Graphic courtesy stoptaskforce.com
JACKSON, Miss.–Imagine someone you know disappearing, later found on the streets, sold into prostitution. Believe it or not, it happens in Mississippi. January is a month set aside to remind you that it happens to people as young as 3. The attorney general says you should also be aware of dangerous stalking is.
A news release from Atty. Gen. Jim Hood said that the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office houses the state’s first Human Trafficking Coordinator, who works closely with national and state authorities to improve the state’s response to human trafficking offenses.
In Mississippi, the law defines human trafficking as recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting or obtaining another person, knowing that the person will be subjected to forced labor or services.
So, it’s not just for sex, but could be for slave labor, too. But, the biggest reason people are trafficked is for sexual purposes, such as prostitution or pornography.
“In reality, what’s happening here in our own area is that women and children here are being sold for sex,” Center for Violence Prevention Executive Director Sandy Middleton told News Mississippi earlier this year.
The big reason it’s a growing national problem, “it’s profitable,” she explained.
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But, new laws passed in the 2013 legislative session would bring tougher penalties when human traffickers are caught.
The Human Trafficking Bill bolsters the penalties for the trafficker, creates a minimum penalty, requires reporting to DHS and law enforcement, provides consent of a minor is not a defense, provides for forfeiture for traffickers and redefines prostitution to include human trafficking statutes and enhances those penalties.
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As far as stalking goes, Hood said it’s a serious crime that can easily escalate to violence.
“Studies show that although stalkers may be strangers, the majority of victims did know their stalkers on some level, maybe as an acquaintance, friend or a current or former intimate partner.”
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, stalking affects 6.6 million victims each year. Hood’s data was not specific to Mississippi.
His news release outlined what some stalkers have done:
Stalking is a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person. Stalking can take many forms such as assaults, threats or vandalism as well as unwanted gifts, cards, calls, or
visits. Also, many stalkers use technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras to track their victim’s daily activities.
The state is poised to keep fighting both crimes. Bills being introduced this year include one that would prohibit the advertising of sexual servitude of a minor.
Hood urges any potential victim of stalking or slavery and human trafficking to contact their local law enforcement or the Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Victim Assistance at 601-359-6766 or toll free at 800-829-6766.