Advocates hope to raise human trafficking awareness ahead of Kentucky Derby

05/02/2017 05:37 PM

As an advocate for victims of human trafficking, Cindy McCain says she hopes to see the day when her work isn’t needed.

“I’d like to put myself out of work,” McCain, wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain, told reporters Tuesday before the second annual “Hats Off” luncheon benefitting the Kristy Love Foundation. “… I’d like to be able to hopefully curb and stop the epidemic of human trafficking.”

McCain, who serves on the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council and the Arizona Governor’s Council on Human Trafficking, and Attorney General Andy Beshear were the featured speakers at luncheon and fundraiser for the group.

The Kristy Love Foundation, led by human trafficking survivor Angela Renfro, offers shelter and helps victims of human trafficking as they recover from the tumultuous and traumatic lives they’ve led.

“Part of the problem in all this is helping people understand what the issue is and that it is happening right here,” she said. “Everyone in this room and probably most people in Kentucky have seen human trafficking. They just didn’t know what they were looking at.”

Human trafficking typically follows big sporting events, making Louisville and surrounding communities ripe for the illicit trade with the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

McCain and Beshear say they hope people will recognize the signs of human trafficking when they see them.

McCain says she tells people to “trust your gut.”

“I tell people if your gut tells you something’s wrong then report it,” she said. “You may save a life by doing that and maybe there is nothing going on, but unless we’re vigilant on this issue, especially with regards to children, we’re never going to solve the problem.”

Beshear urged Louisville residents to be the “eyes and ears” for the attorney general’s office.

“This is our city, this is our state, this is our Derby, and we shouldn’t let anything taint it,” he told reporters. “So be on the lookout for people who seem out of place; for younger folks that don’t seem to have a parent or guardian nearby that may actually be branded with tattoos that show ownership, that show people that have turned them into slaves; people that aren’t quite sure what city or state that they’re in, that don’t have identification on them.”

“You might be the person that ultimately saves that child,” he added.

Beshear, whose office partnered with Louisville police and helped rescue a 14-year-old human trafficking victim days before last year’s Kentucky Derby, says the criminal enterprise has continually grown in the state.

He commended various industries in Kentucky that have trained their employees to recognize suspected human trafficking.

“If every hotel worker, truck driver, delivery person, clergy member, public school teacher … knows the signs and reports, there will be no place for traffickers to hide,” Beshear said. “We will and can build a better Kentucky, but it starts at events like this. It starts with people like Angela Renfro.”


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