was found in Chicago in at age 14, at happier times since then. Phillips has spoken to many groups of people and has been involved in groups working to strengthen Iowa laws on trafficking. Buckels emphasized the importance of educating all people on what slavery looks like in Her anger is directed toward those who turn the other way, such as front desk workers in the hotels Phillips was checked into while being trafficked.

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Nobody called. While education may help prevent human trafficking, Downing-Matibag stressed that demand is the crux of the issue.

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Steal it GO. Steal it. Brittany Phillips. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville.

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