Possible sex traffickers throughout Kentucky

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Across Kentucky, there's been concern about possible sex traffickers approaching young women including right here in South Central Kentucky.

Similar stories of teens being suspiciously approached at shopping centers have been circulating around social media.

13 News reporter Kelly Dean spoke to one teen in the community who shared her encounter on Facebook, a post that received over 13,000 shares in 24 hours.

"As I got closer to her, she was like looking me up and down," said Liberty Townley, a teen who experienced the suspicious encounter.

Recent stories and warnings have been blowing up social media, from Lexington, to Louisville, to right here in our community.

"Sometimes people aren't as aware of human trafficking especially in their own community you know," said Townley.

Townley is a 15-year-old from Glasgow who was shopping in Kohl's Thursday when she was approached.

"She started asking me like super personal questions that people wouldn't normally ask someone if they're like witnessing to them," explained Townley. Like 'how old are you? Are you here alone? Are you under 18?'"

The woman claimed to be associated with a religious group that believes in God as a female and she invited Townley to a Bible study.

"She felt very frightened and wanted to get away," said Jennifer Wright, Townley's mother.

Unsettling and uncomfortable were words Townley used to describe the overall encounter.

"I was really scared. I was distraught because I never expected anything like that in our quiet community, and I felt like other people needed to be aware because they were probably clueless like I was," said Townley.

Bowling Green nonprofit, Phoenix Rising, a trafficking awareness group, has received an abundance of calls the past 48 hours.

"We don't accuse. We don't know this group, we don't know who they are, we don't know anything about them, other than what we've been told on our calls," said Missy Cunningham, Board President of Phoenix Rising​.

While informing the community is great, they're redirecting the calls to somewhere else.

"We're not there to investigate, we are there just to help the survivors and educate the public," said Cunningham. "Get to safety first, and then contact local law enforcement."

As a victim and an advocate for human trafficking awareness, Cunningham and Townley believe in trusting your intuition during various circumstances.

"If you feel like something's wrong, there's something wrong," said Cunningham.

"If it can prevent one person, you know, save one life, then it's worth it," said Wright, regarding the purpose for allowing her daughter to speak out.

The Bowling Green Police Department said they're investigating the situation. If anything like this happens to you, please file a report with your local police department.

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