To mark National Human Trafficking Awareness Day Attorney General Andy Beshear joined leaders of Louisville’s Free2Hope, Kristy Love Foundation and Women of the Well to support survivors of human trafficking.
Beshear said January is also National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and an occasion to advocate against human trafficking – a modern day form of slavery that targets adults and children.
Beshear began the awareness day by participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Free2Hope’s new Drop-in Center. The center’s opening makes Free2Hope the first local agency in Louisville to provide professional, victim-centered drop-in services to survivors of violence, sex and labor trafficking.
“Not just today, or this month – but every single day – my office is supporting and working with our nonprofit, public and private sector partners to stop human trafficking and seek justice for survivors,” Beshear said. “I applaud Free2Hope for working to make a real and positive impact in the lives of human trafficking victims.”
Survivors can visit the center, located at 962 Barrett Ave., for basic food and shelter needs, case management, life skill sessions, substance abuse resources and many more services that they may need to help them break free.
Amy Leenerts, founder and director of Free2Hope said the ribbon-cutting ceremony could not come at a better time, not just for the importance of raising awareness of trafficking, but also for the spotlight it places on the needs of this vulnerable population.
“National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is an important opportunity to highlight the work that Free2Hope, the Attorney General’s Office and others in our community do every day to end human trafficking,” Leenerts said. “I appreciate the leadership and support of the Attorney General’s Office in this and all that we do across the state and country to help those touched by this terrible crime.”
Following the ceremony, Beshear’s office hosted an awareness day event, with funds from a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant, featuring keynote speaker Erik Bauer.
Bauer is an attorney that fought Backpage and won a settlement on behalf of middle school aged girls who were sold for sex on the website. The lawsuit was the first in the United States to defeat Backpage’s claim that it is immune from sex trafficking lawsuits under the Communications Decency Act. Mr. Bauer’s fight was chronicled in the documentary “I am Jane Doe,” which premiered in Louisville last year with funds from the Child Victim’s Trust Fund.
In the afternoon, Beshear and his wife, Britainy, visited the Kristy Love Foundation and Women of the Well’s House of Esther to deliver in-kind items donated by staff from the Office of the Attorney General to benefit victims of human trafficking. The Kristy Love Foundation is located at 1830 Date St. and Women of the Well’s House of Esther is located at 2707 W. Market St.
In addition to today’s events, Beshear encourages Kentuckians to participate in the awareness day and month by learning how to spot and report the crime that is increasing in Kentucky and across the nation.
Beshear said while there is no single indicator of trafficking, common signs include:
· Identical tattoos or branding.
· Appears malnourished and has physical injuries.
· Avoids eye contact and seems to adhere to limited, scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction.
- Lacks official identification documents and personal possessions.
- Unable to identify what town or state they are in or where they are staying.
Kentucky law requires that anyone who suspects a child is being trafficked must report it. There is no liability for reporting a suspicion and you can remain anonymous. If human trafficking is suspected, do not approach the victim or trafficker and:
· Call 911 or law enforcement for an emergency.
· Report any nonemergency suspicious activity to the Kentucky Child Protection hotline, 877-597-2331; the Office of the Attorney General, 502-696-5300; or the National Human Trafficking hotline, 888-373-7888.
Beshear continues to make combating human trafficking one of his office’s top priorities.
Most recently, Beshear’s office teamed up with Free2Hope, Catholic Charities of Louisville, the Kentucky Hotel and Lodging Association, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association and WDRB Media to launch an initiative called, “See Something – Say Something – Save a Life!” The training is the state’s first coordinated effort that encourages Kentucky hotel owners to sign a pledge to have their front line staff complete an online human trafficking training.
In 2016, Beshear and Catholic Charities of Louisville announced that they received federal grant funds totally $1.5 million to support new solutions in the fight against human trafficking. The two offices will use the funds over three-years to intensify the work they are doing to hold offenders accountable and support victims of human trafficking.
The office also provided human trafficking training for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet highway incident safety professionals, more than 1,600 professionals and community members on identifying and reporting trafficking. The office also formed a coalition with Bikers Against Child Abuse and secured the arrest and indictment against a former Campbell County district judge and school board member on numerous human trafficking charges.
For more information on the Office of the Attorney General’s efforts to fight human trafficking, visit ag.ky.gov.