Human trafficking soars at Kentucky Derby; here's how to help victims

Churchill Downs (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Churchill Downs (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Updated: Apr. 9, 2018 at 6:06 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As the Run for the Roses gets closer, officials are issuing an important reminder: major sporting events like the Kentucky Derby become huge magnets for human trafficking.

"The average age of sex trafficked victims ranges from 14 to 17, most are female, and we know that incidences of sex trafficking triple during the Kentucky Derby," Emily Neal, R.N., a forensic nurse specialist with the Kosair Charities Division of Forensic Pediatric Medicine, said in a press release.

>> RELATED: Helpful resources from the WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter

Officials say if you see something out of the ordinary -- say something.

Here are recommendations on what bystanders can do to recognize potential sex trafficked victims during Derby season:

  • Signs to watch for include young people who may appear overly sexualized for their age, do not possess or have control of their documentation such as driver's licenses or passports, and who are in the presence of an older, usually male adult, who is controlling them and their behavior.
  • Sexually trafficked victims may have tattoos to "brand" them, such as bar codes or the names of someone other than themselves.
  • They could be wearing clothes that are inappropriate for their age, are too revealing or are not climate appropriate.
  • They could be staying confined to one area, seemingly to "work" that area for customers.
  • They could have signs of trauma: bruises, lesions, black eyes or other marks that raise concern.
  • They could have two or more cell phones in their possession, taking calls from all of them.

Anyone who notices a potential problem should first call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

"The center will stay on the phone with you to help you get local resources, such as law enforcement, to intervene," Neal explained.

Bystanders can also get the attention of law enforcement officers nearby, and should clearly explain the warning signs they witnessed.

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