HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Human trafficking affects millions each year and it also happens right here in Mississippi.
Two Pine Belt women are fighting and bringing awareness to human trafficking to many in the area.
“Once we knew we couldn’t unknow it,” said Jessica Dew.
Dew and Elizabeth Williams knew they had to do something after learning about human trafficking.
“We found the information and we just dug deeper to get our own facts and then we just became more passionate the more we read and the more we saw,” said Williams.
This knowledge prompted them to host ‘Speak Up.’
“We are trying to raise awareness for human trafficking,” Willams said. “We think it’s very important. So our goal here today is just to educate the community about what’s going on not only in the world but in America in regards to human trafficking.”
Dew and Williams partnered with the Operation Underground Railroad Organization (O.U.R.)to help law enforcement fight human trafficking.
O.U.R. is a nonprofit and all of the money raised at ‘Speak Up’ went to the operation.
“Everything they do is funded by volunteers and people who donate and these people are on the frontlines,” said Williams. “By funding them they have the money that they need to go find these people, rescue the children and put them in the appropriate recovery facilities afterwards.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and the Mississippi State Department of Health says nearly 150 cases were reported in the Magnolia State in 2019.
The Polaris Project, however, says human trafficking is notoriously underreported, something organizers say is common.
“It’s a conversation that’s not had very often,” said Williams.
Dew says she wanted to speak up for those who can’t.
“They don’t have a voice they can’t speak up for themselves,” said Dew. “They didn’t choose this, they didn’t want this and so, to speak up for them and have a voice for them when they can’t, that as a mother, I just felt like I, that’s the least I could do for them.”
The event ended raising over $1,200 and organizers say they are still counting.