JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On Wednesday, Secretary of State Michael Watson (R-Miss.) announced the launch of a new initiative, Mississippi Businesses Against Trafficking (MBAT).

MBAT is a statewide initiative to raise awareness and empower Mississippi businesses to combat human trafficking. The initiative is open to any business, nonprofit organization, or association in the state that is interested in promoting human trafficking awareness. 

“Through partnership and collaboration with other Secretaries of State, we researched how to utilize our current role with the business sector to educate and raise awareness through grassroots efforts,” said Watson. “All Mississippi business owners are invited to join our fight to combat human trafficking in our state.”

According to the Mississippi Department of Health’s most recent statistics, a human trafficking case is reported every other day in the state of Mississippi. Per the U.S. Department of State, at any given time, an estimated 24.9 million people worldwide fall victim to human trafficking. 

“Sadly, human trafficking is more common in our state than people realize. I personally know victims and met with several during my time in the state legislature. Our goal is to rescue victims and ensure all Mississippians are safe from this heinous crime,” Watson said.

Businesses and organizations that have already agreed to be MBAT partners include the Mississippi Braves, Sprint Mart (The Dutch Group), Mississippi State Board of Massage Therapy, and the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association.

The new MBAT website provides more information on how to get involved as well as educational resources and materials to help better understand the issues surrounding human trafficking and how to recognize it in the workplace. 

Businesses can apply for membership at sos.ms.gov/MBAT.