Derby presents challenge for human trafficking victims' advocate - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Derby presents challenge for human trafficking victims' advocates

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - An influx of visitors during Kentucky Derby season have anti-human trafficking groups working to find victims, although their results are often hard to track.

Prostitution activity on the sites Backpage and Craigslist increase this time of year, and some of those involved are human traffickers, said Matt Clark, director of the Redlight Project in Louisville.

"They believe (Derby) is a huge opportunity for them to profit from these victims and from the sexual acts that they force and coerce these victims to perform," Clark said.

Clark said it's hard to determine the effectiveness of outreach efforts because of the shadowy nature of human trafficking.

Some groups have tried collaborating with local hotels to provide toiletries containing a hotline for victims, while Redlight is focused on face-to-face contact with potential victims, Clark said.

"We are not always able to gauge or track the full outcome of the situation," he said.

Another group, Rescue and Restore Kentucky, is putting tubes of lip balm -- including the message "There is hope" and a hotline for victims to call -- in local hotels this Derby season.

The lip balm will be "discreet" and it will be up to hotel staff to provide the product to people, said Amy Leenerts, the founder of the advocacy group Free 2 Hope.

Last year, organizations put bars of soap in hotels with the hotline on a label. Leenerts said she understood that two victims had been pulled out of human trafficking rings as a result of the campaign.

For additional information and resources concerning human trafficking call 1-888-3737-888 or visit www.rescueandrestoreky.org or www.redlightproject.org.

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