FRANKFORT, Ky. - When I entered public service three years ago, one of my core missions was to seek justice for victims.
We have worked hard every day to accomplish that goal.
In 2018, we rescued 12 child victims as part of online predator crackdowns, and we secured a record 39 human trafficking and other related offenses arrests.
Our office currently has 31 active human trafficking cases, and our human trafficking investigator helped Paducah Police Department work a case that lead to the arrest of three men on human trafficking earlier this month.
Our SAKI Cold Case Unit worked with McCracken County prosecutors and local law enforcement in August to indict a 45-year-old Louisville man in an alleged 2005 sexual assault of a minor. And we received federal money to fund a victims’ advocate for victim services in Marshall County where a deadly school shooting occurred in January 2018.
All of these cases involve our work to help each and every victim no matter the crime against them. That’s what seeking justice for victims means for us in the Office of the Attorney General.
As I travel the state, I continue to hear from individuals and their families who have transformed their trauma and want to advocate for changes in policies and decisions that impacted them and other victims.
I learned early on as attorney general that government, especially when it came to offering services to victims, had to do things differently in order to give a voice to these survivors and ensure that what we do helps and uplifts those who have experienced trauma.
The only way to do that was to bring survivors to the table to work alongside us.
So the Kentucky Attorney General’s Survivors Council was created in 2017.
From its inception, the council afforded each founding member a seat at the table, giving them a voice in our mission to push for real change in policies and decisions that impact survivors of crime in our culture.
Now two years later we stand in the wake of the outstanding work of our inaugural council members – the first such group of survivors in any AG’s office nationwide. Their accomplishments are vast and many, and their voices have truly guided me and our Office of Victims Advocacy these last two years.
I want to personally thank each and every one of them for their hard work and dedication.
Now as Survivors Council “alumni,” they will continue to use their voice and share their stories to help others. We look forward to their remarkable accomplishments.
But there is more work to be done to build on the success of our previous council.
Our new Survivors Council members we recently announced will be the very people who are going to do the heavy lifting and continue to be the resounding voice of survivors throughout our state and country the next two years.
They are survivors of homicide, incest, labor trafficking, human trafficking, campus sexual assault, sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, child marriage and clergy abuse.
They are from all regions of Kentucky: Grayson, Lexington, Louisville, Mt. Eden, Frankfort, Owensboro and Bowling Green.
Each of their stories is unique.
For some, their membership on the council is the first time they are standing publicly about their trauma.
For others, their membership on the council isn’t about them but about a loved one they lost who still needs their voice heard.
For most, the council is about their journey toward transforming the trauma they have endured into positive change that can impact our communities.
But the one thing that binds them all is their purpose, their determination and their mission to change our culture.
I’m talking about the culture in places that allows some individuals to think they have power over others, or that it’s okay to hurt someone because they are perceived as weak.
We see this time and time again in our society, our workplaces, our communities and yes, even in our state capitol.
These 20 individuals are going to change that culture – minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. Even long after my term as attorney general ends.
Because it’s not about me.
It’s about the pledge I made when I entered public service, to get up every morning as attorney general to make Kentucky a safer place where our families can grow and prosper.
I have kept that pledge.
And I am keeping it by standing alongside these remarkable individuals and supporting them to advocate for culture change and a better world for all of us.
Their journey is beginning, and I’m thrilled to work with them over the next year, and I look forward to their future successes.
Andy Beshear is attorney general for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
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