Chains Interrupted would not be the powerful force that it is, fighting Human Trafficking in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the world, if it weren’t for the many partners who have come alongside us. Our April Chainbreaker Champion has been on our team for a few years. He’s a humble, quiet man with the heart of lion. Chains Interrupted would be where we are without Joe O’Leary.
What’s your first memory of Chains Interrupted?
When I found out there was a local problem I Googled ”Cedar Rapids human trafficking” and the website for Chains came up. I dropped in at the next available meeting and was impressed by the wonderful people I met. I knew immediately this was an organization I wanted to be part of.
What has surprised you most about the work we do?
I’m impressed and surprised with the scope of the work; preventive education, the ability to assist out of the life, counseling, housing, hotlines, training of healthcare workers/teachers/students/parents/police/etc. and the list goes on. Awareness is also so important. I now look at the world through different eyes than before becoming involved. I look closer now when I see a child at a bus station or truck stop, excessive traffic at a hotel room, or a young girl lost and begging for money. If it doesn’t feel right, say something.
What do you wish other people knew about sex trafficking in our community?
It’s very real and it’s right here. It can happen to anyone. As hard as it is to believe, right here in CR, your son or daughter can be sitting right across from you at dinner, and still be under the control of a trafficker. Social media is a huge recruiting tool for traffickers. Predators are constantly looking for vulnerable people of any age that they can lure into their web. Please come to a Chains training session and learn how to protect your loved ones.
Why are you supporting this work?
I’ve always thought Human Trafficking was one of the most horrendous things that could ever happen to someone. When I found out it was happening right here, I felt I had no choice except to do whatever I could to help. I was also shocked to learn that trafficking was so widespread and even more evil than I could have ever imagined. I was horrified to discover that even infants were involved, and that many never get out.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I took advantage of the pandemic to learn to play the piano. I’ve been using an app on my phone to learn with a heavy emphasis on classical music. I never dreamt I’d ever be able to play Mozart, Bach, etc. but I have a very long way to go…….