Donna Jackson’s volunteer efforts call for her to deal with a topic that’s part of the seamy underbelly of society, one people don’t often like to discuss — human trafficking.
After retiring in 2013, Jackson, a former certified public accountant with Commonwealth Credit Union, wanted to do something for the community. She had heard of human trafficking but had no idea it occurred in the capital city.
“I asked myself, ‘How could I be helpful to help others?’” Jackson said. “I just think we all need to take more action for our community, to care what happens.”
Jackson dedicated her focus on human trafficking to the victims.
“A lot of people think this just involves forced sexual activities, things we read about or see on television. And it does,” Jackson said. “But it can be any activity where someone is forced to do something where another gains monetary benefit.
“Maybe it would help to see what the law says, to define what human trafficking is.”
Human trafficking law
That law, KRS 529-010, states, “Human trafficking refers to criminal activity whereby one or more persons are subjected to engaging in: a) Forced labor or service; or b) commercial sexual activity through the use of force, fraud, coercion except that if the trafficked person is under the age of 18, then commercial sexual activity need not involve force, fraud or coercion.”
“Those under 18 are victims,” Jackson said. “They cannot consent.”
Human trafficking, by whatever name it’s called, has been around since the beginning of time, she said. Through history, it’s been called things like indentured servitude and slavery.
“It’s still happening, it’s happening right here in our town, and it’s not just in poor neighborhoods or among the poor,” she said. “It reaches to the highest echelons of society.”
As Jackson’s knowledge grew, she volunteered in areas where she hoped she could help.
“I worked with the Rape Crisis Center and with the Women’s Jail Ministry through First United Methodist Church,” she said.
To help identify potential problems, she became a Girl Scout leader and works with the Alateen Program at Franklin County High School.
Awareness is the key
The key to preventing problems, she said, is community awareness and to watch out for what could be some kind of human trafficking issue.
“Many times, people — usually women — are jailed and treated like criminals when law enforcement needs to be going after the ones — usually men — who are making money by using these women,” she said.
She says the “buyers” of services — sex, forced labor on farms and restaurants, or others — are enabling trafficking to continue. Jackson said it especially occurs in the richest countries such as the United States, Germany and France.
“In Thailand, 25 percent of that country’s gross national product (GNP) comes from sex trafficking,” she said. “And a lot of that involves people from this country – mainly men – going there and perpetuating the horrors.”
Locally, the Franklin County Human Trafficking Task Force is working to raise awareness. Jackson is an integral part of that group.
“I’ve received two awards for my work,” she said, “one from the Interfaith Council for compassion and justice and the other from Church Women United that honored me as a compassionate person in the community.
“These feel nice, but I hope they result in helping raise awareness — I just can’t say that enough — to this blight and to people who are being victimized.”
To report suspected or suspicioned human trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 (TTY 711) or text 233733.