Mississippi Puts Teeth into Anti-Human Trafficking Laws

During the last legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers sharpened the teeth of the state’s laws addressing human trafficking. They now give cops and prosecutors the power to aggressively pursue traffickers and the men who buy the services of the women and men the industry victimizes.

Mississippi’s laws now mandate that law enforcement should not treat victims of sex trafficking as criminals. Instead, prosecutors should give them immunity. This allows the women—and it is mostly women—to testify against the procurers, sellers and sex buyers. It also means that Mississippi needs to step up to protect the victims and provide the support that will allow them to rebuild their lives.

The Center for Violence Prevention (CVP) hired a consultant from the Polaris Project, a national organization working to stop human trafficking, to help establish support protocols using best practices. CVP provides trauma therapy and immediate shelter and is developing escape plans for freeing victims safely. CVP executive director Sandy Middleton said that people frequently have misconceptions about who sex trafficking victims are. But, like domestic violence victims, they span the gamut of society. “The target is almost always someone who’s vulnerable, whether they’re a runaway, an addict or they have some kind of issue like that,” Middleton said. “They make easy prey for somebody who’s trying to own somebody, who’s trying to control somebody else.”

Recognizing Sex Trafficking

Pimps/traffickers often exhibit the following behaviors or characteristics:

• Jealous, controlling and violent

• Significantly older than female companions

• Promise things that seem too good to be true

• Encourage victims to engage in illegal activities to achieve their goals and dreams

• Buys expensive gifts or owns expensive items

• Is vague about his or her profession

• Pushy or demanding about sex

• Encourages inappropriate sexual behavior

• Makes the victim feel responsible for his/her financial stability. Very open about financial matters.

Warning signs that an individual is being trafficked:

• Signs of physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises or cuts

• Unexplained absences from class

• Less appropriately dressed than before

• Sexualized behavior

• Overly tired in class

• Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out

• Brags about making or having lots of money

• Displays expensive clothes, accessories or shoes

• New tattoo (tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand victims. Tattoos of a name, symbol of money or barcode could indicate trafficking)

• Older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle

• Talks about wild parties or invites other students to attend parties

• Shows signs of gang affiliation (i.e.: a preference for specific colors, notebook doodles of gang symbols, etc.)

SOURCE: Shared Hope International

Learn more at Ronni Mott’s Jackson Free Press article: Sex Trafficking: What Now?

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