Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 20, 2013

The first report

2013 human trafficking law is having the desired effect

The Independent

ASHLAND — The Human Trafficking Victim’s Rights Act approved by the 2013 General Assembly already is having at least one of its desired effects by making legislators and other Kentuckians more aware human trafficking is a growing problem in the state. From that knowledge, legislators may enact laws to allow law enforcement officers to more aggressively arrest and prosecute those involved with human trafficking in Kentucky.

The new law recently generated it first required report which found child protection officials in Kentucky investigated 20 allegations of human trafficking involving 25 children from late June through mid-October. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the cases included children prostituting themselves for drugs and a guardian offering to sell a child for money or place the child in a prostitution ring. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services submitted the report to the Legislative Research Commission.

Not all victims of human trafficking are children. Sometimes young women are brought to this country with the promise of a job or even marriage and forced into prostitution once they arrive. Migrant workers also can be easy targets for human traffickers. So are illegal aliens of both sexes and all ages. Because they are not in the U.S. legally, many are afraid to report crimes against them.

Gretchen Hunt, a staff attorney for the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, says the new law is raising awareness of the problem of trafficking children. Indeed, it is. From comments made during the debate on the Human Trafficking and Victim’s  Rights, it was clear some legislators thought human trafficking was a problem in other states but not Kentucky. They now know better and hopefully will be more open to considering tougher laws to deal with the problem.

The new law does something else. No longer can law enforcement officers charge victims of human trafficking with prostitution and other crimes. Instead, it rightly treats them as victims of crime, not perpetrators.