Learning to Recognize, Rescue and Respond to the Trafficking Victims All Around Us

Trafficking victims-exploited men, women and children-are all around us, but we usually don’t see them. We may not really be aware of trafficking or we don’t know what to look for. In Kentucky, however, a partnership between the state of Kentucky and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Louisville, is working to change that.

Kentucky Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking helps Kentucky communities identify trafficking victims by training law enforcement, health care workers, social workers, and other community members to recognize the signs and situations of both sex and labor trafficking.

The program also provides services to victims of trafficking. When they emerge from the shadows-through escape or rescue-they come with nothing, which makes them extremely vulnerable. The program provides immediate support so that they are not re-victimized while they work on recovering and rebuilding their lives.

In providing recovery support to trafficking victims, the program gives survivors the opportunity to make as many choices as possible-what they want to eat, what they want to wear, where they want to live.

“They have been made to feel less than human, deprived of the ability to make their own choices,” said Marissa Castellanos, program manager of Kentucky Rescue and Restore. “Just being treated with a measure of dignity and respect and being able to make choices, even very basic choices, helps them feel human again.”

From there, the program provides a range of services including case management, counseling, health care, and assistance with legal, immigration, and criminal court issues. These services go a long way in helping survivors value themselves again.

“We show them that they have infinite value, and that we will be there to help no matter what was done to them,” said Castellanos. “Their dignity can’t be taken away. It’s always there.”

Human trafficking is a hidden crime. Most people are either not aware of trafficking or observant of the signs. Further, traffickers work to hide their victims. These victims could be a young girl sold by her parents and trapped as a domestic servant for years, a man lured to the United States with a good job prospect but then kept in hard farm labor with threats of harm to his family back home, or a runaway teen girl rented out for sex by her older boyfriend.