What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a crime
involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a
commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Human
trafficking affects individuals across the world, including here in Kentucky.
Human trafficking affects every community across age, gender, ethnicity, and
Human trafficking is a
market-driven criminal industry that is based on the principles of supply and
demand. Many factors make children and adults vulnerable to human trafficking,
however, human trafficking does not exist solely because many people are
vulnerable to exploitation. Instead, human trafficking is fueled by a demand
for cheap labor, services, and for commercial sex. To ultimately solve the
problem of human trafficking, it is essential to address these demand-driven
factors, as well as to alter the overall market incentives of high-profit and
low-risk that traffickers currently exploit. Left unchecked, human trafficking
will continue to flourish in environments where traffickers can reap
substantial monetary gains with relatively low risk of getting caught or losing
While data on the prevalence of
human trafficking in the United States are scarce, due to the covert nature of
the crime, some research suggests that trafficking is widespread. In 2016, the
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (National Hotline) received
26,727 reports of human trafficking in the United States, resulting in 7,621
cases referred to law enforcement—a 36.7 percent increase from 2015 (National
Human Trafficking Hotline 2016). Sex trafficking represented the majority (73.3
percent) of the cases referred by the National Hotline in 2016; labor
trafficking represented 14.0 percent of cases, 3.5 percent of cases were dual
sex and labor trafficking victimizations, and 9.2 percent were unclassified (Polaris Project 2017).
Children, unfortunately, are not
exempt from this heinous crime. Rescue and Restore KY,
a Catholic Charities of Louisville program reported that 332 trafficking
victims have been identified since 2008. A startling 60% of these victims were
children. Arecent University of Louisville
Experience Survey (YES): Exploring the Scope and Complexity of Sex Trafficking
in a Sample of Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Kentuckiana, found that 40% of homeless youth surveyed
identified with being a victim of sex
trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline keeps an up-to-date count
of the number of tips reported in Kentucky. Given that human trafficking is
often overlooked and underreported because the crime is occurring on the
margins of society and behind closed doors, the numbers are assumed to be
substantially higher. A human trafficking victim could be sitting in a classroom in your
district at this very moment (Kentucky
Department of Education).
Know the Signs
Every day, thousands of individuals
become victims of human trafficking and many of those individuals pass through
Kentucky. Recognizing the warning signs that someone is being trafficked and
knowing what to do if you see them are key ways you can help those trapped in
this tragic reality.
These are some
key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that
should be reported:
- Living with employer
- Poor living conditions/multiple people in cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents (passport, security
- Signs of physical abuse/Bruises in various stages of healing
- Submissive, timid/Fearful of telling others about their situation
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and in prostitution
- Limited freedom of movement
- Displays substance misuse
Child Specific Warning Signs:
- Often going missing/truanting
- Has unexplained money/presents
- Seen entering or leaving vehicles with unknown
- Showing evidence of physical/sexual assault
- Showing signs of low self-image/self-harm/eating disorder
- Associating with/being groomed by older people
- In relationships with significantly older
If you are able to speak with a potential
victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety and your own,
here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags which
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Are you in debt to your employer?
- Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?