Knowledge to benefit conference-goers
By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
Attendees of the recent human trafficking conference in Sioux City did so for professional, pastoral and personal reasons. They all walked away with new knowledge about the growing problem of what has been dubbed modern day slavery.
“The goal was to educate the Sioux City Diocese about human trafficking and we succeeded,” said Rosemary Paulsen, chair of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Commission that was the driving force behind the conference. “The remarks I heard were very positive. It really opened their eyes to what human trafficking is and that it isn’t just happening in other countries.”
Dorreen Loeffelholz, clinical supervisor at the Catholic Charities branch offices in Carroll and Storm Lake, said she has experience working with children who have been abused both physically and sexually but acknowledged this is a whole new realm of abuse in which she has limited knowledge.
“I found it to be very informative. The work that the professionals are doing is growing in terms of what they can do and then that filters to us in the helping fields – social workers, counselors and citizens who might be able to help anyone who is victimized by these crimes,” she said.
In the event that she works with or comes in contact with someone who has been victimized, Loeffelholz said it will be helpful to know the terminology and culture.
Deacon Bruce Chartier attended because he wanted to learn more about human trafficking and how it was impacting Sioux City. He also wanted to know if there were any local groups that were working to combat the problem and possibly help out.
“I wanted to learn, possibly, how to recognize a victim,” he added. “The conference has been very good, very informative. I didn’t realize we had FBI agents working specifically for human trafficking.”
The deacon mentioned how one of the FBI agents spoke of the importance of taking this information back to their families, their places of work and sphere of influence so that awareness about human trafficking can spread.
Sunshine Bear, who works for the Winnebago Tribal Court, said she attended the conference because she wanted knowledge to share with her family and at work.
“I took some posters that I will hang up at work,” she said. “There are a lot of things happening not only in Sioux City but in small towns and we don’t know it.”
Bear said she learned some tips that will potentially help her spot victims.
As one of the organizers of the conference, Bernadette Rixner said she was very pleased with the turnout. More than 275 attended the June 17 conference.
“I think the turnout affirms our intention in putting on the conference,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that people in this area knew about human trafficking and knew that it was happening here. I think the fact that so many people showed up means they were interested and wanted to know what was happening.”
Now that awareness has been raised, people can find ways to make a difference. Through questions and answer sessions, the audience offered input about where to go from here. For instance, many cited the importance of offering presentations in schools about the subject.
“We had 21 people sign up to do some sort of follow-up,” Rixner said.
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