PRESTONSBURG — Floyd County’s community leaders were invited to learn some hard truths about human trafficking, and how the crime that preys mostly upon young, vulnerable girls has already made its way into Eastern Kentucky.
Marissa Castellanos, with Catholic Charities of Louisville, led the conference and told those in attendance that traffickers often find a system that works for them and repeat it with new girls.
“It tends to be that traffickers find a MO (method of operation) that works for them, and do it over and over,” said Castellanos.
Castellanos describes the human traffickers as “pimps” and “daddies” who have been known to look for runaway girls or girls who appear vulnerable at bus and train stations, malls, newspaper ads, and online. Sex traffickers, typically between 18 and 35 years of age, often work their way into the lives of their victims, creating a false sense of loyalty and dependence.
Human trafficking is defined as modern day slavery, which is now widespread throughout the United States. Trafficking of humans is one of the largest and fastest growing criminal enterprises worldwide.
Many victims of trafficking are made to engage in prostitution, pornography, or exotic dancing, though it also occurs in forms of labor exploitation, the most notable of which are sweat shops and migrant agriculture work.
“It will continue to exist until we do something about the demand,” said Castellanos.
According to the Polaris Project, 43 calls were made in 2012 to law enforcement referencing human trafficking, and there were at least seven cases of human trafficking which entered into the justice system. Of those seven, six were female and two were minors.To date, there have been 71 crisis calls in Kentucky, and more than 500 total calls referencing human trafficking.
Castellanos brought that message to the doorsteps of the audience, noting that there are currently several websites which are advertising “escorts” in Eastern Kentucky. Castellanos said that the rule of thumb with regard to the ads was that anyone advertised as 24 or younger is likely a minor.
A Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act is set to be introduced into the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly. The bill is designed to help protect child victims, target the financial gains of human traffickers, and provide law enforcement effective tools to combat human trafficking.
If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave, whether it is commercial sex, housework, or any other activity, call the national human trafficking resource center hotline at 1 (888) 3737-888 to access help and services.
For more information about human trafficking and sex crime laws, contact the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs at www.casap.org, (502) 226-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org.