Gridshock screening discusses the truth behind sex trafficking in Iowa


Vanessa McNeal

The Great Hall was filled Monday night as Iowa State graduate Vanessa McNeal revealed the disturbing truth about sex trafficking in Iowa through the screening of her fourth and most recent film, “Gridshock.”

McNeal’s film was presented in solidarity with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to the Iowa State Lectures website, “Gridshock” presents the “often-overlooked reality about why the industry thrives — because there is a demand for it.”

McNeal gave her own definition of human sex trafficking, saying “sex trafficking is the most horrific crime I could ever think of … sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery where people are being bought and sold against their will for sex.”

Before the screening, McNeal gave her reasons for the creation of this documentary.

“I wanted to show people that if it were happening in good old Iowa that it could be happening in any place,” McNeal said.

McNeal said she made a promise and commitment to herself long ago.

“My story will not be in vain and the stories of the people who have survived this will not be in vain too,” McNeal said.

“Gridshock” featured local federal law enforcement, advocates, politicians and even told the story of three women who had been victims of sex trafficking who have since escaped and become survivors and are now seeking healing. The documentary also showed an interview with a recovering sex addict who at one point was a considering “buyer”; a man who was planning on buying women to use for sexual satisfaction.

“Trafficking, just like sexual violence in all of its forms, happens in the context of relationships,” McNeal said.

“I’m from Iowa and it’s insane to believe that all of this has been happening while I’ve grown up here,” said freshman and communications studies major, Hannah Waskel, after viewing the documentary.