Corn, plains, tornadoes…and more corn. These are the first things that come to mind when some people think about the Midwest. Sex trafficking would, in my opinion, be the LAST thing to pop in their heads. I grew up in Nebraska, and I would never have thought that this atrocity was taking place in my state, my home. Sadly, I have finally realized that this is not the case.
While the coastal areas are often dubbed as destination states, the Midwest region is known as a recruitment region. Pimps and traffickers manipulate and lure Midwestern girls into their control, and transport them to the destination cities where they are able to exploit them. Melissa Snow of Shared Hope International stated that truck traffic on I-35, the interstate that runs from Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota, “may be carrying more than meets the eye.” She added that “Truckers can load women and children into their cabs and transfer them to other trucks at truck stops along the way. They can park so close together that children can be moved without their feet even touching the ground – invisibly.”
The good news is that some people from the middle country are becoming more aware and confronting the issue. In January, the Kansas Attorney General created a human trafficking board. In Minnesota, a man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sex trafficking a young girl. Missouri legislators are currently attempting to toughen penalties for sex and labor trafficking. There is a new program in Ohio that will offer food and counseling at a drop-in center for victims of sexual exploitation. Moreover, there have been several arrests and convictions for buyers and traffickers in recent months in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Illinois.
The recent burst of news about this crime is a wakeup call for midwesterners, including myself. This evil is happening in rural communities and cities throughout this area so let’s do something about it! Volunteer at or donate to organizations that work on these issues, host events to spread awareness, and support legislation that combats human trafficking. You can also explore our website, sharedhope.org for more ideas and informational tools.