Dozens of social workers and law enforcement personnel are now better prepared to identify and prevent human trafficking thanks to recent training.
The class, taught by nationally recognized expert Dottie Laster, was designed to help prevent trafficking, a modern day form of slavery.
There are an estimated 100,000 U.S. citizen children exploited in the commercial sex industry annually, according to the U.S. State Department. Cases have been investigated in all 50 states.
In previous years an investigation into organized crime in Houston, Texas revealed minors from Kansas who were trafficked and forced into prostitution.
The recent training focused on the supply and demand of human trafficking, according to Secretary of State Phyllis Gilmore.
“The blame does not just lie with the perpetrators who enslave and subjugate, but also with anyone who knowingly uses products or services that rely on the exploitation of others,” she said. “It’s important for social workers and law enforcement in our state to be well informed about modern-day slavery and how to rescue victims.
Approximately 140 Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) social workers and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers attended one of the three classes.
Laster told training participants that criminal traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control and exploit their victims by forcing them into prostitution, domestic servitude or forced labor. The class emphasized how to identify human trafficking victims by recognizing factors that indicate the practice. Participants also gained an understanding of the mindset of a victim who may not be aware of their victimhood or feel comfortable seeking help.
”Everyone walked out with something new and a broader understanding of the problem,” said Toni Schuckman, DCF Wichita assistant regional director.
In previous years, an investigation into organized crime in Houston revealed Kansas minors who were trafficked and forced into prostitution.
Following the employee and law enforcement training, Laster delivered a human trafficking overview to educate faith-based and community leaders in Johnson County.  Laster led the training overview of human trafficking awareness and facilitated a question and answer session.
“Dialogue was dynamic and the audience was engaged,” said Deputy Secretary Pilato, who also serves on the Kansas Human Trafficking Advisory Board.
Laster said she looks forward to returning to Kansas in the future and building on the foundation created through the recent training sessions.
“I was so honored to tour Kansas and meet such dedicated professionals who are making Kansas safe for trafficking victims, especially children, and unwelcome for traffickers,” she said.
Kansas statutes related to human trafficking require a prison term of 25 years to life if the victims of sex trafficking are under 14 years old. State statute also deems that even if a minor participates willingly, they are still the victim of trafficking. All who knowingly benefit from human trafficking are guilty and can be prosecuted under Kansas law.