Young people vulnerable to sex trafficking in Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- ABC 36 first reported Monday about a tragic case: an 18-year-old accused of violently attacking a man while negotiating money for sex.

Police say 18-year-old Tara Musgrove robbed a man and would not let him go, holding him at knife point as she pushed him inside a car.

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It made us consider the story behind the reported crime.

A sergeant at the Fayette County jail says Tara Musgrove does not want to tell ABC 36 her story, but it does make us wonder how many people are out there who are barely old enough to drive, not old enough to drink alcohol, but having sex for money.

Marissa Castellanos is the Human Trafficking Program Director at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

She says it is hard to track how many people are exploited into prostitution and other forms of commercial sex. Still, she says data shows in the U.S. between  100,000 and 300,000 kids are at risk every year.

“We might think initially that it’s an urban issue, but it’s happening in even the most rural parts of the state,” Castellanos said.

She says that is partially because sex trafficking has largely moved indoors and online.

“It is happening at an alarming rate, even given the fact that we’re identifying some cases,” Castellanos said.

According to Castellanos, demand is a root cause.

“There’s money to be made so there are going to be people who sell women and children for sex,” Castellanos said.

Though people of all ages are trafficked, Castellanos says children and teens can be particularly vulnerable.

Traffickers sort of have a radar for vulnerability and they look for folks who are vulnerable to being exploited. It can be hard to acknowledge such an ugly part of our communities, but Castellanos says throughout the state, people she talks to always want to know more.

“The response I always get is, ‘I didn’t know. This is awful and what can I do to help?'”

Castellanos says a good first step is educating ourselves and our friends and families.

She says you can also change your purchasing habits to buy products that support victims, watch documentaries, educate young people, get involved in local non-profits, and be a foster parent to vulnerable children.

If you need help, contact the National Trafficking Hotline at 1 888 373 7888.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!