By Dee Huey
It’s Derby week in Kentucky. As a girl born and raised in the city that is home to the greatest two minutes in sports I have a great love for this time of year. It sounds like blasphemy to many, but I actually love the Kentucky Derby more than Christmas and Easter! The excitement, pageantry, and beauty of the Derby festivities, however, hide a dark and dangerous under world: human trafficking.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” During Derby, it is a sad but very real truth that slaves are transported into the region and sexually exploited.
According to data provided by Rescue and Restore, an organization that works with victims of human trafficking, 160 victims of human trafficking have been identified in Kentucky. Of those, 94 were children and the youngest victim was reported as being 2 months old. The average age of trafficking victims in KY is 21 with the most frequently occurring age being just 17 years old. Also, according to Rescue and Restore’s March 2014 fact sheet, 86% of trafficking victims are female.
According to Amy Nace-Degonda of Louisville’s Human Trafficking Task Force, it remains unclear exactly how many sex trafficking crimes take place during Derby week as these crimes often go unreported. This year Grace United Methodist Church has teamed up with the non profit organization Free2Hope in order to raise awareness. The partnership is hosting an outreach event on Saturday, April 25 @ 1:00pm and placing signs in area businesses with a hotline number for folks to call if they are in need of help or suspect a problem.
It is important to keep in mind in the midst of the beautiful flowers, hats, and stately horses there are people who are suffering. In spite of the festivities, parties, and pageantry people are being abused and exploited. This is a terrible and, perhaps, most disturbing form of displacement.
This week I, along with hundreds of thousands of others, will go to Churchill Downs to watch horses run around an oval track. I will watch as trainers, breeders, and total strangers cheer on strong, beautiful animals. However, I, along with all of those in our city, should be watching for something else as well.
Here are some signs to be on the lookout for in folks who may be trafficked…
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
These are just a few of the indicators that someone might be trafficked. These are not cumulative, so don’t believe all must be present for an individual to be a victim of human trafficking. If you see or believe someone is in danger, please call 911 or 888.373.7888.