Tuesday, July 29th a community forum to learn about the issue of human trafficking was held in our fellowship hall. House Representative Sannie Overly and Marissa Castellanos of Catholic Charities spoke at length on the issue, providing valuable information to become advocates for victims and informed citizens. The statistics they shared were appalling. Since 2008 160 victims of human trafficking have been identified in our state. Of these victims, 94 were trafficked as children. The youngest victim was 2 months old. The concept of human trafficking seemed inconceivable to many who gathered for this important forum, but considering what we know of our community’s drug epidemic, it isn’t difficult to understand the two issues are intimately linked to one another.
Marissa Castellanos of Catholic Charities shared the efforts her organization makes to train and educate the public to recognize the warning signs of trafficked victims. KY Rescue & Restore began in 2008 and since that time, more than 21,000 individuals in KY have been educated regarding warning signs of human trafficking. Castellanos works across the state to help law enforcement agencies, health care workers and interested individuals learn what to look for and how to respond to victims, as well as directing survivors to services necessary to rebuild lives.
Representative Overly spoke at length about House Bill 3, which she sponsored and worked tirelessly to get passed into legislation. The “Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act” is primarily designed to target individuals who exploit children for sexual purposes by increasing penalties and prison sentences. The legislation would also provide training so that victims, advocates and law enforcement officers may better recognize signs of human and child trafficking, allowing them to take action more quickly. We learned that the state of KY now has the strongest law in place to punish modern-day slave traders and to provide aid to victims of trafficking.
As easy as it is to get caught up in thinking slavery is an issue for metropolitan areas, we must force ourselves to look at the world around us more clearly. The first case to come before the court system as HB 3 was being signed into law was a woman who escaped her captors right here in Bourbon County. She ran 10 miles…7 months pregnant, to find the help she needed. Her case will soon appear in our local papers, as the legal process is nearing its end. This is an issue for our community and something to which we must all concern ourselves. Visit http://www.rescueandrestoreky.org/ to learn more about how you can take action and make a difference in the lives of survivors.