November 28, 2021

The Two Percent: Victims, activists localize human trafficking issue

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Two percent — when Kristina Glackin walked up to the altar of Newton Church of the Way Saturday afternoon, this number kept running through her head.

As the eyes of more than 60 strangers followed her as she made her way up the altar’s steps, the number 2 percent kept repeating over and over again — 2 percent, 2 percent.

She stood tall at the podium, took a big, long breath and began talking to the audience.

“What comes to mind when you hear the term 2 percent? Is the kind of milk you prefer to drink or the typical charge of your cell phone battery? Or like me, how sure you are about the outfit you are wearing?” the 29-year-old said. “About 2 percent of human trafficking victims live to share their story. And only 2 percent of that will have the strength to speak. But then there is me. As part of that 2 percent, I owe it to the 98 percent to say what they can’t. To say, ‘Help me. Slavery still exists.’”

That rainy, Saturday afternoon, Glackin shared her story with Newton.

When the Iowa native was 13 years old, she was placed in foster care. She said her mother abused prescription drugs, her 40-year-old step-uncle, who lived in her home, solicited sex from her and she soon became suicidal. As soon as she turned 18, she left her family, started a life in Las Vegas, had a short-lived marriage and found herself drinking and smoking.

She then befriended a man. She said he was kind, respectful and validated her. She soon went to Los Angeles with him. He then trafficked her for sex for two weeks until a potential customer helped her escape and return back home.

“We have this desire to know that we are loved, we are seen, we are valued, our life matters, that things are going to be OK, and we don’t have to do this alone,” Glackin said. “All I ever wanted was someone to say this matters. By you guys (attending the conference), it screams to me this matters. People care.”

Glackin was among the guest speakers for the Garden Gate Ranch’s “Eyes Wide Open” Human Trafficking Awareness Conference Saturday. From information tables for anti-human trafficking organizations to law enforcement officers sharing ways for people to spot human trafficking, the event had two goals it wanted to reiterate to Jasper County — human trafficking is happening in Iowa and they are here for its victims.

“Predators are coming into the community because people think it is safe, it doesn’t happen here, it only happens in the big hubs, like Chicago, Kansas City and Houston,” Brenda Long, organizer of the conference, founder of the Garden Gate Ranch and Newton native said. “There has been cases right here in Jasper County. Just before Christmas, I got a call from a young woman in Jasper County that was in a situation that was forced to do prostitution against her will.”

With more than 20.9 million victims of human trafficking around the globe, the organizers said it is easy to believe that this issue only happens in other areas, and not in the Hawkeye State.

From 23 people arrested at in Toledo in connection to a national child sex trafficking sting to the arrest of Iowa couple Laura Sorenson and Aldair Hodza for sex trafficking a 20-year-old woman, the guest speakers shared their personal stories about human trafficking, and trafficking could be happening right before your eyes — from the Interstate 80 rest stop between Colfax and Altoona, to a local hotel. The group, which included a retired human trafficking investigator for the Iowa Department of Justice, a foster mother of sex trafficking victims,

"DOT Chief of Motor Vehicle Enforcement David Lorenzen

and Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess, informed event patrons what they can do to help combat human trafficking and how they can spot a potential trafficking incident.

“I had no idea how severe human trafficking is,” Denise Carroll, Colfax resident and foster mother said. “What if it was your child? What if it was your sister? You definitely want to help organizations like this. Your son? Your brother?”

According to Long, she was happy with Saturday’s turnout, despite the rainy weather. From foster parents receiving in-service training to genuinely curious residents, the event organizer said the more information and awareness they can share with Iowa, the better they can serve the community.

“Someone had said earlier seeing a lot of men here, which is really impactful because it is a non-gender issue. A lot of the time, women would come around all of this and the men, not so much,” she said. “It is great seeing the community of Newton coming together to learn about it and finding out what they can do to participate.”

Whether it be for labor, sex or anything in between, the event organizers said the most important aspect of the entire conference was they were able to give the victims of human trafficking a voice.

“I am doing this for the girls that nobody sees. You can see me. I see them. I don’t know what their faces look like, but I am here for them too,” Glackin said. “She still has breath and hope that one day she can leave the 98 and join the two (percent), that she will not die as a victim but live as a survivor. See her. Hear her. I was her.”

People can report potential human trafficking situations by calling 1-800-843-5678, texting HELP to 233733 or by calling 911.

For more information about Garden Gate Ranch, call 515-393-8400, visit gardengateranch.com or find Garden Gate Ranch Inc. on Facebook. For more information about human trafficking, visit polarisproject.org or find Newton Says No To Trafficking on Facebook.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@newtondailynews.com.