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Local group to show sex trafficking documentary

Education about sex trafficking is being spread in Marshalltown by LAST — Labor and Sex Trafficking — Watch.

The group is bringing a sex trafficking documentary called “Gridshock” to the Orpheum Theatre on Nov. 3. There will be two showings of the film — one at 1 p.m. and another at 4 p.m. A panel discussion will be held in between the showings and will feature Vanessa McNeal, the writer, director and producer.

The feature-length documentary exposes sex trafficking in Iowa.

Lynne Carroll, a volunteer with LAST Watch, said the event is about informing people in Marshalltown about human trafficking.

“This is to help people see that it happens here,” Carroll said. “They are not completely protected from things like this happening.”

Marshalltown Police Department Lt. Tricia Thein said sex trafficking is more prevalent in Marshall County than what people are aware of. Thein is also a trafficking trainer for law enforcement.

“I’ve had interactions with the person and with the victim,” she said. “It could be a boyfriend/girlfriend situation or a group of friends, someone who has had contact with victims in the county. Just because the victims reside in Marshall County does not mean that they are victimized here. They are taken city to city and state to state.”

One thing “Gridshock” and McNeal are trying to accomplish is getting more focus placed on the buyers, the people who purchase victims for sexual gratification.

Thein said law enforcement agencies in Iowa are also putting focus on the buyers, because if there is no demand for the product, then there is no trafficking.

“Look at it from a marketable standpoint,” she said. “It is all about supply and demand. If there is no demand, there is no reason to supply.”

Thein said that focus can even be extended beyond the buyer — the cab drivers who notice suspicious activity centered on the same girl or the hotel clerk who notices multiple men coming and going from the same room. Those people are also profiting off of trafficking.

“They are just as culpable,” she said. “We need to pay attention to the peripheral players.”

Awareness of human trafficking has risen in Marshalltown, Thein said. She and LAST Watch have spoken to various groups and Thein has placed attention on educating young people. She tells them that if a job opportunity sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Thein also tells them big events, such as the Iowa State Fair, are prime grounds for human trafficking. She has reached out to gas stations and hotels to spread awareness and tells them if they see something, say something.

Some signs Thein said people can look out for include:

• Someone stealing necessities such as food. There is a reason that person is stealing, she said. Report it — even if it is only a candy bar — and it might be the perfect catalyst for law enforcement to get their foot in the door.

• A cab dropping someone off and then that person walking the remaining distance.

• Identical tattoos visible on a group of people. Thein said traffickers will mark their property, which is how they view victims.

• Bad attitudes. If a child or young person has an attitude intended to keep people at a distance, there might be a reason for it. If he or she is a victim, he or she might get into trouble with the trafficker if someone gets too close.

• Curfew violation.

The event is free and open to the public.

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Contact Lana Bradstream

at 641-753-6611 or

lbradstream@timesrpublican.com