human trafficking

Todd Lappin via Flickr

Note: Some readers may find this subject matter disturbing.

When Beth Jacobs was 16 years old, she needed a ride home. She had missed her bus after work again after promising her father she was responsible enough not to make it a habit. She asked a man she thought was a friend to give her a lift. He offered her a drink from his car’s cup holder. She took a sip and woke up in a parking lot hours later.

“And he was like, ‘Baby do you know what I am?’” Jacobs recalled decades later. “He said, ‘I'm a pimp.’ I reached for the door, and he grabbed my hair and he said, ‘I own you now.’”

The pimp told Jacobs if she didn’t cooperate he would kill her and her father. Jacobs believed him. “He had taken me home before, he knew where I lived.”

Polaris

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is focusing attention on identifying and prosecuting those who take part in human trafficking. The attorney general joined industry and religious groups in Frankfort on Jan. 11 as part of the national Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The effort is to make people aware that men, women and children across the U.S., including some in Kentucky, are victims of forced sex and forced labor. 

From January through October of 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline got 261 calls from Kentucky. Of those, 56 cases of sex trafficking and 10 cases of forced labor trafficking were documented. Two cases were a combination of sex and labor trafficking, such as being forced to dance in a strip club and also forced to engage in commercial sex.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says his office will ramp up efforts in 2017 to combat human trafficking. 

With assistance from the attorney general's office, 28 people were arrested this year in Kentucky, accused of forcing others into sex or labor trading.  One of the arrests was in Louisville during the week of the Kentucky Derby where a 14-year-old girl was rescued. 

Beshear says human trafficking is occurring in every county of the state.

Ira Gelb/Creative Commons

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will pump millions of dollars into the Louisville-area economy.

But it will also bring an increase in the number of sexually exploited women and children.

That’s the warning from Amy Leenarts, the director of the Louisville-based anti-trafficking group Free2Hope.

She says people who make money through human trafficking are drawn to high-profile events like the Derby.

“There is a syndicate that runs across the country, and they just simply go to all these big events all over the country, and they bring people with them—girls who are enslaved.”

Leenarts is asking the public to be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

“It can be a child at a hotel where they shouldn’t be, when they’re obviously not with parents. It can be a young adult who has several different phones, or key cards from multiple hotels.”

Kentucky and Tennessee officials have launched initiatives today to spread awareness of human trafficking.