LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Baptist Convention will not do business with hotels that are not serious about fighting human trafficking.
With 750,000 members, the state’s largest religious organization is hoping an internal policy will encourage corporate partners to provide employees with human trafficking awareness education.
Human trafficking ensnares about 27 million people worldwide, and while the numbers in Kentucky are considerably smaller, the situation is no less startling.
Advocacy groups say children as young as 2 months old have been victims of sexual exploitation. Kentucky’s children are twice as likely than adults to be trafficked, with the average girl groomed for prostitution being between 12 and 14 years old.
“That isn’t prostitution. It’s human trafficking,” said KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood.
“Going forward, our intention is that we will forego business with hotels that don’t participate in this training,” he said.
Chitwood explains the convention’s position in a letter to potential vendors and lists several resources offering free training.
Among the list is the Kentucky attorney general’s office, which announced on Tuesday a partnership that will seek to offer human trafficking training to Kentucky’s commercial drivers and truck-stop employees.
“Part of my mission as AG is to protect and seek justice for victims of abuse, including individuals being sold for sex or labor,” said Attorney General Andy Beshear.
“Whether it’s the trucking industry, the faith-based community or other law enforcement agencies, we must work together to help all Kentuckians recognize the signs of human trafficking,” he said.
Beshear told Kentucky Today that some Kentuckians do not believe trafficking occurs in the state, or if it does, it only happens in urban areas to non-citizens.
But it is a $32 billion industry in which 46 percent of traffickers are known by – or even relatives of – the victims.
“We need to help all Kentuckians recognize the signs of human trafficking and make them aware that it exists in every county in Kentucky,” Beshear said.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, more incidents of human trafficking reported in Kentucky occurred at a hotel or motel than at any other location.
Such venues are favored by traffickers because of the anonymity of paying in cash and the ease of relocating the illicit operation night after night.
“As Christians, we must not stop at making others aware of these injustices,” said KBC staffer Kristen Drake. “We must take action and fight for the freedom and restoration of victims.”
Drake was key in creating a workshop for Kentucky Baptist churches to not only learn about human trafficking, but discover ways they can be a changing force. The one-day workshop, sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, will be held at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Louisville on Oct. 22.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention holds numerous events and meetings in towns across the state each year and draws thousands of attendees from nearly 2,400 affiliated churches.
“We want to partner with hotels that have taken steps to prevent human trafficking, establishments that exemplify great corporate citizenship, and are ready to put a stop to the use of hotels for criminal activity,” Chitwood said.
In November, messengers to the Kentucky Baptist Convention Annual Meeting will vote on a human trafficking resolution.