Herald-Leader Editorial

It's good to know the grim statistics of young people being sold for sex, drugs

December 26, 2013 

Certainly no one broke into applause when the first report on child victims of human trafficking was released last month.

It presented a grim reality. In the four months from June, when a stronger human trafficking measure became law in Kentucky, to late October, 20 reports of human trafficking involving 25 children were recorded.

They included children as young as 1 who had been sold, usually for money or drugs, often by people entrusted with their care.

As horrific as it is to contemplate these facts, knowing them is good and important. It is reason for applause that the long and hard effort by Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, and others to protect the victims of human trafficking and punish the perpetrators is bearing fruit.

It is impossible to address what isn't acknowledged. The law's provision for an annual report changes that.

Equally important, the legislation provides for more training for law enforcement and a path to provide treatment rather than prosecution for victims.

Prostitution is a crime, and it has been common for women involved to be charged criminally, even if they have been coerced into the trade

Training helps officers recognize the signs that human trafficking, or slavery, is in play. With that knowledge they are more likely to uncover the people responsible and prosecute them, connecting the victim to appropriate services rather than putting her in jail.

The law also allows police and prosecutors to seize and sell the assets of adults who sell children. The punishment hits at the economic motive behind trafficking, and the money raised is appropriately earmarked to provide services for victims.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services produces the annual report and is responsible for coordinating the efforts of its own agencies, private social services agencies, law enforcement and the courts.

This first report details efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking, particularly among law enforcement agencies, and outlines further outreach that's planned.

One likely result is that for the first few years that reports about human trafficking will increase. That's what happens when things long ignored or misunderstood finally are acknowledged.

However, Kentucky's open-eyed approach and stronger sanctions are significant steps forward in protecting these vulnerable, exploited young people. That is something to celebrate.

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