Morehead State University graduates have an impact wherever they go. But one former student is fighting to protect some of our most vulnerable people from the dangers of human trafficking and abuse.
MSU alumna Allyson (Cox) Taylor (99) has dedicated her career to helping victims of violent crimes. While she attended MSU, she was an honors student and presented at national conferences. She also:
- Founded the MSU Optimist Club.
- Served as chief defense council for the University Student Court.
- Served as president and treasurer of Societus Pro Legibus.
- Served as the career development chairperson, alumni relations chairperson and writer and publisher of the alumni newsletter for Chi Omega sorority.
- Was the Student Government Association vice president for administration.
- Was named the 1999 Greek Woman of the Year.
- Was the recipient of the Playforth Award for Outstanding Senior Government Major in 1999.
After graduating from the Brandeis College of Law at the University of Louisville, Taylor started working as a prosecutor in Louisville, dealing primarily with domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, and sex crime cases. From there, she went to work for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in 2011 as the executive director of the Prosecutors Advisory Council. She became a policy advisor, chief-of-staff and legislative liaison for the Kentucky Department of Public Health in 2013 and served as the director of the Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution in the state attorney general’s office from 2016 to 2019. In January, she was appointed as commissioner for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.
“Sex trafficking is a very serious problem, and it happens in every single county in Kentucky. It happens a lot and it happens all the time.”– Allyson Taylor
According to Taylor, half of the human trafficking victims in Kentucky are children, and family members victimize half of those children. One example of human trafficking that people may not realize falls into that category is when a parent allows someone to have sex with their child in exchange for drugs. Taylor said the opioid epidemic in Kentucky caused an increase in sex trafficking cases.
One of the biggest challenges Taylor said she faces in fighting human trafficking is the misconceptions people have about the crime. Stories of women being stalked and snatched from store parking lots, which are frequently posted and shared on social media, are typically not true, and she went so far as to say she’s never seen a case like that come through her office. She said that, in real life, victims are not kidnapped, as is portrayed in “Taken” and other movies.
“Our misconceptions make [human traffickers] lives so much easier. All of those things perpetuate myths and help traffickers. If we’re all thinking of it as a kidnapping situation, we’re going to miss the people who are building that trust and finding [victim’s] weaknesses, and that’s how sex traffickers really operate,” Taylor said. “These big ideas we get from movies make us miss the real signs of sex trafficking.”
Human traffickers frequently use manipulation to build a false sense of trust with their victims, leading them into being trafficked by offering them something they want, such as a job or a chance to travel. They tend to recruit in rural areas and move victims into cities, and Taylor said that’s because of a lack of resources in rural areas, the attitude that crimes like this don’t happen in small towns and many rural youths’ desires to “get out” of small-town life.
Taylor said human trafficking has always been a problem, but there has been a significant increase in reporting and awareness since her office launched in 2016. She said the internet plays a significant role in human trafficking practices, including recruitment, illicit pornography and online prostitution. And it’s happening on apps and websites children and teens frequently use, such as Fortnite and Facebook. She recalled one major case her office dealt with where the perpetrator had 14 separate Facebook accounts.
“We’re not talking about Dark Web stuff,” she said. “The internet changes the game.”
Taylor said the single most helpful thing citizens can do to fight human trafficking is to explain away the misconceptions people have about human trafficking and to work with local task forces to deal with the issue. She also said it’s essential to reduce demand by avoiding patronizing businesses that frequently have human trafficking victims working there, such as massage parlors, and to be aware and report any suspicions you may have to local law enforcement. She also urged parents to monitor the content their children consume online.
For more information about human trafficking in Kentucky, visit https://ag.ky.gov/justice-for-victims/human-trafficking.