JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the attorney general's office
Jackson, MS- As we enter the month of January, designated as both National Stalking Awareness month and National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, Attorney General Jim Hood encourages Mississippians to educate themselves on the issues.
Stalking Prevention Awareness Month
January 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the first National Stalking Awareness Month initiated by The National Center for Victims of Crime, in conjunction with the Office of Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Stalking is a serious crime that can easily escalate in level of violence," said Attorney General Jim Hood. "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. 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.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
January has also been designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. 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. Some examples of force defined in Mississippi's law include: causing or threatening to cause physical harm to a person to get them to perform the labor or services; physically restraining, such as locking the person in a room or tying the person up, in order to get them to perform the labor or services; blackmailing the person to get them to perform services; or taking their identification documents, like driver's license or passport and holding it to get them to perform the services. A person also engages in human trafficking if they employ someone knowing they have been trafficked. Any time a minor under the age of 18 is involved in commercial sex, Mississippi law recognizes that minor as a victim of human trafficking and requires a mandatory report to the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
"We need to know we are not immune from this problem in Mississippi," said Attorney General Hood. "We are working toward raising awareness about the realities of human trafficking to allow Mississippians to recognize potential trafficking situations."
In 2013, the Attorney General's Office drafted changes to Mississippi's Human Trafficking Laws, embodied in House Bill 673, which passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature. These changes took effect July 1, 2013. With these changes, Mississippi's laws now reflect current cutting edge shifts in the approach to human trafficking crimes– increasing the emphasis on offender accountability, while at the same time providing for safeguards and protections for victims of this horrible crime, such as safe harbor and confidentiality provisions for victims. During the 2014 legislative session, the Attorney General is supporting a bill that will prohibit the advertising of sexual servitude of a minor.