July 17, 2023
Donna Hutto Edwards
First Lady of Louisiana
First Lady of Georgia
Research Analyst, Counter Forced Labor Technologies
Charity Morsey, research analyst at Counter Forced Labor Technologies, moderated a conversation with first ladies Donna Hutto Edwards (Louisiana) and Marty Kemp (Georgia) on leading the fight against human trafficking.
Edwards began her remarks by discussing Louisiana’s efforts to combat human trafficking. The state established the first human trafficking prevention resource center and advocacy campaign, Stop Trafficking LA: Human Trafficking is R.E.A.L. (Recognizing the signs, Educating others, Acting immediately, and Listening to victims and survivors). Victims, survivors, service providers, stakeholders, and citizens can learn about human trafficking, how to identify when someone needs help, how to report this heinous crime, and available services for survivors.
“We discovered that calling 911 did not provide human trafficking protocol for its operators,” Edwards explained. “Therefore, the governor’s Office of Human Trafficking Prevention began training them.”
Outreach and Education Build a Framework for Human Trafficking Enforcement
Building off the work in Louisiana, Edwards created the National Coalition for the Prevention of Human Sex Trafficking. The coalition raises awareness of sex trafficking through outreach, education, government policy, and strategic communication and also gives survivors a voice.
The coalition hosted Zoom summits during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We brought all the stakeholders together: the Louisiana State Police, the FBI, local law enforcement, children’s advocacy centers, and we started sharing numbers and information,” Edwards said.
In April 2022, the coalition hosted its inaugural meeting at the NCAA Final Four Collegiate Basketball Championship in New Orleans. “We trained professionals, the hotel industry, restaurants, and other groups that are engaged in these events [on] what to look for and be aware of,” she said.
Georgia Grace Commission Leads by Example
Kemp discussed how she has led the charge to end human trafficking by championing the Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education (GRACE) Commission. The commission is composed of public officials, law enforcement, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, faith-based institutions, and experts to tackle human trafficking, seek justice for victims, and hold bad actors accountable.
According to Kemp, among the commission’s accomplishments is the launch of human trafficking awareness training for state employees and the creation of a new Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) Unit to investigate cases.
Nonprofits and Businesses Can Make a Difference in Human Trafficking
Kemp discussed the challenges of supporting victims who historically were often treated as offenders by law enforcement and charged or incarcerated with a criminal record.
“We’ve opened up two receiving centers to give victims a place to go instead of jail, which is the only place law enforcement knows where to take them,” Kemp said. “My goal is to have a receiving center in all the regions of our state.”
Kemp also said finding employment is essential for people who have survived human trafficking—and nonprofits can play a significant role. “We've got a labor shortage as well, so it is important to get these young individuals into the workforce,” she added.