Press Releases

Texting is Successful Tool for Human Trafficking Survivors Seeking Help

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Polaris Project released the first year of texting data today, one year after launching a texting short code that enables people to reach the national human trafficking hotline by sending text messages to BeFree (233733).  An analysis of this initial data shows that texting is a vital way for victims of human trafficking to reach out for help. Victims reached out to the hotline by text message at a higher percentage than by phone calls: 17% of texting conversations were from victims, compared to 9% of phone calls in 2013. The texting service has demonstrated to be especially useful for female victims of sex trafficking.

Visit www.polarisproject.org/texting for texting data.

 “We are thrilled to see that texting is an effective way for survivors of human trafficking to get immediate help and support,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project. “Victims are closely monitored and isolated by their traffickers and may be unable to make phone calls safely when they are in crisis. The ability to silently send a text message can mean the difference between continued exploitation by their traffickers and escape. We encourage service providers across the nation to help us post and share the BeFree texting short code information, so even more victims of human trafficking know that there is help available.”

“It is imperative that victims of human trafficking have a variety of options to reach out and communicate in their quest for information, assistance, and escape. The ability to silently text with an advocate can be a lifeline to a victim who is isolated and controlled,” said Ronna Bright, Project Manager for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission Central Valley Against Human Trafficking (CVAHT) in California. “We live in a global, fast-paced, technology-driven world and it is exciting to spread awareness of this texting capability. Thank you, Polaris Project, for consistently providing leadership in the anti-trafficking field with cutting edge victim-centered resources.”

Between 3/28/13 and 3/28/14, the hotline handled 1,111 substantive texting conversations.  Through these conversations, victims were freed from their traffickers and/or connected to local service providers. In addition, individuals reported tips of suspected human trafficking in their communities, requested anti-trafficking services and training, and received general information.

From these conversations, Polaris Project learned of 155 human trafficking cases. Key data from these cases include:

  • 74% of cases referenced sex trafficking, 8% referenced labor trafficking.
  • 68% of cases referenced at least one female victim, 8% referenced at least one male victim.
  • 56% of cases referenced at least one adult victim, 27% referenced at least one minor victim.
  • 38 tips were provided to law enforcement.
  • 130 referrals were provided to individuals who requested local anti-trafficking services.

Visit www.polarisproject.org/texting for more texting data.

People can reach out to the national human trafficking hotline in English through text messages 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Hotline specialists respond via text to address each individual’s needs, which could include coordinating an immediate crisis response with local service providers or law enforcement, as well as providing urgent and non-urgent referrals, safety planning, and emotional support.

In early 2013, Polaris Project and Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children worked with leaders in the cloud computing industry to develop the texting service. Twilio provided the BeFree texting short code and technology to deliver the text messages, which are integrated into Polaris Project’s hotline database, powered by Salesforce.com.

Human trafficking is a thriving criminal industry, with traffickers making billions in profits by using force, fraud, or coercion to rob victims of their freedom. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of victims forced to provide commercial sex, labor, or services against their will in the United States.

People can receive help, report a tip, or request information or training by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to BeFree (233733).

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About Polaris Project

Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided people escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery.  Learn more atwww.polarisproject.org.

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