In March 2013, Polaris launched a texting shortcode to help victims of human trafficking find safety. When victims text to BeFree (233733) they reach one of our call specialists, who assist them in planning their escapes and/or connecting them to services in the area.
An analysis of initial data from these texts shows that texting is a vital way for victims of human trafficking to reach out for help:
Victims are reaching out to the hotline by text message at a higher percentage than by phone call.
In our first year, 17% of texting conversations were from victims of human trafficking compared to 9% of phone calls in 2013. Victims of human trafficking are closely monitored by their traffickers and for many, a text message can be a more discreet way for them to reach out for help. Through these conversations, victims were freed from their traffickers and/or connected to local service providers.
Texting is especially effective for reaching women victims of sex trafficking.
We should continue to explore how best to reach victims of labor trafficking and male victims. A majority of texting cases in this first year reference adult, American, female victims of sex trafficking.
However, we also received texts referencing children, men, and victims of labor trafficking. We will continue to take steps to increase awareness of the hotline number and texting shortcode for all victims in the U.S., especially men and victims of labor trafficking.
From these conversations, Polaris 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.
Texting will continue to grow.
In our first year, we learned of 155 cases of human trafficking through text, and the volume of texting has increased significantly in the last few months. In the next year, we will continue to raise awareness of this tool and help even more people get the help they need. Cases of human trafficking reported via text in the first year of the national human trafficking hotline’s texting program.
Cases of human trafficking reported via text in the first year of the national human trafficking hotline’s texting program.
Praise from a service provider who serves victims of trafficking:
“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. We live in a global, fast-paced, technology-driven world and it is exciting to spread awareness of this texting capability. Thank you, Polaris, for consistently providing leadership in the anti-trafficking field with cutting edge victim-centered resources.”
– Ronna Bright, Project Manager for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission Central Valley Against Human Trafficking (CVAHT) in California.