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Human trafficking summit to inform,...

Human trafficking summit to inform, equip businesses coming to USM

By: Anne Summerhays - January 9, 2023

The summit, led by the Mississippi Secretary of State, will take place on January 24th on the campus in Hattiesburg.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, in partnership with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI), the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Center for Human Trafficking Research and Training (CHRT), will conduct a summit to provide awareness and preventive measures regarding human trafficking.

The summit will take place on January 24th from 1p.m. to 4p.m. on the USM campus in Hattiesburg.

The MBAT (Mississippi Businesses Against Trafficking) Summit will include state and national business-oriented speakers who will discuss their efforts with implementing anti-human trafficking policies.

Secretary of State Michael Watson said he and his team are excited to offer an MBAT Summit for Mississippi businesses to ensure they have the tools and resources needed for educating their employees, customers, and communities to combat human trafficking in the state.

“I’m extremely grateful for our partners who have helped plan this event tailored specifically to the business community,” Secretary Watson said. “Their expertise and passion have not only helped frame our agency’s efforts but will ultimately make Mississippi a safer place for all.”

Dr. Tamara Hurst, a co-director of CHRT, said a lone agency will not be as effective as a multi-agency partnership.

“Success takes multiple perspectives and skill sets to address this complex issue,” Dr. Hurst said. “Connecting with our state agencies for this summit shows a united front and a willingness to work together.”

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), 543 signals were received by the Hotline in 2021 from Mississippi. 97 of the signals received were from victims or survivors of human trafficking.

NHTH reported 233 cases of human trafficking were identified in 2021 and 316 victims were involved in these cases.

In late 2022, Secretary of State Watson introduced Mississippi Businesses Against Trafficking (MBAT), a statewide initiative by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office to raise awareness and empower Mississippi businesses to combat trafficking. 

“Early in my career, I was approached by some individuals who wanted to discuss specific instances of human trafficking in our state,” Watson said. “After a lengthy discussion, I knew this was a serious issue I wanted to pursue, and I did.”

“Through your education and understanding, you can empower your employees, customers, partners, and the rest of your business community to join our fight to combat human trafficking,” Watson added. 

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: