January is human trafficking prevention month all across the country, and Sandy Middleton, the Executive Director The Center for Violence Prevention, says that Human Trafficking is more prevalent than you might think.
“We have this idea that it only happens in third world countries, but unfortunately the sex trade industry is alive and well in the metro area and in our smaller communities throughout the state,” Middleton said.
Middleton says that two types of human trafficking exist; sex trafficking and labor trafficking, which both can be hidden in plain sight.
These victims are all around us. Labor traffickers can be used in restaurants, hotels, construction and they can be all around us, and we may not realize it,” Middleton said. “All you have to do is spend time on social media to find how shocking it is to see that sex is for sale. Women and children are being sold every day right here in our state, and it’s continuing because we don’t realize that its happening right under our noses.
The Center for Violence Prevention is a member of the central Mississippi Human Trafficking Task Force which is made of 22 members ranging from levels of federal and local law enforcement. As far as prevention is concerned, Middleton urged parents to continue to monitor their children’s online activity.
“We need to become aware and make sure that we are keeping our children safe and make sure we are aware of what is going on with their online activity and ensuring that we monitor that activity,” Middleton said.
While a shelter exists for adult victims, such a shelter does not exist for children at this time. Along with the shelter, training for law enforcement and prosecutors are things that Middleton say need to be funded.
Middleton says that if you see something, you need to say something.
“We encourage every potential victim to call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888 and if your a member of a community and you see something we urge to say something because this national hotline can call local law enforcement officials and let them know what you’re reporting to them.”
The Center for Violence Prevention is also available to victims and those who want to report any suspicious activity, call them at 1-800-266-4198.