116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids anti-trafficking organization shifts focus to children and youth
CEDAR RAPIDS — Chains Interrupted, a Cedar Rapids nonprofit that combat human trafficking in Iowa, is shifting its focus to preventing trafficking of youths.
The shift will allow the organization to more effectively use its resources to prevent trafficking among minors and to advocate for young trafficking survivors, said Teresa Davidson, CEO and co-founder of Chains Interrupted.
“We’ve gone to schools, we’ve gone to church youth groups, we’ve gone to organizations that currently work with or serve high risk youth … and any place that we go, we’ve just been seeing children letting us know that they have experienced human trafficking in the past, or are currently being trafficked,” Davidson said.
“So, we started trying to figure out, what do we do with them? Where can they go for help? Where are the resources? and what we discovered was that there are some resources — I feel like there’s not enough resources, but there are some available — for adults, but there really weren’t very many resources available for children.”
Davidson said the nonprofit’s mission has three pillars: awareness, prevention and advocacy.
The awareness work won’t change much, with the continuation of education programs and with events and programs that build awareness.
The prevention work will shift from working to prevent trafficking in all sectors to preventing trafficking of children. To do this, Chains Interrupted will provide more education and resources to schools and other groups that work with minors.
“We think that this prevention education needs to expand,” Davidson said. “Currently, we're going in and teaching the kids, ‘This is what it looks like if you're being groomed into trafficking. This is what you could see.
“We touch on healthy relationships because most of the time traffickers will groom somebody into a trafficking situation by pretending to be in a relationship with them. Either a romantic relationship, or a best friend, or a family member.”
The organization will be applying for a federal grant that would give them the resources to reach more schools.
It also is forming partnerships with local organizations that work with children, like Foundation 2, Tanager Place, Four Oaks, the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center and the Mental Health Institute in Independence.
Instead of sending staff and volunteers to meet with child trafficking survivors and serve as their advocates, Chains Interrupted will be providing education and resources to the organizations already working with youths so the advocacy can come from someone the child already knows, Davidson said.
Chains Interrupted will continue operating its Harbor Home program, which helps trafficking victims between ages 18 and 24 find housing and live independently after escaping trafficking.
Previously, Chains Interrupted worked closely with the Riverview Center in Cedar Rapids, which provides services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence, to provide services for adult survivors of human trafficking.
“Riverview knows that we’re still available to help them if they need, but we’re passing that baton over and moving some of our people to this prevention piece for kids,” Davidson said.
“We’re seeing the need … so we decided to step into that gap. We actually wanted to do both — we wanted to continue to serve adults as well as children — but funding was an issue, and so we had to make a difficult choice.”
Chains Interrupted has two full-time staffers, four-part time staffers and a number of volunteers, Davidson said.
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