Organization Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — In 2019, Kentucky ranked ninth in the United States in new federal human trafficking cases.

Since 2007, 1,030 cases of human trafficking have been reported in the Commonwealth, including 104 in 2020 alone.

In 2021, the state received 312 reports of human trafficking.

Trafficking is the exploitation of an individual for use as a commodity under conditions of sexual or labor servitude.

Although human trafficking is usually thought of as someone tied up in a basement, in Kentucky it’s slightly different.

“For example, a person may have an addiction, and they will sell their child for sex or for whatever reason just so they can get money or drugs,” said Heather Wagers, executive director of the Bureau of trafficking and abuse. Prevention and Prosecution (TAPP).

It’s safe to say that the problem has gotten worse over the years, so how do you know if someone you know is being trafficked?

“It’s hard to say,” said Jani Lewis, executive director of Natalie’s Sisters. “It could be anyone. It could be a girl in high school, a classmate. It could be a woman who lives near you. It’s almost a relational thing, you have to know them, understand that things change in their life and pay attention to those things.

“If something is wrong, don’t push it away and say, ‘Oh, it’s probably just me,’” said Refuge for Women executive director Michelle Frank. “If something is wrong, it’s a good idea to reach out to people you think might be able to help you.”

Children are at significant risk of being trafficked. Partly because of the use of social media by traffickers to groom their victims. If you see something that may not be correct, it could make the difference in saving a child.

“Your eyes can really see lives,” Wagers said. “If you can see something, if you can witness something, you are able to connect those dots. Law enforcement needs your help.

Most often, the victims do not even know that they are victims of trafficking.

“They think they’re living with their soulmate, and their soulmate is pimping them and they don’t even understand it.” said Lewis. “A lot of it is education, even for the women involved.”

Reporting suspected traffic to law enforcement is great, but some forms of information go the furthest when reporting a suspected trafficker.

“Gather as much information as possible,” said TAPP executive adviser Alicia Parham. “A description of the person. A description of the vehicle if you can get it. A license plate is very important. If you can get that. But just gather a lot of this information, safely.

If you are interested in helping Natalie’s sisters, this information can be found here.

If you are interested in helping Women’s Shelter, this information can be found here.

Aubrey L. Morgan