Children prostituting themselves for drugs. A child under 18 stripping for money. A guardian offering to sell a child for money or place the child in a prostitution ring. Those allegations surfaced in cases reviewed this year by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The cases also were part of the cabinet’s first Kentucky Child Victims of Human Trafficking report to the Legislative Research Commission.
“It tells us that Kentucky is unfortunately a state that is rife with human trafficking,” said Gretchen Hunt, staff attorney for the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs. But Hunt said the report also shows that the new law is working to raise awareness and respond to children who are trafficked by non-caretakers — by boyfriends, by pimps, by people other than family members.
The big change that the new law brings is that the victims are no longer viewed as criminals, and Cabinet for Health and Family Services child protection officials can help them even if the perpetrator trafficking them is not a family member, said Hunt.
The report — and the new law — capture information that would have slipped through the cracks before, said Marissa Castellanos, human trafficking program manager with Catholic Charities of Louisville. Cases involving the 14 allegations in the report in which the known perpetrator was not in a caretaker role might not have come to the attention of child protection officials, she said.
Kentucky’s first report on child victims of human trafficking said the allegations investigated involving children 17 and younger included:
- Victims prostituting themselves in exchange for drugs.
- A victim having a pimp.
- A victim stripping for money.
- A guardian offering to sell the victim for money or into a prostitution ring.
- Victims working as prostitutes in a massage parlor.
- A victim from another state running away.
- Victims advertising for prostitution.
Kentucky is described in the report as the only state to ensure that all child victims of human trafficking are not charged with prostitution or status offenses — offenses that are crimes only because of a juvenile’s age — committed in connection to being trafficked. If a child is a victim of human trafficking, the law now says that they shall not be charged or adjudicated guilty with status offenses such as truancy or running away that are connected to the human trafficking, said Hunt. People who buy houses or property with money they made from trafficking children are now subject to having that property seized, Castellanos said.
The report details the Cabinet’s efforts to ensure the safety of child victims, collaboration among multiple agencies during the course of investigations and response and continuing efforts to better serve victims.”These are children traumatized by one of the worst crimes you can imagine,” said Hunt, “and they deserve to be treated as victims rather than criminals.”
Learn more at Valerie Honeycutt Spears’ The Lexington Herald-Leader article: Report: Kentucky authorities investigated 20 allegations of child human trafficking.