The Iowa City Gazette is running a two-week series, in novelized form, that explains how a human trafficking and prostitution ring involving minors could flourish in Eastern Iowa. The newspaper had published stories from court cases about an Iowa prostitution and human trafficking ring involving a 13-year-old suburban Minneapolis girl. The reporting on the series took more than a year and a half. Staff writer Jennifer Hemmingsen interviewed more than 25 people at length and covered court hearings, reviewing thousands of pages of court and jail records.
People unfamiliar with prostitution sometimes think of it as a victimless crime – a simple transaction of money for sex. In reality, pimps prey on vulnerable women and girls with few other options, isolating them, coercing them into the business and keeping them there by force. One underage girl who said she worked for an escort service in the case, Naughty-bi-Nature, was too scared to help in the prosecution. It’s a drug-infused, violence-infested culture that can operate below the surface in even the smallest and safest of Eastern Iowa’s small towns, as this case would show.