By Amy Taylor
A panel discussion by five women, including four members of the Nelson County Human Trafficking Task Force, followed a presentation Friday at Nazareth by Holly Austin Smith, a former child sex slave and victims advocate.
The March 21 discussion was part of a public presentation hosted by the Sisters of Charity
of Nazareth and funded by a violence prevention grant from Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent organization of Flaget Memorial Hospital.
Panel member Adeline Fehribach, SCN, serves as provincial for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’s Western Province.
“Your story illustrates that high school is too late (to educate about sex trafficking),” Fehribach told Smith. “This message needs to be given in grade school — even though there’s going to be a lot of resistance to that.”
The sister was struck most by Smith’s statement that as a teen, she wanted someone to acknowledge that she was alive.
“I come out of a church background,” Fehribach said. “We’re not doing enough, as a church, for our young people. I don’t care where they go, as long as there are responsible adults who let them know, ‘I see you.’ Let’s challenge our churches to work with our youth.”
According to task force member Morel Jones, program coordinator for Doors to Hope in Louisville, “Community awareness and involvement are important.” However, she added, “We can’t stop there. We need to strengthen the task force so that we have a comprehensive response to human trafficking. We need to deal with the legal, social, emotional and medical needs of victims. They need beds and emergency shelter.”
Task force member Nichole Dathorne, an FBI victim specialist for the Louisville Division, has worked with a number of sexually exploited children.
“This is a tech-savvy world,” she said. “Kids are meeting predators online. Parents need to check their kids’ phones. They need to check where they chat. Kids can send naked pictures to each other, and they think that’s safe. We need to educate our parents, our teachers. It’s a dangerous world out there.”
Task force member Soha Saiyed is a staff attorney for the Rural Unit of the Legal Aid Society. She stressed the effect that media images have on children.
“Everything I see in fashion magazines, on YouTube, on TV — all those things tell me how I should or should not act or dress. When Miley Cyrus is naked in the media, she’s successful because we value young sexuality. Teens need to have the awareness that this is wrong. This is not why I’m valuable. I’m valuable for many other reasons.”
Saiyed called for communities to band together to watch over their children.
“We need to be more neighborly,” she said. “Maybe the parents are at work and the child is home alone. If we see that kids need help — why not help them?”
Task force member Marissa Castellanos serves as human trafficking program manager at Catholic Charities of Louisville.
Human trafficking training for key professionals like police officers and emergency workers has increased, she said. However, there must be more education for parents, teachers and children.
“There’s an argument that we can’t say words like ‘prostitution’ or ‘sex’ around kids,” she said. “I think we’re underestimating them. I know it’s ugly, but we have to talk about this with our children.”
If you suspect that you are dealing with a victim of human trafficking, call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 888-373-7888. If you are dealing with a victim Monday through Friday during daytime hours, call Marissa Castellanos at Catholic Charities of Louisville at 502-974-4947. You can also call Castellanos to set up a free human trafficking training. For more information on trafficking, visit RescueAndRestoreKy.org or SharedHope.org.
Amy Taylor is a member of the Nelson County Human Trafficking Task Force.