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Human trafficking affects a large number of Kentuckians, due in part to the commonwealth’s location, poverty and homelessness. Victims’ advocates and a U of L researcher say more community support and awareness would help them better address the problem. The panel spoke on WFPL’s In Conversation on Friday.
The guests were:
- Jaime Thompson, Program Director at People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) Coalition of Kentucky
- Summer Dickerson, Founder of the Women of the Well Ministry
- Dr. Jennifer Middleton, Director of the University of Louisville’s Human Trafficking Research Initiative
Dr. Jennifer Middleton said human trafficking affects people the commonwealth. Kentucky youth are especially vulnerable to the crime, according to Middleton’s research, which found that many victims interacted with the child welfare system before being trafficked.
“When we think about enhancing training for child welfare workers and first responders, it’s important for us to focus on those red flags and training them on how to respond,” Middleton said. “We really also need to make sure that we have trauma-informed services in place for [victims].”
Women of the Well Ministry Founder Summer Dickerson is a human trafficking survivor, and her organization supports victims of the crime. Dickerson said many victims consider trafficking as a way of life, and many have no safe place to go if they escape.
“I would like to see us be able to get a better regulation on things and for people to get a better understanding, because what’s the point of trying to help a victim and you put them right back in a situation where they’re getting pimped out?” Dickerson asked. “We have to touch all the other issues surrounding [human trafficking] as well. That way, maybe we can even prevent it from becoming a human trafficking situation.”
Jaime Thompson, Program Director at People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) Coalition of Kentucky, said there has been a rise in the number of open human trafficking cases in Kentucky. Thompson’s organization raises awareness about human trafficking and supports organizations and initiatives working to curb the crime, and she said residents can help by looking for signs that someone is being trafficked.
“If they’re not able to make eye contact … if they don’t have identification, if they’re not able to answer questions, if they’re also disheveled or they look in a certain demeanor that they could be being harmed: these are all red flags that you want to ask for,” Thompson said.