Brownback asks Kansans to help stop human trafficking

Gov. Sam Brownback speaks with Overland Park resident William Payne, right, after giving a talk addressing human trafficking Thursday in the Kansas Union Ballroom.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday evening urged Kansans to help stop human slave trade at the End Human Trafficking event at the Kansas Union.

“It’s important. It’s key. And it’s happening in your world,” Brownback told about 200 attendees at the event sponsored by the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center. After being introduced by KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Brownback said he first became aware of human trafficking when he was in the U.S. Senate. An intern began telling him stories of humans being sold for sex in Sudan.

Brownback said he “just didn’t think this happens in the world.”

A trip to Sudan, and subsequent trips to North Korea and Nepal, changed his mind, and ever since, he’s championed the issue — first in the Senate, sponsoring the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, along with Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Brownback is now trying to target those efforts in Kansas, which is seeing increasing reports of human trafficking of children as young as 11.

Solid numbers for how prevalent human trafficking is in Kansas aren’t reliable, said Laura Dean, a KU doctoral student who studies human trafficking.

But perceptions that it doesn’t happen in our state are incorrect, said Dean, who will present some of her research to state legislators later this month at the Capitol Research Summit in Topeka.

And Kansas lags behind other states in legislation and resources for victims, Dean said. According to her research, Kansas is ranked 30th in the country at efforts to stop human trafficking.

Brownback said he’d like to change that, and late last year the Kansas Attorney General’s Office expanded the Kansas Human Trafficking Advisory Board.

In addition to suggesting that KU would be a great place to start a human trafficking research center, Brownback encouraged those concerned about the issue to take the time to visit affected areas and speak with victims.

“Go yourself,” Brownback said. “Once you go, you’ll never be the same.”