The issue of human trafficking and how it impacts North Mississippi will be highlighted during a two-day event being held in Hernando later this month.
The organization Mississippians Against Human Trafficking (MSAHT) has a yearly dinner it calls #AWARE, which is typically held near its base in Jackson.
This year, in response to a demand from North Mississippi residents, the dinner and a day-long community education event is being moved to Hernando. The dinner will be held at The Gin in Nesbit on Monday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. The next day, a community education event is set to start at 8:30 a.m. in the Gale Center of Hernando.
Tickets for the Monday dinner are priced at $35 per person and the featured speaker will be a survivor of sex trafficking, who will describe her journey, the realities, and her journey toward healing.
The Tuesday program is scheduled to have a discussion on how human trafficking is affecting our communities. A panel discussion in the afternoon will feature representatives from the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and victim services organizations. There will be an opportunity for attendees to write down questions throughout the day and join in a question and answer session at the end of the day.
Founded in 2018, Mississippians Against Human Trafficking (MSAHT) is a 501 (3)(c) nonprofit committed to combating human trafficking in Mississippi through awareness, education, and also financial support to prevent the re-exploitation of trafficked individuals and those who are at a high risk of trafficking during times of financial hardship. To learn more about MSAHT, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nomorems.org.
Speaking with DeSoto County News recently, MSAHT Executive Director Heather Bradley said human trafficking is the fastest growing crime worldwide.
“There are more people in slavery today than there has ever been reported,” Bradley said. “We’re really just starting to understand the magnitude of what this is.”
But she pointed out that the face of human trafficking can be different in DeSoto County than on the Gulf Coast, for instance. Bradley added that human trafficking is a very underreported crime.
“What is being reported in Mississippi is we’re primarily seeing young women under the age of 18, but that’s not to say there aren’t men,” Bradley said. “Primarily what we are seeing in Mississippi are homeless people being targeted. They are people who have recently been emancipated from the foster care system or the juvenile justice system.”
Mississippians Against Human Trafficking raises awareness about the horrors of the crime, Bradley said. MSAHT works with communities and community leaders.
“We work with law enforcement, doctors and churches,” Bradley said. “We want to raise the level of awareness, so that people know what they see and we can stop these incidents before they happen.”
A movie about sex trafficking, “The Sound of Freedom,” was based on real-life events and tells the story of Tim Ballard, a former U.S. government agent, and his efforts to rescue children from human trafficking and child exploitation.
Bradley said that while “The Sound of Freedom” didn’t depict Mississippi directly, it did start a conversation and that was helpful.
“We needed to be having the conversation and it opened a lot of people up to the fact that this is real,” Bradley said. “It might not look like ‘The Sound of Freedom’ here in Mississippi, but we have it, and that’s the conversation that we need to have.”
“The Sound of Freedom” shed light on the dark and disturbing world of child trafficking and the heroic efforts of individuals and organizations working to combat it. It aims to raise awareness about the issue and inspire action against this global problem.
Bradley said you can purchase tickets and sponsor the Hernando event online at https://www.nomorems.org/fundraiser