Barbara Joseph Lammers, SCN
Nelson County Human Trafficking Task Force

Human trafficking is everywhere

Since January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the members of the Nelson County Human Trafficking Task Force would like to remind Nelson Countians that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It means people profit from the control and exploitation of other people. As defined under federal law, victims of human trafficking include children forced into sex acts, adults age 18 or over who are forced into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into labor, such as farm workers, restaurant workers or domestic workers held in a home.

The first thing a person asks when they hear about human trafficking is, “But it’s not happening in my community, right?” Sadly, it’s going on in just about every community in the U.S. It’s going on in Nelson County, just as surely as it’s going on in Louisville and Lexington.

Some immigrants without papers who can’t speak English are being forced to work on farms while they are paid almost nothing. Some were tricked into moving to the U.S. with stories about making good money in the land of opportunity. Instead, once they are here, their captors abuse them, refuse to pay them, allow them no life outside of work, and claim their victims owe thousands of dollars in loans. Traffickers also threaten to hurt or kill the family members of victims. All of this can go on in the average American community.

It’s not just immigrants, however, who are victims. In some cities, runaway teens meet traffickers who win their trust by giving them a meal and a bed, then sell them in the sex trade. Pretty soon these pimps “own” their victims. Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of vulnerable people around the globe. Human trafficking is one of the most profitable illegal industries in the world, second only to drug trafficking. You can only sell a drug once. But you can sell young girls day after day, week after week, until they escape, are rescued—or kill themselves.

Our local task force, of which I am a member, would like to remind all citizens that you can spot this crime, and you can do something about it. Following is a list of red flags:

A person may be a trafficking victim if he or she:

  • is not free to come and go as he or she wishes.
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts.
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work.
  • Has high security measures at work (boarded-up windows, opaque windows, bars on windows, security cameras, etc.).
  • Avoids eye contact.
  • Has few or no personal possessions.
  • Is not in control of his/her money.
  • Is not in control of his/her ID or passport.

If you spot any of these signs, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24/7 at 1-888-3373-888. If you see human trafficking Monday through Friday during daytime hours, call Marissa Castellanos at Catholic Charities in Louisville at 502-974-4947. To learn more about human trafficking, go online to www.polarisproject.org or www.rescueandrestoreky.org . Please learn what you can. You can make a difference!