It’s hard to believe that for 144 years, people have gathered at Churchill Downs in South Louisville to watch the world’s fastest three-year-old thoroughbreds run for the roses.
The size of the purse, the suits and dresses, the hats and cocktails have changed somewhat over the years. But the traditions hold fast.
One wonders if the so-called “oldest profession” has also been a tradition at the Derby and related events. It’s certainly part of the modern festivities.
Researchers have demonstrated there’s a spike in human trafficking for sex during major sporting events, and the Derby is no exception. Women, girls and even some boys are being forced, coerced or drugged into stripping and sex acts.
It’s a shocking reality, this dark side of the Derby, but one every reveler can help curtail. When you’re out at a restaurant, the Chow Wagon or around Churchill Downs, be observant. There are red flags.
Following are a few of those signs to notice in a possible victim, according to Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Bakhita Empowerment Initiative:
- Avoiding eye contact and fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous or paranoid behavior.
- Malnourishment or signs of physical or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture.
- Having few personal possessions or no ID card or unable or not allowed to speak for themselves.
- An inability to clarify where he or she is staying or give an address or a lack of knowledge of his or her whereabouts.
In the midst of the festivities — and at other times throughout the year — try to notice the people around you. You may just be able to curb what Pope Francis calls modern slavery.
The Holy Father met with survivors of trafficking in February and made it clear that communities must take responsibility for ending this scourge.
“If many young women victims of trafficking end up on the streets of our cities, it is because many men here — young men, middle aged, older men — ask for their services and are ready to pay,” the pope told the survivors.
Citizens, he said, must be “courageous and honest” and offer assistance.
As Louisville welcomes visitors from around the world for a long weekend of celebration, let’s be mindful of vulnerable people at risk of exploitation and take action when necessary.
If you suspect a case of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.