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Beshear joins advocates, survivors to raise awareness of human trafficking

In an effort to prevent human trafficking, Gov. Andy Beshear invited state leaders, advocates and survivors to the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday to recognize Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“In Kentucky, everyone should be safe and our communities should be free of the hideous crime of human trafficking,” said Beshear. “As attorney general, I was honored to work with so many passionate advocates and survivors to help fight trafficking – and as governor I commit to do the same. We will not stop until we end trafficking and we must all work together to do so.”

“Our office is committed to being a voice for the voiceless by doing all we can to prevent and end human trafficking,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron. “We cannot allow one person to be lost to the scourge of human trafficking, and I will fight every day to ensure that victims are given a voice and that those who choose to engage in this evil are prosecuted.

“Our Office of Child Abuse & Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution is committed to partnering with our law enforcement community and victims advocacy groups across the state to ensure they have the resources they need to fight this cruel atrocity.”

Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Jennifer Middleton.

Before leaving the Office of the Attorney General, Beshear helped ensure that The Samaritan Women’s traveling Encounter Exhibit, which animates a deeper understanding of the issue of domestic sex trafficking, would be at the Capitol this month. The exhibit includes facts and statistics about sex trafficking in America, in Kentucky specifically, and a real-life story of the recruitment of a teen into the world of exploitation and trafficking.

“Human trafficking victims remain enslaved because this crime thrives in secrecy and silence,” said Jeanne L. Allert, founder and executive director of The Samaritan Women. “We need public awareness to help dismantle that system of oppression, increase victim identification and improve referral to services. The Samaritan Women is honored to partner with the governor’s efforts to bring about an end to this evil trade, in Kentucky and across our nation.”

The exhibit, brought to Kentucky by the Child Victims’ Trust Fund, contains sensitive, mature subject matter.

Dr. Jennifer Middleton, a University of Louisville associate professor of social work who directs the university’s Human Trafficking Research Initiative, discussed the results of Project PIVOT (Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Trafficking).

The research reviewed 698 reported cases of child trafficking over a five-year period, between 2013 and 2018. The review was done primarily to answer the question of what happened to those cases in the child welfare system. Among the findings:

•A majority of the cases involved family-controlled trafficking, meaning a family member, most often a parent or primary caretaker, gave offenders sexual access to the child/children in exchange for money, drugs or something else of value.

•Children trafficked by family members were younger and more likely to have multiple perpetrators than those trafficked by nonfamily members.

•Younger children, children living in rural areas, and children with previous child welfare involvement were also more likely to have multiple perpetrators.

•The involvement of drugs in child trafficking cases (e.g., selling a child for drugs) increased significantly during the five-year period and these cases were more likely to involve multiple perpetrators.

The results of Project PIVOT will be used to ascertain gaps, systemic issues and opportunities for enhanced education, training and policy development regarding child trafficking in Kentucky.

“The results also serve as a call to action to the citizens of our state, particularly our findings regarding family-controlled trafficking,” said Middleton. “What we are finding is that the majority of the time, the crime of child trafficking isn’t being carried out by strangers passing through our towns.

“This has implications for how we educate our communities about child trafficking, as well as how we prepare child welfare workers and first responders to identify and respond to potential child victims. Community awareness and enhanced training for professionals are key to preventing and addressing child trafficking in our state.”

Project PIVOT was done in partnership with Kentucky’s Department of Community Based Services (DCBS) and the Attorney General’s Office with two-year grant funding of $100,000 from the Kentucky Children’s Justice Act Task Force. Click here for the project summary.

The leaders of two Louisville-based survivor-led organizations that Beshear worked with over the past four years in the Office of the Attorney General attended the event to lend their voice to increasing awareness.

“Free2Hope has been working to raise awareness of human trafficking in our state for years and is grateful as Gov. Beshear continues his commitment to helping end human trafficking in Kentucky,” said Amy Leenerts, founder and executive director of Free2Hope. “We urge all Kentuckians to work with us and during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, commit to learn the signs of trafficking and how to help. The Free2Hope drop-in center will remain a resource for victims looking for support and refuge.”

“Women of the Well continues to provide residential and long-term services to survivors of human trafficking and appreciates Gov. Beshear’s continued support of our efforts in this fight,” said Summer Dickerson, founder of Women of the Well. “We hope that during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and every month after, the public and our elected officials continue to work to end trafficking in Kentucky.”

In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Beshear signed a proclamation during the event Tuesday.

Beshear also reminds Kentuckians of the legal duty to report suspicions of children involved in the commercial sex trade to the Department for Community Based Services at 1-877-KYSAFE1 and to local law enforcement. Other concerns about possible trafficking activities should be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

To learn more about the signs of human trafficking click here.

From Governor’s Office

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