‘It happens every day in every zip code in our city’: Local expert breaks down human trafficking in Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Jaime Thompson, a local social worker with the McNary Group, says people of all ages and genders are forced into human trafficking in Louisville.
“We don’t have a lot of quantitative data that’s really easy to flip off and say this is how many people are trafficked. But we know that in our city and our state, the trafficking numbers are showing us that people in our city, there’s higher sex trafficking, there’s also labor trafficking,” Thompson said.
Labor trafficking is the most frequent type of trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Victims are usually forced into the trade, coerced, or tricked through fraud.
The two most frequent types of labor trafficking are forced labor and debt bondage.
Sometimes the victims earn money, just not a fair wage, but a lot of times these people aren’t paid at all.
“They’re told that they have to continue to work at this restaurant, at this nail salon, at this farm until they pay off their debt,” Thompson said. “Then the trafficker says well now I have to charge you for your room and board, now I have to charge you for your food.”
She says this really impacts the vulnerable people in our community who fall through social safety nets like undocumented and people who don’t have a place to stay.
The panhandler you see on the street corner could even be a victim.
“If you see them every day at that same place, they may be being trafficked, they may have a trafficker saying you need to bring home this amount of money,” Thompson said. “So don’t intervene, don’t go up to this person and say ‘are you being trafficked?’ Treat them with dignity and understand they may be in an experience that you don’t know about.”
It’s not always strangers that are trafficking those vulnerable people. The latest research from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says familial trafficking is a big problem. A caretaker was alleged to be the perpetrator of human trafficking in 168 cases in 2021.
There are a lot of reasons why it can be hard to get out of that kind of situation.
“Oftentimes what people don’t realize is that there is trauma bonding that happens between the trafficker and the victim or survivor. That person is important to the person that’s been victimized so that means it’s not just a clean cut you’re out of this person’s life,” said Thompson.
Thompson was part of a team that published research on human trafficking in Louisville. You can find that full report here.
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