Human trafficking occurs everywhere and at all times of the year, but certainly there is an uptick in the Louisville area leading up to the Kentucky Derby, held on May 6 this year.
LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 3, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Human trafficking occurs everywhere and at all times of the year, but certainly there is an uptick in the Louisville area during Kentucky Derby time, according to Naomi Warnick, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at the University of Louisville.
"We typically think of human trafficking as sex trafficking, which is certainly more common, especially during Derby time," Warnick said.
Warnick suggests members of the public keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Judgment should be used when making contact with anyone potentially involved in the situation, says Olivia Mittel, associate dean for medical student affairs in the UofL School of Medicine.
"I think it's important for people to become familiar with the various aspects of trafficking and recognize that many people are at risk; there's not just one way. Asking the question 'is anyone asking you to do something you don't want to do?' is one way to gauge whether someone is at risk."
Warnick and Mittel are developing educational content for health care providers to help them recognize human trafficking and provide care for those who are trafficked or at risk of being trafficked. The project specifically relates to trauma-informed communication with those who are affected by trafficking.
Children are sex trafficked victims, too
While there are some differences in research results on the degree to which adult sex trafficking occurs during the days surrounding large sports event like the Kentucky Derby, there's no question that any child used for sex is being exploited and abused.
Melissa Currie is Kosair Charities Professor and Endowed Chair for Pediatric Forensic Medicine and chief of the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine in the UofL Department of Pediatrics and Norton Children's Hospital. "Child sexual trafficking, also known as commercial sexual exploitation, is a form of child abuse that can involve males and females of any age," Currie said.
"The average age of entry into trafficking in the United States is 13 years old. It can involve the child being advertised, solicited or otherwise exploited for commercial sex acts. The exchange can involve money, drugs, food, attention or housing—particularly in children who have run away from home—in return for sex acts."
Currie said that parents and other adults can and should watch for signs of sex trafficking of children. "Social media can be a facilitator of trafficking. Parents should know the individuals their children are spending time with," she said. "Red flags include spending time with people who are older, having expensive items that the family is unclear how the child obtained, signs of substance use disorder and changes in school performance. Risk factors include a history of abuse of neglect, lack of a strong support network, runaway behavior, being marginalized by society and substance use disorder."
Children won't necessarily recognize that they are being used and exploited, Currie said. "Victims often don't recognize that they're being victimized and may identify their trafficker as a romantic partner. This is a complex crime that targets our most vulnerable children."
To report signs of adult or child sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1-888-373-7888, or contact a local police department.
Jill Scoggins, University of Louisville, 502-650-2624, [email protected]
SOURCE University of Louisville