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Kentucky Recognizes January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Kentucky Ag Connection - 01/20/2023

Gov. Andy Beshear and the Kentucky State Police (KSP) are joining the nation in recognizing January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time to educate citizens about identifying and preventing the crime.

"It is important that we all recognize the signs of human trafficking to prevent this crime from happening," said Beshear. "Our administration is committed to ending this horrific crime and providing help to survivors so they can reclaim their lives."

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to achieve exploitation. Sergeant Vicki Day, who is a member of the KSP Human Trafficking Unit, says awareness is key to ending trafficking while providing support to victims.

"This month is a necessary time to reflect on the resilience of trafficking survivors and recognize the efforts of those who work tirelessly to prevent and eliminate this inhumane and devastating form of abuse and exploitation. The more citizens who are aware of the signs, the better chance of ending trafficking." said Sgt. Day.

Sergeant Day says human trafficking is a continuous cycle. KSP created a cycle map, displaying how human trafficking begins and continues for current and new victims.

"It's important to watch for the warning signs of human trafficking," said Sgt. Day. "Ask yourself if the person appears disconnected from family and friends, are they attending school, is there a dramatic behavior change, is the person presented with new clothing, electronics, or items? Watching for the warning signs is the first step to stopping human trafficking."

Sue Smith* is a Kentucky victim of human trafficking. For nearly two years, her trafficker, who was a family friend, gained her trust by buying expensive gifts, taking her to the movies or out to eat. During this time, he engaged in sexual acts with her. Her parents were involved in drug trafficking, which included this family friend, and welcomed his offer for free babysitting.

"The mental manipulation was and still is the worst part," said Smith. "He tried to manipulate me into believing it was all in my head for years. Until my trafficker was proven guilty, I was constantly in fear."

Smiths' trafficker received four consecutive life sentences; one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, seven counts of crossing state lines with the intent to engage in a sex act with a minor under the age of 12, and ten counts of transporting a minor under the age of 18 across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

"What I want people to know about human trafficking is that the effects on the victim are life-altering and something that we deal with for the rest of our lives," said Smith. "An important fact that people should know about human trafficking is that it's often entangled in drug trafficking. If you suspect drug trafficking and children are around, that should be a red flag."

Sgt. Day says there are different types of trafficking to be aware of, including:

- Labor Trafficking: Individuals are trafficked to earn money for basic needs or drugs.

- Sex Trafficking: Individuals are made to engage in commercial sex by being pressured, threatened, or bullied. Child victims are frequently recruited by a boyfriend or girlfriend and family members. Individuals are often trafficked to earn money for basic needs or drugs.

- Familial Trafficking: This is the abuse or exploitation of a victim at the hands of someone they know. Familial sex trafficking involves traffickers, who sell victims for profit, giving offenders sexual access to victims or pornography in exchange for drugs, money, or something else of value. This is the most common type of human trafficking in Kentucky.

During Human Trafficking Prevention Month, KSP will highlight the signs of human trafficking, how to report suspected human trafficking, and how to get assistance. All materials related to human trafficking will be shared via KSP's social media platforms throughout January.

Beshear reminds Kentuckians of the legal duty to report suspicions of children involved in the commercial sex trade to Kentucky 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. If there is an emergency, dial 911 immediately.

Beshear has made fighting human trafficking a core mission during his time in elected office. As attorney general, Beshear's office established itself as the leading agency in Kentucky's fight against human trafficking. He created the Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution, assigned staff to assist local law enforcement with resources in an effort to resolve human trafficking complaints and trained thousands of individuals statewide.

The Office of the Attorney General also arrested a historic level of child predators during Beshear's term. He also created the Survivor's Council, which provided a way for survivors of violent crimes, including human trafficking, to advise and assist the office on matters related to victims of crime.

Since taking office, Beshear has consistently championed reducing and preventing domestic and dating violence and abuse while helping victims and survivors receive the services they need. During the 2022 regular General Assembly session, the Governor signed Senate Bill 38 into law, which defines Class A and B felony incest as a violent offense, requiring offenders to serve longer sentences for committing this heinous crime. Additionally, he signed Senate Bill 271 into law in April, which will improve the ways in which domestic violence data in Kentucky is collected, analyzed and used. SB 271 ultimately will enhance responses and prevention efforts from agencies including law enforcement, courts and service providers, and better meet the needs of victims and survivors.

In September, the Governor announced nearly $23 million in grant funding from the federal VOCA Formula Victim Assistance Grant Program supporting victims of crime in the commonwealth. The administration has awarded more than $96 million in grant funding through the KJPSC to victim service agencies across the commonwealth.

At the beginning of the year, Gov. Beshear and Secretary Harvey announced that an additional $849,491 in federal grant funding had been awarded to the Kentucky State Police (KSP) to hire a new investigator with the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Investigative Team to focus on investigating and identifying sexual offenders in Jefferson County. The KSP SAKI investigative team was originally formed in July 2021 after the U.S. Department of Justice awarded $1.5 million to the commonwealth to leverage existing investigative resources within the KSP Crime Lab by transitioning three trained investigators and a criminal intelligence analyst from the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General to KSP.

In February and December 2021, Gov. Beshear announced awards totaling over $4 million to fight sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and dating violence through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Services, Training, Officers, Prosecution (STOP) Formula Grant Program.

During the 2021 legislative session, Gov. Beshear signed HB 310, sponsored by Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Jefferson County. HB 310 allows a commonwealth attorney to file a petition for an involuntary commitment for violent offenders who are incompetent to stand trial and would not benefit from additional treatment, but who are deemed a danger to themselves or others. By signing this bill, the Governor closed a gap in state law that allowed some defendants to avoid both prison time and mental health treatment.

*The name of the victim in this case has been changed to protect her identity.


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