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Texting Increases Human Trafficking Victims’ Access to Help

“BeFree” text shortcode instantly connects victims to services from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 

Washington, DC (March 28, 2013) – Human trafficking victims across the country can now send texts to get help and escape modern-day slavery, Polaris Project and Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children announced today. Victims and concerned citizens can now send text messages to “BeFree” (233733) and instantly connect with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline (1-888-3737-888), operated by Polaris Project.

“Many trafficking victims cannot just pick up the phone and call for help, because of extreme isolation or constant monitoring by their traffickers,” said Bradley Myles, Executive Director of Polaris Project. “The ability to send a silent text message could mean the difference between escape and continued exploitation. We are grateful for the support that we have received from Thorn, Twilio, and salesforce.com to increase our reach through SMS technology to more vulnerable people who need our help.”

The new system allows individuals to discreetly contact the NHTRC hotline through text message 24 hours a day. Call specialists will then respond via text to address each individual’s needs, which could include coordinating an immediate crisis response with local service providers or providing urgent and non-urgent referrals, safety planning, and emotional support.

Thorn brought Polaris Project together with the cloud computing leaders responsible for delivering this innovation pro bono. Twilio provides the BeFree shortcode and delivery of the SMS messages, and Polaris Project’s existing consulting partner, Bridge Farm Consulting, was able to quickly develop the technical integration between Twilio and Salesforce Service Cloud, which powers the NHTRC’s hotline database.

“Our research with child sex trafficking survivors has shown that many of them use text messaging as their primary form of communication and that, when under the control of their trafficker, they were in need of more accessible, discreet forms of communication to seek help,” said Julie Cordua, Executive Director, Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children. “This partnership with Polaris Project to increase access to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is a big step forward in meeting the needs of those still being exploited.”

“This is one of those times that affirms our conviction that software can change lives for the better,” said Jeff Lawson, Twilio CEO and co-founder. “Seeing how the teams at salesforce.com, Polaris Project and Thorn have combined the Twilio platform and shortcode to the task of combatting this critical issue is truly inspiring.”

“Collaborations between technology companies and NGO partners are what ultimately will help solve some of the most important challenges of our time,” said Suzanne DiBianca, president, Salesforce.com Foundation. “Salesforce.com is proud to power the life-saving work of organizations like Polaris Project and Thorn.”

The NHTRC is on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking. Through the confidential hotline, callers can connect to a network of 2,700 service providers nationwide, report tips of suspected trafficking, and access reliable information and training to learn more about the issue.

Since 2007, the NHTRC hotline has received more than 70,000 calls from across the country and around the world, connected more than 8,300 victims to assistance and support, and reported more than 3,000 cases to law enforcement. The NHTRC is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division.

Human trafficking is a fast growing 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 here in the United States.

To report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request information, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at: 1-888-373-7888, or send 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 slaves to freedom 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 advocating for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-3737-888), 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 at www.polarisproject.org.

About Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children

Thorn exists to disrupt and deflate the predatory behavior of those who abuse and traffic children, solicit sex with children or create and share child pornography. As these crimes are increasingly facilitated by technology, Thorn invests in, builds and deploys the latest technology as part of our ongoing fight to end child sexual exploitation. The foundation has created the Thorn Technology Task Force — a group of more than 25 tech companies that collaborate on technological initiatives to fight child sexual exploitation. Companies include Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Symantec, SV Angel, Blekko, BlueCava, Connotate, Conversion Voodoo, DataXu, Hang, Irdeto, Mozilla, Salesforce.com Foundation, Digital Reasoning, Palantir and others. For more information on Thorn, please visit  www.wearethorn.org, follow us on Twitter @THORN and facebook.com/wearethorn.

About Twilio

Twilio (www.twilio.com) is changing communications forever, empowering software people to build the future. We virtualize all the infrastructure needed- hardware, software, carrier connectivity, and phone numbers - in a cloud based, on-demand, global environment, exposed through a simple-to-use communications API platform. We make it easy to bring voice, messaging and VoIP into any application (web, mobile, or other). The result is modern communications solutions: cloud-based, massively scalable, built with web technologies, communication-rich, and user-focused. And with Twilio you get completely transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing and global connectivity with round the corner quality.

About the Salesforce.com Foundation

The Salesforce.com Foundation is a global leader in corporate philanthropy. The unique 1/1/1 model harnesses the power of salesforce.com’s employee time, the Salesforce products and cash grants to increase the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions. Since the Foundation’s inception in 1999, employees have committed more than 445,000 hours of their time to volunteer and pro bono projects, more than 17,500 organizations in 110 countries are using donated and discounted Salesforce licenses and more than $40 million in grants have been awarded. For more information on the Salesforce.com Foundation, please visit  www.salesforcefoundation.org.