$1 million fed grant to aid in human trafficking battle in Kentucky

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday a $1 million federal Department of Justice grant that will help the state address findings from a two-year study on human trafficking in Kentucky.

The University of Louisville Human Trafficking Research Initiative’s “Project Pivot: Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Trafficking,” began when Beshear was attorney general. Now that he is governor, he says his administration will work to carry out the project’s recommendations.

“I have always made seeking justice for victims and fighting human trafficking part of my core mission,” he said. “The resources made possible through this grant will allow my administration to address research findings that will help us to better fight this scourge of human trafficking and save lives.”

They include the Department for Community Based Services creating an advisory council; launching a human trafficking and child labor screening tool to identify high-risk children; and hiring a full-time child protection specialist.

UofL Associate Professor Jennifer Middleton, who was the principal investigator of Project Pivot, described some of their findings. “We learned that child trafficking is primarily happening at the hands of family members – people in our community that we know, live next to or interact with. This has implications for how we educate our communities about child trafficking, as well as how we prepare child welfare workers and first responders to identify and respond to potential child victims.”

Donna Pollard, founder and CEO of Survivor’s Corner, whose goal is to empower trauma survivors, said she herself was a victim of child abuse, child marriage, and commercial sexual exploitation. “I know firsthand how critical the research conducted under Project PIVOT is for protecting those vulnerable to human trafficking. Knowledge is power in terms of both prevention and empowerment of survivors so they can reframe their pain into purpose and break exploitive cycles in their families.”

Pollard noted the abuse she suffered was only a snapshot of her story. “The rest is rooted in resilience, strength, and ultimately my ability to use my experience to advance the healing of tour communities.”

Her message to survivors was: “You are not alone. You have advocates and allies in each of us that have spoken to you here today. And you matter.”

If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at (888) 373-7888. Anti-trafficking hotline advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking.