Powerful Connections

Powerful connections are those connections that can cause transformation. We at Set Free are blessed to have connections that are transforming the lives of trafficking victims and survivors in our community. Below are just a few examples.

We are so grateful for the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival and the sustained commitment the festival has to films that create awareness. Each year, during the film festival held in late April, we get the opportunity to answer questions and address local concerns about trafficking. Throughout the rest of the year, we will hear from people who saw a film and they share how a film’s message has stayed in their minds.

Tonight we were contacted by a festival attendee/volunteer because he had heard about disconcerting behavior in the Dubuque area. After talking for a bit, he shared the number of a local pastor who had witnessed predatory behavior and needed assistance in knowing what to do next.

Lights for Liberty Event – hosted by Indivisible Dubuque speech given at Washington Park, Dubuque, Iowa 7/12/2019

Good evening.

Thank you to Indivisible Dubuque for inviting me to present tonight.

I am Suzie Wright and represent Set Free Dubuque. It is a local non-profit that educates the public, advocates for survivors, and eliminates the demand for human trafficking.

Let us take a few moments to recognize the members of the Tri-state Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, and anyone else in the audience who seeks justice for trafficking victims, immigrants, and refugees in our community and around the globe.

It breaks my heart that we need a night like this, and yet, here we are.

Bradley Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project, states, “We cannot let growing anti-immigrant rhetoric create a climate of fear for vulnerable populations and prevent immigrant victims from seeking help. Traffickers are emboldened by anti-immigrant statements and policies, which they can weaponize as more powerful threats.” Polaris Statement on a Border Wall and Human Trafficking, WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 1, 2019)

Looking away from the heart-rending circumstances, the border refugees face, is too easily-done from our comfortable, midwestern homes.

The connection between what happens on the border and what happens in Iowa is closer than we realize. These issues may be the reality for our co-workers, our neighbors, and our family members.

Do not be distracted by political agendas and forget that these stories are about living and breathing people, many of whom are children with no home, no sense of security, and often no family.

It does not matter if you agree with why they and their families came to this country, what matters is that they are human beings deserving of humanitarian aid and compassion.

Traffickers take advantage of people all through this story.

They prey on the vulnerable in their home countries, as they pass through other countries, and as they arrive in the states.

Even worse, when the refugees have found shelter here in the United States, they are still vulnerable to being trafficked. This border crisis supplies easy targets for traffickers. 

We know of the stories of children sold, we know the stories of children stolen, and the tragic stories of those placed in the hands of traffickers who were to foster these children.

Those children need us to do better.

We need to seek out justice through every resource we have.

Seek out our elected officials. Respectfully demand justice.

Seek out wise choices in the agencies you fund by sending donations to well-established and respected agencies.

Seek out volunteer opportunities at local charities, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Scouting, and the Fountain of Youth. Empower the young through mentorships to realize they are not commodities with price tags.

Finally, I challenge those of you with the resource of time, use it well. Consider going to the border, seek out those places desperate for more helping hands. Be present.

Good evening.

P.S. There is an event coming up on July 30. Keep reading previous posts for details.

Below are photos of the event taken by Suzie Wright and Laura Field.

Freedom and Liberty?

Oddly enough, there was little overt patriotism this first week of July 2019. Fewer flags than usual flew this weekend. There weren’t as many patriotic songs on the radio, and even on the 4th of July, there weren’t very many people decked out in red, white, and blue.

My Netflix feed didn’t promote any epic “America is awesome,” films and neither did Hulu. Here in Iowa, the week consisted of relentless fireworks mixed with humidity and heat. Visible patriotism was light, even among the numerous presidential ads.

Are we beginning to question what defines freedom from liberty?
Is American society becoming humble?
How do we achieve freedom for all?
What is the quality of our liberty?

Americans do not enjoy a pristine past when it comes to the concepts of freedom and liberty. Our country is extremely polarized on these issues. Thankfully, many now see human trafficking is unjust. It destroys the fabric of our freedom and inhibits the individual liberty of anyone subjected to the travesty of human bondage.

Even in our bleakest times, ordinary citizens stood for liberty for others. Many sought freedom for those in bondage and restored liberty for the oppressed.

I am honored to know many people who work to set others free from the bonds of human trafficking. They will never have a parade thrown for them. And yet, they deserve celebrations filled with great joy, fireworks, and waving banners.

Learn More About Human Trafficking and how to stop it July 30 6:30-7:30 Convivium Urban Farm 2811 Jackson St, Dubuque, IA Free event with light refreshments Questions? 563.451.7914

Forum Set on Human Trafficking, Refugees

NEWS RELEASE (updated)

For immediate use

June 17, 2019

Contact: Chuck Isenhart, 563-599-8839

Gretchen Brown-Waech, victim rights and human trafficking coordinator for Attorney General Tom Miller, will visit Dubuque on Thursday, June 20, to speak about the reality of and response to human trafficking in Iowa.

Also presenting will be Neil Wellner, homeland security coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

State Rep. Chuck Isenhart will host the speakers, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Center, 680 Main Street. The public is invited.

Suzie Wright of Set Free Dubuque and members of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery will brief attendees on their work in the Dubuque area. Isenhart will discuss the status of legislation introduced with Rep. Lindsay James to provide incentives to lodging facilities that educate their employees on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

The event has been planned to observe World Refugee Day in support of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT).

According to the Catholic Sisters’ group, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under 18. Every 15 minutes a family is forced to flee their homeland.

“There is a strong link between forced migration and human trafficking. Men, women, and children are made vulnerable to human trafficking by the mass displacement caused by violence, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises, climate change, natural disasters, and conflict. Impoverished, vulnerable families are targeted by traffickers who promise to provide education and opportunity only to exploit them through forced labor, sexual exploitation, enslavement, or organ theft,” according to USCSAHT.

Brown-Waech will discuss the roles of the Iowa Department of Justice. The attorney general’s Crime Victim Assistance Division supports direct services around the state for people affected by human trafficking, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, homicide, and other violent crimes.

Wellner will discuss the role of the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking in holding accountable those who exploit the vulnerabilities of others. The office has been tasked with providing a comprehensive and coordinated response to labor and sex trafficking in Iowa.

Awesome April

Very much looking forward to the rest of this month. There are many exciting opportunities happening.

Work continues with local middle-schoolers, local hotels, and in the community. Happy to share a bit of the unusual.

The article below this talks of a color run/walk happening this weekend where you actually get to be on the airport runway. Read it below for more details.

April 18 6:00PM – 7:30PM Human Trafficking Awareness

Learn how to recognize and respond to potential trafficked persons at this informative presentation and discussion with educator/presenter and cyclist Kevin Schwendinger. Mr. Schwendinger recently biked from Omaha, NE to Milwaukee, WI to bring awareness to this devastating human tragedy in rural communities.
This presentation will include a historical perspective, labor and other forms of Human Trafficking, as well as how individuals, governments, and coalitions are attempting to interrupt this ongoing illegal activity throughout the world and in the Midwest.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against a person’s will. Human trafficking affects every community in the United States across age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Simply put, anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. Not only are victims trafficked in other countries, they are also our children, our teenagers, and our young adults. Knowledge is power and together we can raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking to help victims and stop traffickers.
*Due to the subject matter, adults may wish to accompany any children.

GRIDSHOCK at Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

A riveting documentary exposing the disturbing reality behind sex trafficking demand in Iowa. It shines a light on buyers and how they fuel the demand for exploitation.

Thursday 4.25

3:15pm | Hotel Julien Ballroom

Saturday 4.27

6:15pm | Five Flags Orpheum