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USM to host inaugural MBAT trafficking summit on January 24

Southern Miss
Photo courtesy of the University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Human Trafficking Research and Training (CHRT) is set to host the Secretary of State’s inaugural Mississippi Businesses Against Trafficking (MBAT) summit on January 24.

USM’s CHRT, in partnership with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi State Department of Health, will be holding the summit to provide awareness and preventive measures regarding human trafficking.

Human trafficking is the exploitation of other humans, both youth and adults, of all genders for sex and/or labor. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, hundreds of cases are reported in Mississippi annually, but due to reporting limitations, researchers at USM believe the numbers are likely even higher than current data suggests.

Associate Professor Dr. Tamara Hurst describes the summit as a unique opportunity to highlight some of the state and local agencies involved in Mississippi’s anti-human trafficking efforts.

“We know that a lone agency will not be as effective as a multi-agency partnership,” Hurst said. “Success takes multiple perspectives and skill sets to address this complex issue.  Connecting with our state agencies for this summit shows a united front and a willingness to work together.”

Secretary of State Michael Watson, who launched MBAT in October, is looking forward to the summit as an opportunity to curb human trafficking and make Mississippi a safer place.

“We are grateful to our partners at USM who have helped spearhead our inaugural MBAT Summit,” Watson said. “Their expertise and passion have not only helped frame our agency’s efforts but will ultimately make Mississippi a safer place for all.”

The summit is free to the public and will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Joe Paul Theater. The session will include state and national business-oriented speakers who will discuss their efforts with implementing anti-human trafficking policies.

Following the summit, a free screening of the film Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic, an investigatory film into the world of online grooming and sextortion — a present-day reality for one in seven children online, will be held from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Joe Paul Theater. A panel discussion will follow.

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