By KAREN LA PIERRE

klapierre@dailynews.net

Selling humans is an ugly crime, and laws recently have changed protecting those victims tangled in a web they might see no way out of.

While it hasn't been greatly discussed, human trafficking is defined as modern day slavery and has always occurred, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

The definition of human trafficking is the selling of minors or victims who are being taken advantage of by a third party to make money.

That could include a parent trading sexual favors with their child in exchange for drugs.

It can include labor trafficking where someone sells books or magazines to pay overinflated costs for room or board, or a farm laborer paying exorbitant fees for basic human necessities, both resulting in the individual working as an indentured servant.

It can include a mail-order bride or international student who is exploited because they have no resources.

It could be an adult boyfriend selling a young girl pretending he will love her if she trades sex for him. It can be child pornography or a homeless teen being offered a place to stay in return for sex.

Previously, youths caught in sexual abuse could be criminalized for prostitution, but now this has been redefined as a sexually abused child. For minors, the crime of prostitution has been changed to be a child in need of care as laws have been strengthened to protect children and get them the help they need for the trauma.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families recently had a seminar at First United Methodist Church in Hays to create awareness of human trafficking and to help create resources for victims. Approximately 40 people attended.

Dorthy Stucky Hally, director of victims services for the state of Kansas, had worked for years as a social worker, providing services in various capacities.

"There were human trafficking victims walking through the door and I didn't know it," she said. "They would present like other domestic violence victims."

She found throughout the state little was known about human trafficking, even among law enforcement and professionals. Stucky Hally spoke to then Attorney General Steve Six about creating an advisory board to address the issue in 2010.

The goal of the Human Trafficking Advisory Board was to look at prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership in the communities throughout the state.

While the total number of reported cases is low, in 34 percent of cases, the trafficker is the spouse or partner of the victim.

The perception the victim is responsible for the crime is slowly changing.

In 2011, 73 percent of people arrested were the victim.

"We've got a ways to go," Stucky Hally said. "We need to really start taking action and holding the buyers accountable for that action."

Youth involved in human trafficking generally have home issues.

"They come from a demographic that indicates a lot of challenges in their childhood," she said. "They're a witness to domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and may have been sexually abused as a child."

"The experience of a person being trafficked may not even understand that they have been trafficked," said Lucy Bloom, director of faith-based and community initiatives at DCF. "It's a complex and delicate situation.

"This is a really horrific form of abuse. (Victims) often are very afraid of any authorities knowing what they have been a part of."

Statutory authority in Kansas has been changed to protect children younger than the age of 18, and those charged with sexual exploitation of a child will be charged with a serious crime.

"When communities really take action and hold the buyers accountable for that behavior, that's when we see in some communities human trafficking becoming more limited," Stucky Hally said.

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Below is a list of signs of human trafficking. Not all adults or children who exhibit these signs are victims of human trafficking.

They include:

* Multiple people living in one space.

* People living with their employer or at their job site.

* Bruises or other signs of physical abuse.

* A fearful, submissive person.

* Inability to move or leave a job.

* Minors not in class during school hours.

* A minor with a boyfriend who is noticeably older.

* Signs of drug addiction.

* A minor referring to sexual situations that are not age-appropriate.

* Under dressing for inclement weather.

* A person accompanied by someone who is controlling.

* Malnourishment.

* Sudden changes in attire, behavior or material possessions.

* Runaways.

Source: Kansas Attorney General's Office