Conference to raise human trafficking awareness

Emma Austin

Phoenix Rising, a local non-profit organization working to prevent human trafficking, will be partnering with Broadway United Methodist Church this Saturday, Oct. 15, to host its first Human Trafficking Conference.

Several speakers are scheduled to appear at the event to bring awareness to human trafficking as well as educate the community on the issue.

“People would be surprised about what goes on in Bowling Green with human trafficking,” Kim Dippolito, Phoenix Rising board member, said. “You think of it as just happening in other countries, where people are driving women across borders, but it encompasses a lot of things, not just prostitution. It encompasses child labor –– any kind of forced labor.”

Missy Cunningham, Phoenix Rising board president, said the goal of the event is to raise awareness of the problem, especially regarding what goes on in Kentucky.

 Bowling Green’s position on Interstate 65, one of the main highways connecting the southern part of the country to the north, makes it the perfect area for people to be trafficking, Cunningham said.

“Any town up and down 65 is subject to traffickers,” Cunningham said. “[It’s] easy to transport, just like it is for drugs.”

Saturday’s event will offer a panel of human trafficking survivors, including Tajuan McCarty, founder of The Wellhouse, a rescue and recovery organization for victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

The panel will also include Jennifer Kempton, who founded Survivor’s Ink to “empower human trafficking survivors by breaking the psychological chains of enslavement through beautifying, removing or covering their physical scars, markings, and brandings,” according to the organization’s website.

EmpowerU Radio founder Kelley Alsobrook will also be on the panel, as well as members of Women of the Well, a Louisville-based ministry that serves human trafficking and domestic violence survivors.

A representative from the attorney general’s office is scheduled to speak on local victim services. There will also be a segment with law enforcement who will speak about what they’re doing to combat the problem in the community.

A large component of Phoenix Rising is to educate the community on the issue, as well as how they can be involved in preventing trafficking, Dippolito said.

“You would be really surprised to hear that this is the kind of stuff that’s going on in our own yard,” Dippolito said.

The event will be Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Broadway United Methodist Church, located at 1323 Melrose St. Onsite registration opens at 7:30 a.m. Preregistration is also available by emailing [email protected].

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emmacaustin.