Sex trafficking an unfortunate reality in U.S., Kentucky

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs all over the world, including in the United States. 

Today, we see more sex trafficking than any other form of human trafficking. 

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, “sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform commercial sex through the use of force, fraud or coercion.”

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It is stated on their website that, “sex trafficking exists within diverse and unique sets of venues and businesses including fake massage businesses, escort services, residential brothels, in public on city streets and in truck stops, strip clubs, hostess clubs, hotels and motels, and elsewhere.”

Their statistics show that this year, as of June 30, there have been 2,678 sex trafficking cases reported in the United States. Since 2007, there have been 19,287 cases. 

The top five states that have contributed to this number are California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and New York. 

What about Kentucky? We’re not in the top five, but Ohio — coming in at number four — is a bordering state.

The problem of sex trafficking is an issue that is very important to me. I have had opportunities to help women in Kentucky who have been in prostitution and sex trafficking for years. I have heard stories about and been around women who honestly do not want to live that lifestyle. It breaks my heart to see these numbers and to know that it can happen not just in the U.S., but right here. 

According to statistics from NHRC, there were 152 calls and 42 human trafficking cases reported in Kentucky through the first six months of 2016. Of those 42 cases, 36 of them were reported as sex trafficking. 

Kentucky’s 36 cases is much lower than Ohio’s 136, but 36 cases is still 36 too many. Remember, these are cases that are called in and reported — there may be more out there that were never caught or reported.

In Kentucky, the top venue for sex traffickers is hotels.

The NHRC website says, “Hotels and motels are a common venue for sex trafficking, due to ease of access for buyers, ability to pay in cash and maintain secrecy through finances and lack of facility maintenance or upkeep expenses.”

According to Polaris, in the U.S., there were 1,434 cases of trafficking reported in hotels and motels from December 2007 to February 2015. 

The sad reality is that number is increasing daily. 

The NHRC website says that the commercial sex industry has moved away from the streets and other public places and has moved indoors. “Hotels and motels are then used as a location for commercial sex to take place, often unbeknownst to hotel management.”

This probably isn’t new information or totally shocking for anyone, but just knowing that it happens isn’t enough to stop it. 

It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I could be staying at a hotel somewhere in Kentucky and a sex trafficking situation could be happening in the room down the hall. 

I believe that, as a society, we can help prevent and even stop sex trafficking incidents and help contribute to the eventual elimination of the crime. In Kentucky, since it seems to be more prevalent in hotels, staff, management and even guests of these places should keep an eye out for these situations.

There are several signs and red flags for people to look out for. Watch for people with poor hygiene, malnourishment or fatigue. Watch and listen for evidence of verbal threats or physical violence. Notice if someone exhibits fearful, nervous, anxious or submissive demeanor, or if there’s excessive foot traffic in and out of rooms. Watch out for someone who has no freedom of movement or is constantly monitored. 

This is a problem that is not going to go away on its own. I think it is important to learn the facts, find ways to prevent it and help make it stop for good.