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UK Rosenberg College of Law to Host Sex Trafficking and Opioids Virtual Symposium

"Sex Trafficking and Opioids" flyer with text details
The 2021 Kentucky Law Journal symposium, "Sex Trafficking and Opioids," will examine the converging and rising tides of sex trafficking and opioid addiction.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 1, 2021)  The University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law will host the annual Kentucky Law Journal symposium virtually Friday, Feb. 5, with “Sex Trafficking and Opioids” as the theme and event title. The symposium will begin at 8:30 a.m. and feature attorneys, investigators and community experts on the subject. 

Registration is open to the public: https://law.uky.edu/academics/sex-trafficking-and-opioids-symposium.

“Our nation is experiencing a meteoric rise in opioid overdoses. The sheer power of opioid dependency has left few untouched and many devastated in its wake. Inextricably intertwined with opioid dependency is an equally epidemic rise in sex trafficking,” said Blanche Bong Cook, Robert E. Harding Jr. Associate Professor of Law, who organized the symposium with the Kentucky Law Journal. 

“Sex trafficking exists conterminously with drug dependency because vulnerability is the lynchpin of exploitation,” Cook said. 

The symposium will examine the converging and rising tides of sex trafficking and opioid addiction. Cook said the symposium has three aims — awareness, advocacy and activism. Using panels of experts who have firsthand experience with the intertwined effects of sex trafficking and opioid addiction, this conference will increase public awareness of the converging forces of dependency and vulnerability. 

Another panel of advocates will address how the legal process can intervene in the demand for human flesh. Finally, activists will critique the current problems in the criminal justice system’s attempt to ameliorate the intertwined problem of drug dependency and sex trafficking through mass incarceration.

“KLJ's yearly symposium is a unique opportunity to take a deep dive into a pressing legal topic,” said Erica Ashley Ashton, a third-year law student and editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Law Journal. “We chose to explore the intersection of sex trafficking and opioids for the Volume 109 symposium because, as the opioid epidemic continues to ravage the Commonwealth, its relation to sex trafficking in the state is under-studied but of critical importance. This symposium will elevate experts' insights on the topic and begin to provide concrete solutions for which all of us in the Commonwealth's legal community can advocate.”

Kami Griffith, a third-year law student and special features editor of the Kentucky Law Journal, worked closely with Cook to ensure an engaging virtual symposium.

“I have been working very closely with Professor Blanche Cook, who has become an expert at organizing virtual symposiums,” Griffith said. “She has reached out to a knowledgeable group of researchers and practitioners who will be addressing a broad range of questions surrounding the intersection of human trafficking and the opioid epidemic. The panelists range from prosecutors to survivor advocates, so the discussions should provide a comprehensive view of this complex topic.”

Griffith hopes people leave the symposium with a better understanding about how opioid dependency can lead to further exploitation of those who are already in a vulnerable position. 

“Additionally, we want to make sure that the public is aware of the many people and organizations, both locally and nationally, that are dedicating their time to preventing sex trafficking and helping the survivors,” Griffith said.

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