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Kentucky Attorney General Wants to See Final OK On Bill That Will Help Prosecute Human Traffickers

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Flickr/Ira Gelb
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Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear wants to see final approval of a federal bill that allows owners of websites like ‘Back Page’ to be prosecuted for crimes like human trafficking. The U.S. House and Senate have both passed the legislation H.R. 1865. It now has to be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.

Beshear said that law would give states more power to investigate and prosecute traffickers who take advantage of those who are most vulnerable.     

“A couple of online sites, specifically Back Page, have served as an online haven for sexual slavery allowing people to post ads for human trafficking victims that result in oftentimes young girls or young boys being raped multiple times a day,” said Beshear. 

The ‘MeToo’ movement has brought the issue of sexual abuse into the national spotlight. But Beshear said many of the most vulnerable victims don’t have a chance to speak out because they’re drawn into sex trafficking when they’re 12-to-14 years old. 

“Sex trafficking often takes advantage of young teenagers, many who are runaways, immigrants, homeless or who have already been victims of abuse," the attorney general said.

Beshear said collaborating with local law enforcement, like Louisville Metro Police, is critical for getting human traffickers off the street.             

“During the farm machinery show we worked with LMPD on the most successful human trafficking sting we’ve ever seen in Kentucky with 17 separate arrests. And every single one of those arrests though, was an arrest of a Kentuckian," said Beshear. "It shows that it is in our commonwealth happening every day, but we’re doing more about it than we ever have before.”

The victims of human trafficking or sexual assault often don’t speak publicly or even privately about the abuse.

At Hope Harbor, a sexual trauma recovery center in Bowling Green, Executive Director Melissa Whitley said many young victims don’t seek counseling until years later, when they’re adults, but the recent ‘Me Too’ movement is having an impact.

“Now I think it is probably shifting a little, so we are seeing more young adults that are starting to speak out a little sooner.”

Whitley said Hope Harbor works with about 250 to 300 clients a year who are of all ages and genders. 

Anyone who is a victim or concerned about a loved one can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline 24 hours a day 888-373-7888.

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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