Gov. Beshear, Kentucky State Police Recognize January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month

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 Gov. 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.

Gov. 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 signs, click here

Press Release and Photo by Kentucky State Police

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