This post is about a sensitive topic. Some of the images may be offensive. If you are easily offended don’t complain, just don’t look. If you prefer to live with your head in the sand about this, I hope this will be considered a kick to that part of your anatomy that is currently most prominent.
There are millions of people in the world who have been victimized by various types of human trafficking. Worldwide in places like India, Thailand, and Africa, people, many of them children, are sold into labor to pay off parental debt. Others are kidnapped and sold for domestic “help,” or lured, with promises of a better life, into the global sex trade. The sex trade globally is second only to the arms trade and drug trade as the most lucrative forms of human economic endeavors. Regrettably, the United States is a large player in this assault against humanity.
According to author Justin Holcomb:
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. It is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or taking of people by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them.
The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are trafficked annually. The U.S. State Department estimates an even higher number: about 12.3 million adults and children “in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world.” It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it is a global health risk, and it fuels organized crime. Victims of trafficking are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of trafficking and involves many kinds of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children. According to the United Nations, sex trafficking brings in an estimated $32 billion a year worldwide. In the U.S., sex trafficking brings in $9.5 billion annually.
Women and children brought into the U.S. are routinely trafficked into strip clubs, brothels, massage parlors and servitude. Their pimps come in all shapes, sizes and colors, as do their abusers.
Unknown to many and unacknowledged by others is that fact that major sporting events like the Super Bowl draw those who traffick women and children for sex. Although the numbers of people involved is debated (see this article, for example) the reality of the issue is not.
I recently was able to do an email interview Justin Holcomb and Nick Laparra who co-operate the Twitter account “Don’t Buy Girls” about this very issue.
MD: 1. Why is the Super Bowl such an important night for those seeking to stop trafficking?
JH & NL: The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on TV every year. But many people don’t know about its dark underside: the Super Bowl, like other large sporting events, is a magnet for sex trafficking and child prostitution. Large sporting events like the Super Bowl are prime targets for sex traffickers because of the high demand generated by thousands of men pouring into an area for a weekend of fun.
The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami. Despite efforts to crack down on sex trafficking at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, there was still a tremendous number of women and children sexually exploited. In the past, attempted crackdowns by law enforcement have backfired by treating prostitutes as criminals to be locked up rather than victims to be rescued, but new efforts are gaining traction: a bill moving through the Indiana legislature aims to toughen the State’s sex trafficking laws before the Super Bowl.
MD: 2. Do you know of any organized church or ministry efforts to rescue girls Sunday night?
JH & NL: Yes. Theresa Flores, a former human trafficking victim and founder of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.), is there this weekend with members of several Dayton, OH churches. They put the human trafficking hotline number on several thousand bars of soap. The hope is that victims will see the bars of soap in their hotel rooms and call the number.
Mike Bartel (co-founder and director of FREE International) and a bunch of other anti-trafficking groups, are partnering with the city of Indianapolis to pass out booklets to raise awareness for the sex trafficking problem.
The following example is not a church or ministry but it is also great that Indianapolis cab drivers are being trained to spot prostitutes and pimps in their cars.
MD: 3. Is there any evidence of increased law enforcement awareness in Indianapolis of this problem?
JH & NL: Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill a few days ago that increases the penalty for forcing an underage person into the sex trade to up to 50 years in prison. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement, “Though it is an honor for Indiana to host the Super Bowl, many sincere voices have brought to light the fact that human trafficking is a shameful practice we can’t ignore. With the Governor’s signature, law enforcement and prosecutors will have a new legal tool to combat this problem.”
The FBI and local authorities have already made two human trafficking related arrests in Indianapolis. Two women, ages 21 and 19, were taken into custody on 2/2. Both were forced into prostitution when they were 16 years old.
MD: 4. Who are the people doing the buying? Super Bowl ticket holders?
JH & NL: With over 100,000 football fans descending on Indianapolis for the weekend, we presume most, if not all, of the offenders will be Super Bowl attenders.
MD: 5. To your knowledge has the NFL ever addressed this like it did breast cancer awareness?
JH & NL: To the best of our knowledge, no they haven’t.
MD: 6. To your knowledge have any NFL players spoken out on the trafficking issue?
JH & NL: According to thestatefilehouse.com, “Jeff Saturday and Tarrick Glenn (a present and a former Indianapolis Colts player, respectively) have teamed up with Indiana Attorney General Gregg Zoeller to make a stand against human trafficking in Indiana. Zoeller has made it his goal to raise awareness and discourage the sexual exploitation of young women. Saturday and Glenn joined Zoeller on Thursday to announce the “Take the Pledge” initiative. The goal of the project is to encourage men to make a stand and stop the sex trade.”
This is good news! We hope people will listen. We also hope men will take a stand to not participate in this tragedy we call human trafficking.
I for one would like to see the National Football League take a more pronounced stand against this. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see an anti-sex trafficking logo on all uniforms in the Super Bowl in 2013 just like we saw pink shoes and ribbons on all uniforms in October? As this sinful crime against humanity makes a profit simply by virtue of the Super Bowl being played the NFL should be loud and consistent in speaking against it. I am under no illusion that the NFL supports sex trafficking, but the players and owners should be using the platform of the most watched event in the world to oppose it. What say ye, NFL?
Below are several more images you can use to help remember the sex trafficking issue this weekend and beyond. Put them on your blog, make one your Twitter avatar, or your profile pic on Facebook. Following the pics are links to books relevant to this subject.
Take. A. Stand.