The Polaris Project now offers help to human trafficking victims by text message.
Sarah Jakiel is with the non-profit group.
She says victims are often hiding in plain sight. “I think people just don’t realize the number of industries and areas where trafficking is happening. From domestic servants or people forced to work in restaurant settings, agriculture, small businesses, carnivals and then everything in the sex trafficking side.”
Jakiel says victims are often recruited with promises of good jobs and then forced to work as slaves. “The numbers can be shocking for the general public. This issue is really happening in every city and state in America.”
Now if victims can't call the hotline, they can text a quick message to BeFree (or 233733) for help.
Jakiel says texting allows victims to stealthily ask for assistance.
“It really just comes down to the fact that the ability to send a silent text message may mean the difference between escape and continued exploitation and we hope this new channel of communication allows a lot more people to reach our services.”
The Polaris Project has been helping victims for about 12 years. It gets about 2,500 calls each month.
Jakiel says the hotline has gotten calls about cases of human trafficking from all over Michigan “Detroit and Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo and other areas. The calls have referenced over 238 individual victims of trafficking. And they have been about both sex trafficking and labor trafficking situations.”
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- Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom