GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A passionate group of advocates against human trafficking took part in a prayer rally and march at Gautier's City hall Saturday afternoon.
The advocates held signs painted with the words, End Slavery, Girls are forced to service 40 + men per day, Don't turn away make it stop, used to attract attention of drivers on Highway 90.
"We're working just to bring awareness or what is happening in the state. And it is growing. It is the number two crime in America today," Founder of Advocates for Freedom Susie Harvill said.
Harvill is the founder of Advocates for Freedom. She's speaks at schools and meets with law enforcement agencies often. She says human trafficking is on track to reach record levels in 2014.
Elizabeth Mitchell organized the march and says the perpetrators of trafficking come in all forms and so do the victims.
"A lot of people think that they are all adult women and over half of them are actually children. And actually on the Gulf Coast there was a 3-year-old that was trafficked," Mitchell said.
"People don't realize how horrible this kind of life must be I can only imagine, but my heart breaks for them. And I wish there was something more that I could do," Advocates for Freedom volunteer Valerie Pace said.
Victims aren't just used for sex. Some are also brought in as labor. According to Harvill, they are commonly forced into agricultural and restaurant work. Once they are rescued they face a slew of other issues. Victims often lose their ability to trust and some ending up having to go through drug rehab. Many end up with serious health conditions like sexually transmitted diseases.
"As of July 1 our new laws will go into effect. And we have been changed from a D rated state to a B rated state," Harvill said.
Mississippi is changing its human trafficking law and making it stronger. Victims and advocates say it's a big step in the right direction.
On Tuesday, June 11 Advocates for Freedom will hold a shrimp boil to raise awareness of human trafficking. The public is invited to attend. The event will be located at 503 Church Avenue, Pass Christian. The boil begins at 5:30 p.m.
If you suspect someone has been trafficked, call the toll free, 24 hour National Hotline 1-888-3737-888. To learn more about Advocates for Freedom are to become a volunteer click Advocates for Freedom or call 228-806-3492.