BEFREE TEXT SHORTCODE

Status

Created in 2013 for The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (run by Polaris) in partnership with Twilio and the Salesforce Foundation.

Challenge

Trafficking victims are often unable to call for help when under the control of a trafficker, but they might have access to text messaging. How can we provide a more discreet and accessible way for victims to reach out for help?

Our Approach

Thorn partnered with the Polaris National Human Trafficking Hotline, Twilio and the Salesforce Foundation to integrate a text shortcode for the national human trafficking hotline number. The BEFREE (233733) text shortcode gives people who are being exploited a more discreet way to reach out for help while being exploited by a controller, giving them access to request assistance 24/7 all year long.

IMPACT

From the launch of the BEFREE Texting Helpline through June 2016, BEFREE has generated 4,461 domestic text message conversations. Of the 3,808 BEFREE SMS conversations, 22% of them were conducted directly with potential victims. This is nearly double the 12% rate at which victims call into the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. In addition, BEFREE conversations led to 3,631 substantive cases and 18 potential victims extracted.

While the goal of the BEFREE shortcode is primarily to help victims of sex trafficking, it has also been used to empower individuals who are a witness to a sex-trafficking related crime. Many people who see something may not know what to say, or who to speak to. The BEFREE shortcode has helped create another outlet that allows people to take action when they see suspicious behavior.

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