HATTIESBURG, MISS. – Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world, and a local Pine Belt resident decided to take the epidemic head-on.
“It's the second largest and fastest growing business in the world. When advocates for freedom was founded in 2011, this was a $32 billion business and it has grown to a $150 billion business a year,” the Advocates For Freedom, Pine Belt Regional Director, Dora Harbin said.
Harbin works with a non-profit organization called Advocates For Freedom (AFF), who help victims escape human trafficking. Harbin mentioned that human trafficking is a lucrative business that happens everywhere.
“It happens everywhere,” Harbin said. “Right in our back door… If you see houses boarded up, windows boarded up, and large amounts of garbage... You suspect human trafficking.”
Harbin says pimps use these tactics to keep victims in, and when it comes to being a victim she says no one is off limits.
“There is no one profile of a victim… They can be anybody,” Harbin explained. “The pimps, the perpetrators can be anybody. They can be somebody you work with every day.”
This includes both male and female victims, as well as pimps. Harbin, says human trafficking is being driven by one of America’s biggest businesses.
“It's fueled by pornography, and many children become victims of pornography. They're lured into something or forced into something,” Harbin explained. “The average age that they get into this is twelve to fourteen, but the youngest victim we have helped was three years old. She was sold by her mother for her next drug fix.”
Harbin believes to stop the issue, people must make themselves more aware of the dangers and signs surrounding human trafficking. Currently, AFF is working towards building safe houses for Pine Belt victims.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and AFF will have their Advocates for Freedom Annual Conference Jan. 26 at the Agriculture & Forestry Museum in Jackson, Miss. from 9AM - 5PM.