Human trafficking survivor reacts to local human trafficking vigil

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Monday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and Phoenix Rising held a candlelight vigil to honor those who have died because of trafficking and bring awareness to the non-profit that works with victims.

A human trafficking survivor spoke on the condition of anonymity and said the vigil is empowering. WNKY knows her identity.

She dealt with years of abuse and unmentionable torture from the time she was a young child into adulthood.

The survivor told us what it means to be a survivor.

“I am a survivor of familial trafficking and what that means is my primary trafficker was a family member. I was trafficked in the United States throughout the lower 48 states. The trafficking started before pre-school and lasted throughout my teen years. There’s very few states that I wasn’t taken to,” said the survivor.

Now, she wants to advocate for those suffering and hopes to encourage other survivors.

She explained what seeing the vigil take place means to her.

“Seeing that new people and their kids and other survivors feel comfortable coming out in the very, very bitter cold for that 10, 15 minutes means that they recognize that trafficking is real. Trafficking is here in the United States, in Kentucky, in Bowling Green, and this is a fight that is going to take the entire community,” said the survivor.

The survivor said one common sign of abuse are tattoos or branding that show ownership over a person.

“I have been through a lot of trauma and torture and things that most individuals think is only in a horror movie. That’s what people in our own country paid to for the privilege of doing to me as a child and you know the graphic details of that, at this point, are really insignificant, because the peace is that I overcame and am successful,” said the survivor.

She has a mark on her body as a result of her trafficking.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, one in five of runaway children are victims of sexual trafficking.

In Kentucky in 2019, at least 37 kids were trafficked according to humantraffickinghotline.com.

“Given that human trafficking is often overlooked and underreported because the crime is occurring on the margins of society and behind closed doors, the numbers are assumed to be substantially higher,” according to the Department of Education.

Phoenix Rising encourages all adults to be on the lookout for people who may need help.

Some signs to keep an eye out for are people being chaperoned by someone else who are not allowed to speak on their own and children who may be living in abusive situations.

Every adult in the state is a mandated reporter of child abuse and have the responsibility to report abuse to the proper authorities.

The survivor encourages everyone to report suspicious behavior whether you are sure or not.

She said she still struggles with mental, spiritual and physical problems following her abuse, but has gone to therapy to help her handle the extreme trauma.

She also says, common signs are similar to those of anyone abused or neglected: eating disorders, extreme shyness and many others.

“Education is key. No matter what area you work in, you can learn how to identify a trafficking victim. You can learn how to listen to someone who has been through extreme trauma. You can report. You can report suspected trafficking. You don’t have to have the full story to make a report about trafficking. So many individuals that I’ve come across tell me, ‘Well, I’m not totally sure it is trafficking’ and I want people to understand, your job is not as a police officer. You are not an investigator. You are not a prosecuting attorney. Your job as a citizen is if you see an adult, a child, anything that constitutes trafficking, pick up the phone and call the national hotline,” said the survivor.