FRANKFORT—The Kentucky attorney general’s office, Kentucky Baptist Convention, and other organizations joined together Jan. 11 to mark Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
“We gather in support of victims of human trafficking, past, present and future, and reaffirm our commitment to protect the innocent and prosecute those who exploit them,” said Attorney General Andy Beshear, who hosted the event at the Capitol Rotunda.
Human trafficking cases reported to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services have grown from 51 in 2013 to 169 in 2015, an increase of 50 percent each year.
Beshear said some victims were forced into prostitution, while others were forced to do physical labor or provide services against their will.
“It is a $150 billion industry worldwide and a $32 billion industry in the United States,” Beshear said. “But let’s call it what it really is, and that’s slavery.”
Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, and chairman of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Committee on Public Affairs, said many people do not recognize the signs of human trafficking.
“If the people of the commonwealth think this is someone else’s problem at some other place, they’ll never develop the ability to see what is all around us,” York said. He added that law enforcement is certainly a big part of the solution, and called Beshear’s efforts essential.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention announced last year it would not do business with hotels that are not serious about fighting human trafficking. As the state’s largest religious organization with 750,000 members, KBC hopes corporate partners are encouraged to provide employees with human trafficking awareness education.
York said the response from the hotel industry to the KBC policy has been overwhelming.
“You see their industry associations have said they’re on board,” York said. “We’re offering them free training, so they really have nothing to lose. Anybody that wouldn’t accept free training to help their people spot victimization, there’s something wrong.”
WDRB-TV in Louisville donated production services to create a human trafficking awareness video that will be used to train employees at participating hotels, convention centers and other businesses involved in the travel industry.
Other organizations participating in Human Trafficking Awareness Day included the Kentucky Hotel and Travel Industry, the Kentucky Trucking Association, Catholic Charities and Free 2 Hope. (KT)