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.
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.