LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Child protection officials in Kentucky investigated 20 allegations of human trafficking involving 25 children from late June through mid-October, a state report said.
The cases included children prostituting themselves for drugs and a guardian offering to sell a child for money or place the child in a prostitution ring, the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1ks7AuN) reports. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services submitted the report to the Legislative Research Commission.
The annual report is required by the Human Trafficking Victim's Rights Act, a state law that went into effect this year.
"It tells us that Kentucky is unfortunately a state that is rife with human trafficking," said Gretchen Hunt, staff attorney for the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs.
Hunt said the new law is raising awareness about trafficking of children by non-caretakers — boyfriends, pimps and other non-family members.
One big change as a result of the law is that victims are no longer viewed as criminals, Hunt said. Also, state child protection officials can help them even if the perpetrator trafficking them is not a family member.
The report — and the new law — capture information that would have slipped through the cracks before, said Marissa Castellanos, human trafficking program manager with Catholic Charities of Louisville.
The cabinet likely would have heard about the six cases in the report involving a child's caretaker, Castellanos said. But cases involving the 14 allegations in the report in which the known perpetrator was not in a caretaker role might have not come to the attention of child protection officials, she said.
Kentucky's first report on child victims of human trafficking said the allegations investigated involving children 17 and younger included:
—Victims prostituting themselves in exchange for drugs.
—A victim stripping for money.
—A guardian offering to sell the victim for money or into a prostitution ring.
—Victims working as prostitutes in a massage parlor.
—Victims advertising for prostitution.
In the report, three of the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated. In those cases, there was no evidence found that the children met the legal definition of a human trafficking victim. Two pending cases appeared to have enough evidence to substantiate allegations against a caretaker.
Other cases were still in the early stages of investigation.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com