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The Times-Delphic

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The Times-Delphic

    St. Catherines to hold lecture for human trafficking awareness

    Any person who is experiencing violence, knows someone experiencing violence or wants ot get in contact with Dorothy’s House can call 888-373-7888. Photo courtesy of Jenan Taha via Flickr

    Kellie Markey, the founder and executive director of Dorothy’s House, a safehouse for victims of human trafficking, will present a lecture in Sussman Theater on April 3 to educate residents of Des Moines on the state of human trafficking in the community. The event is part of St. Catherine of Siena Student Center’s Newman Lecture series, designed to uplift social justice topics in the community.

    This lecture comes at a time when 10 anti-trafficking bills have died in the Iowa Legislature following the end of second funnel week on Friday. Though each bill survived the first funnel by passing a subcommittee, they then sat untouched by the rest of the Iowa House and Senate.

    One of these bills is House File 594, which would have exempted victims of human trafficking from the restitution requirements of murder if they kill their offender. The current restitution requirement calls for $150,000 to go to the victim’s estate or their heirs, even if they were the victim’s abuser. This bill had been on the House calendar since Feb. 8.

    A second bill is Senate File 2162, which would have given the secretary of state authority to not forward mail to victims of abuse, assault, stalking, human trafficking and other violent crimes. Currently, abusers can potentially track a victim’s mail to their new address, but this new bill gives the victim more choices for their security. This bill was eligible for debate on the Senate calendar since Jan. 31.

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    Mary McCarthy, a professor of politics and international relations who studies human trafficking, said it is typical that issues like trafficking get pushed to the backburner in politics because it’s a crime that mostly affects already-marginalized communities.

    “We may not see it in the news or be as aware that it’s happening because it’s happening to those who are less powerful,” McCarthy said. “So [it is] less likely to be covered by the media.”

    Markey said she founded Dorothy’s House, which provides shelter, programs and support for all survivors of human trafficking, partly for this reason. She said human trafficking is an issue that lives in the dark and needs more public discussion to be brought into the light.

    “This crime is so pervasive and so invisible,” Markey said. “The more we understand what this crime looks like, the more likely we are to say ‘not in my neighborhood.’”

    McCarthy shared a similar sentiment, saying that victims of trafficking are often people who get easily overlooked in society, such as people experiencing homelessness or people with mental illnesses.

    “Trafficking is a human rights issue that often…we assume that it’s happening elsewhere and we don’t realize,” McCarthy said. “Even in our own local community, human trafficking is going on.” 

    To McCarthy, places like Dorothy’s House are important because they not only bring visibility to the issue, but also connect people trying to transition out of a trafficking situation to the resources they need to live full lives — resources that go beyond just having a place to sleep.

    “Lots of these resources, including job training…give people a pathway to the next stage of their lives,” McCarthy said.

    Markey invites all Drake students, faculty and residents of Des Moines to attend her lecture to educate themselves on this “hidden” issue and dispel the misconception that violent crimes don’t happen in a place like Iowa.

    “It’s so much bigger than the outcome of human trafficking. It’s about understanding all the elements leading up to that,” Markey said. “It’s so easy [for abusers] to hide in small towns and communities.”

    Furthermore, many of the victims Markey has worked with first encountered their perpetrator on their college campus. To her, it’s most important for students to educate themselves on human trafficking for their own safety.

    McCarthy also encouraged students to step outside their comfort zone and educate themselves on this diverse experience, not only as concerned citizens but as fellow human beings to trafficking victims.

    “I think it’s necessary for us to embrace knowledge…and to learn about the experience of those who don’t have your experiences,” McCarthy said. “It just opens your mind to be a more compassionate person.”

    For more information on Markey’s lecture, visit @dubulldogcatholic on Instagram. 

    For anyone experiencing violence or who wants to get in contact with Dorothy’s House and their resources, visit their website at or call 888-373-7888.

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