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Louisville organization hosts conference focused on identifying, stopping labor trafficking

With so many human trafficking efforts focused on sex trafficking, organizers say it's important to make sure everyone knows the signs of labor trafficking, too.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Over the last 13 years, Catholic Charities of Louisville has worked to help hundreds of survivors of labor trafficking get back on their feet. This week, they take center stage as they host the only National Labor Trafficking Conference in the country.

"With human trafficking, a lot of times were familiar with sex trafficking, and not so much labor," said Marissa Castellanos, the program director of Bakhita Empowerment. Bakhita Empowerment provides direct assistance to trafficking survivors through Catholic Charities. 

"We see at least a third of all folks we serve throughout Kentucky are survivors of labor trafficking," she said.

Catholic Charities of Louisville is leading the charge in the Commonwealth -  and the country - when it comes to human trafficking.

The organization has been working for more than a decade to help survivors. Starting in 2018, they hold a yearly conference to share that knowledge with others.

It's virtual this year and will have more than 250 participants from 28 different states. Those participants represent direct service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, health care workers, and private businesses.

"In the field, there's generally a lack of knowledge about the issue of labor trafficking, certainly there is also in the larger public," Castellanos said. "There's less access to resources and training to support survivors and investigate and prosecute these cases."

As this group meets virtually, they share a reminder for the community about where and how to look for trafficking. There's no set people or profession; this can be anywhere.

"An individual is not innately vulnerable to labor trafficking," Castellanos said. "They're vulnerable to labor trafficking because of the systems in place around us that don't sufficiently protect workers and ensure employers are treating their workers well."

The conference runs through Friday morning. If you were unable to attend but still want to learn, they're recording the sessions and will share those videos on their website.

Contact Hayley Minogue at hminogue@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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