Brittany Phillips knew what she was running away from when the man at Hy-Vee told her she was pretty enough to model, but couldn’t begin to imagine what she was getting into.
In the space of a couple of months in 2006, when Phillips was 14 and should have been a ninth-grader, an attempt to escape an abusive home became a descent into human trafficking. She was plucked out of the grocery store, pressed into the domestic service of a drug dealer and ultimately taken to Chicago and forced into prostitution.
Her ordeal is high on the minds of Iowa law enforcement officials today, who fear literally untold numbers of boys and girls have similarly fallen into what is called “The Life” — a circuit of anonymous, dehumanizing, coerced sex for money.
More than 4,000 Iowa youngsters, most of them female, leave home each year as runaways. Many return in a few hours or days. But some are preyed upon by human traffickers.
Posts Tagged ‘Iowa’
A Des Moines woman is facing charges of human trafficking for allegedly using a 16-year-old girl in a prostitution enterprise.
Brittany Lanier, 20, of 2211 E. Park Ave., Des Moines, is charged with pimping, pandering, prostitution and human trafficking. She has yet to enter a plea in the case.
According to police reports, an undercover officer was contacted by a 16-year-old girl on Friday afternoon and directed to a hotel where she said she would provide the officer with “full-service sex” in exchange for $70.
Police allege that Lanier introduced the girl to the prostitution trade and had provided her with training, advertising and equipment such as condoms and pepper spray.
Lanier allegedly also collected profits from the activity.
Source: DM Register
A Story City woman today will urge Iowa lawmakers to expand a state law on human trafficking by providing job skills and other services to victims and requiring training on the issue for law enforcement officers, attorneys and officials in the judicial branch.
Since 2011, Brittany Phillips, 21, has been telling Iowans about how she fell into a net of predators who forced her into prostitution. She was 15 at the time.
“I saw some things that I didn’t think I’d ever see,” Phillips said. …
“The biggest thing AMP wants to accomplish is we just want to make people aware of the needs of kids in foster care,” said Ruth Buckels, statewide coordinator for the advocacy group. “The foster kids feel like nobody cares.”
Phillips is among those who will share their stories. Phillips was 7 when her father died. For the next several years, she was physically and sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, Phillips said.
“I wonder sometimes what it would’ve been like if my dad never died,” Phillips said. “I feel like none of this would’ve happened if he was still alive. I don’t blame it on him. He can’t help that he died.”
Phillips said she was removed from her mother’s home when she was 13 and sent to a treatment facility in Iowa City for counseling. When Phillips was 15, she ran away from the facility and went to Cedar Rapids. One day, a man approached her and asked if she wanted a modeling job. Phillips, who was starving and broke, accepted the offer.
Source: Des Moines Register
It usually takes an arrest to pull a teenager out of the horrors of sex trafficking, and sometimes even that’s not enough, a survivor’s mother said.
Ruth Buckels of rural Story County, Iowa, shared her story Thursday at St. Ambrose University. She took on a 16-year-old foster care daughter in 2008, knowing nothing about her past. After a phone call from a Cook County prosecutor, the pieces began coming together.
Buckels’ daughter, whom she identified only as Brittany, had been forced into sex trafficking in Chicago.
In 2009, authorities were putting together an investigation hoping to catch Brittany’s traffickers, and they needed Brittany to testify against them, Buckels said.
Brittany couldn’t do it.
“They couldn’t guarantee her safety even two years after the trafficking ended for her,” Buckels said. “That’s how deep it goes.”
It ended when an officer arrested Brittany for prostitution, and Buckels said that was the best thing that could have happened to her.
Now well into her 20s, Brittany still lives with the nightmares of what happened to her, according to Buckels, who adopted her when she turned 18.
Source: QC Times
A judge says a suspected pimp charged with running a nationwide sex trafficking ring will continue to be jailed in Council Bluffs despite claims that he’s being harassed by other inmates.
Johnelle Bell’s attorney had requested that his client be transferred to a jail in Des Moines, saying he’s being “subjected to threats and other abuse” from inmates who learned about the nature of charges against him.
Former state Sen. Maggie Tinsman said Iowans need to stop being so naïve.
Sex trafficking is an international issue that local citizens are not immune to, she said.
“Iowans don’t believe that anything that horrible would happen [here],” she said. “We don’t believe that people would ever take our young girls and force them into prostitution. That is the mindset.”
More than 40 community members gathered to discuss the sex-trafficking of minors in Iowa and nationwide Monday night. Awareness training was presented by the Iowa-based organization Braking Traffik, which received a 2012 Iowa Women’s Foundation grant to educate the Iowa community about human trafficking in the state.
Sex trafficking occurs when an individual is forced to perform sexual acts by another. Each year, 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide. The Department of Justice estimated in 2005 that there had been 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves since 2001.
Phone call after phone call, text message after text message, “john” after john responded to the advertisements.
Men and women from Iowa City to Milwaukee agreed to encounters with undercover police officers that landed them behind bars in the Johnson County Jail. The elaborate prostitution sting in Coralville last week that netted 16 people on prostitution charges and one woman on a charge of human trafficking took a lot of time, expertise and manpower to execute.
The investigation required an amalgam of resources, in part because much of today’s prostitution and human trafficking business operates behind the veil of technology. Why does it matter? Local and state authorities have focused enforcement efforts on prostitution as a way of uncovering human traffickers and rescuing juveniles.
Pulkrabek said finding minors caught up in prostitution, such as McCullom’s sister, was one of the goals of the operation.
“Those are the type of things we’re looking for,” he said. “We’re trying to find people that are underage and should not be forced into these types of decisions.”
Kron expels the notion that prostitution is a victimless crime.
“People think it’s only prostitution,” he said. “They fail to see prostitution covers trafficking. Trafficking covers child trafficking. This problem is deeper than most people see and almost all would want to admit. It’s dangerous. It can be dirty. It’s horrible. When I see comments like, ‘It’s just prostitution. It’s two consenting adults,” that is wrong. That is misinformed. They don’t understand all that comes with prostitution.”
Kron said he’d like to believe the operation will deter future prostitution in the area, but given the number of people turned away and the number of those who went through with the rendezvous despite concerns they were walking into a sting leads him to believe more work is necessary.
Former Iowa Senator Maggie Tinsman said when you suspect human trafficking you need to let authorities know.
“That’s when you call the police immediately. Now it was too late to do that, but those are the kinds of things I want people to know,” explained Tinsman.
She spoke to dozens of people about forced prostitution and unpaid labor, and how it’s a problem in the quad city area. Less than a year ago, Tinsman said two Davenport teenagers were almost victims.