University of Louisville Magazine

SUM 2018

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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She could be the girl next door. With strawberry blonde hair and a lightly freckled face, Cotie is 26 but could pass for half-a- dozen years younger. It's only when you talk with her that you learn Cotie — who asked to be identified only by her first name — has lived an uncommon life. She is a survivor of sex trafficking. Beginning at age 19, Cotie was pimped out or walked the streets, offering sex for money for her next high. She was physically and emotionally abused and sexually assaulted. Cotie didn't have help to avoid what she and others like her call "the life," but the University of Louisville is working to give victims like Cotie assistance to leave the life behind or elude it altogether. Sex and labor trafficking are, as defined by the National Human Traf- ficking Hotline, "a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commer- cial sex acts or labor services against their will." Nationally, more than 8,500 cases of human trafficking were report- ed in 2017. Almost 6,100 involved sex trafficking, but researchers warn that as many as two-thirds of cases are never reported. Several departments on Uof L's Belk- nap and Health Sciences Center cam- puses began working a few years ago to address human trafficking through the university's quadruple enterprises of education, research, clinical care and community engagement. Today, the fac- ulty involved share information, and the university is leading the way national- ly in educating health care providers to recognize signs of trafficking. Uof L's approach to studying the prob- lem is truly transdisciplinary. Faculty members in social work, criminal jus- tice, engineering, law and medicine are investigating various aspects, from the mental and physical health of victims to the routes and logistics of the actual trafficking. Cotie didn't have access to most of Uof L's services until she was leaving the life. But if she had, it could have made a world of difference. C Cotie grew up in a small town near Lex- ington, Kentucky, with abusive parents who used alcohol and drugs. "My addiction started with drinking," she said. "My mom had keg parties, and it was normal for all the kids to come to my house. I grew up watching my family grow pot. My mom hung the marijuana plants in my closet to dry them. And she later started smoking crack." Cotie em- ulated her mother and life went down- hill from there. She dropped out of high school and drugs consumed her. Cotie's early marriage initially helped curb her substance abuse, but "one day, I picked up a drink and I couldn't put it down." She then gave birth to twin girls. Drink gave way to pills and then to intravenous drugs. Her husband was sent to prison — Cotie doesn't volunteer 41 SUMMER 2018

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