Kentucky human trafficking laws complimented

By Joy Priest

Kentucky has ideal laws concerning human trafficking, according to a top expert.

Economic status and geographic location play a major role in the victimization of young girls and women, said Sarah Buel, director of the Center for Family Justice at Arizona State University.

Buel, a Harvard law graduate who presented her lecture “Coercion and Agency in Human Trafficking” Wednesday afternoon to 90 people at the UK College of Law, cited the national welfare system and Border States as major enablers to sexual traffickers.

“Welfare has to be our primary safety net,” Buel said. “The perpetrator isn’t going to give us child support while we’re fleeing. You cannot support y­­ourself and your children on what they give you for welfare in this country.”

Geography is a primary factor of sex slavery among women. Areas around the border see an increased incidence of sex trafficking and the exploitation of women.

“This isn’t just a Kentucky problem,” Carol Jordan said about domestic violence against women. Jordan is the director of the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women.

Buel, who is a survivor herself, said she didn’t start out in the legal area of human trafficking but got into it as victims started to come into her office as girlfriends of gang members or illegal emigrants from Mexico.

“Nobody would take these cases because it’s too dangerous,” Buel said.

Human trafficking is defined as the use of force, threat or coercion for a variety of commercial purposes including sexual exploitation and forced labor, but is linked with money laundering, guns and drug trafficking.

“What drug traffickers have found out is if (they) sell you a kilo of cocaine, it’s gone, (they) can’t make any more money from it,” Buel said. “But with a woman they can keep money coming in.”

Lack of financial support for these victims is a huge problem. It costs around $2.5 million to prosecute a domestic violence homicide, and often sex and labor abuse overlap, according to Buel’s lecture.

“What do you think human trafficking is?” Buel said. “It’s a slave trade.”

Buel commended Kentucky’s laws concerning human trafficking, saying that they were ideal for legal combatants of the issue, like herself and her colleagues.

“Kentucky you ought to be proud,” Buel said. “You have some good (human trafficking) statutes.”