Awareness Campaign brings hope to trafficked victims, sends message to traffickers that MS is not their safe haven
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The Mississippi Federation of Republican Women began promoting human trafficking awareness at its Legislative Day luncheon in March 2017 with a captivating speaker, Jody Dyess of FREE International, who stunned legislators and Republican women with his knowledge and experiences in dealing with human trafficking. Immediately afterward, they began their awareness campaign by encouraging MFRW clubs to host community seminars to help point out the signs of victims and bring awareness of trafficking to their communities.
The MFRW Legislation & Research Committee learned that promoting the National Human Trafficking Hotline is one of the most effective ways to increase human trafficking arrests. The toll-free hotline (888-373-7888) is available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, in more than 200 languages.
In conjunction with their biennial convention last October, the MFRW executive committee budgeted $7,500 to promote human trafficking awareness through billboard placements and hotline stickers. They also sent a letter to Governor Phil Bryant requesting that he direct, where feasible, the placement of the national human trafficking hotline on all agencies’ websites under his purview.
They also learned the safest place for a victim of human trafficking to ask for help is in a public bathroom stall, so they designed and had printed 5,000 hotline stickers that will be strategically placed in public bathroom stalls throughout the state.
Understanding that the Jackson and Gulf Coast areas are major hubs for trafficking, they secured digital billboards in these areas to promote the hotline number during select large events in the state. These events are the Dixie National Rodeo (Jackson, Feb 8-14), Cruisin’ the Coast (classic car show – Mississippi Gulf Coast, Sept 30 – Oct 7), Mississippi State Fair (Jackson, Oct 4-15), and the Sanderson Farms Championship (PGA golf tournament – Jackson, Oct 22-28).
Recently, two MFRW members attended a meeting with Mississippi Department of Human Services and Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services to discuss human trafficking awareness. The agencies committed to join the MFRW in their campaign to promote the National Human Trafficking Hotline by running hotline ads on all of their active digital billboards and media outlets as well as adding the hotline number to their websites.
The agencies are also distributing 3,000 of the MFRW’s hotline stickers to their five regional directors and county directors, who will place the stickers in their county office bathroom stalls as well as buildings that house economic assistance staff, child support staff, and child protective services staff. In addition, when county directors meet with boards of supervisors, chambers of commerce and other community-based organizations, they will give them stickers to place in their buildings’ bathroom stalls. They have also offered to print additional hotline stickers which will include information for texting the Hotline (text HELP to BeFree – 233733).
A state senator who attended the meeting reached out to two media firms. As a result, a major outdoor advertising company has offered to donate additional space for the National Human Trafficking Hotline on their unused billboards and digital screens. And just this week the MFRW was informed that several television stations in the state are now in the process of cutting human trafficking awareness ads and running them, at no cost to the MFRW. At least one station has plans to run a two-part special on human trafficking, and a conservative talk radio network has indicated interest in partnering with the MFRW to help promote human trafficking awareness.
The MFRW is humbled and amazed by the magnitude in which this awareness campaign has grown. They hope the public education of human trafficking warning signs and placement of the National Human Trafficking Hotline front and center in their state will not only bring hope to trafficked victims, but also send a message to traffickers that Mississippi is not their safe haven.