September 20, 2013
Saving The World, One Text At A Time
It was Marissa’s 18th birthday when she was rescued from an abusive pimp by a team of undercover police officers. A text message saved her life.
Marissa sent a text to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that works to combat human trafficking in the U.S., and in just two hours the nonprofit and law enforcement officers coordinated a way to remove her from the dangerous situation.
Organizations like the Polaris Project are using text messaging to solve trafficking cases like Marissa’s. The nonprofit is partnering with Twilio, a platform that lets developers integrate voice and text services into mobile and web applications, to build in SMS services into its crisis hotline.
Jennifer Kimball, a systems and data coordinator for the Polaris Project, shared Marissa’s story at Thursday’s Twilio conference and talked about how her organization is using SMS to effectively communicate with victims of human trafficking.
The pilot program launched in March has been very successful, with over 300 unique text message threads corresponding to 248 hotline cases. Almost 80 percent have been sex-trafficking cases.
“We’re seeing people under 18 who are reaching out directly over text,” Kimball said in an interview. “On the phone hotline that has been historically very rare for us.
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