Coalition Recognized in Local Paper for State Award

On January 13th, 2022, members of the Coalition received an Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award presented by the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking at the Iowa Capitol. Below is a copy of an article written by Kayli Reese from Dubuque’s Telegraph Herald about the award and ceremony.

A local coalition and a University of Dubuque faculty member have been recognized for their efforts to stop human trafficking. The Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Kim Hilby, a UD assistant professor of sociology, were among five entities recognized by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office this week with Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Awards. The awards were presented as part of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

‘I’m very proud of the coalition,’ said Sister Marilou Irons, co-chair of the coalition. ‘There are so many well-organized, enthusiastic, passionate women on this group. Pretty much all of us are former teachers. We know how to organize and move mountains.

The coalition was founded in 2014 by five area congregations of women religious: Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Mary Lechtenberg, co-chair of the coalition, said the group has worked hard to educate the community about human trafficking and how to spot it, despite not having an in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “Our focus is raising awareness and helping (community members) know the indicators,” she said. “It’s what we’re continuing to do with hotel employees.”

She said coalition leaders hope to gain new members as they continue educating local residents about human trafficking, noting that members do not have to be sisters of a religious order. “Our long-term goal is to get more and more men and women in the community to take on the leadership,” she said.

Hilby, who is also a member of the coalition, teaches a class about human trafficking each semester at the UD. Hilby said the course is especially important for students going into professions such as nursing, law enforcement and social work. ‘Those are the ones that really have to take on the fight,” she said. “… To have younger people involved is a necessity.

Some of Hilby’s students also helped her as she wrote a 60-page document outlining the best-practice guidelines for adult survivors of trafficking. Hilby stressed the importance of businesses and organizations learning to spot signs of human trafficking. She said that, while conversations about trafficking have been more open in recent years, many still believe it isn’t happening here.

‘It’s easy to ignore if you think it’s not going to happen to you, but it could happen to any of us,’ she said.

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