The nation’s largest sporting event is now upon us. With that said, there are two groups of people whose eyes are fixed on their television screens. No, they aren’t Broncos fans and Seahawks fans; rather they are those that know about the problem of human trafficking and those that are still in the dark. As we eat chicken wings and wait to see who will be crowned Superbowl XLVIII champions, few of us are thinking about the dark side of the Super Bowl.
The NFL Super Bowl has been called the “largest human trafficking venue on the planet.” One recent article explains that ”the Super Bowl attracts tens of thousands of fans to the host city … But it also attracts a sector of violence, organized criminal activity that operates in plain sight without notice including human trafficking in both the sex and labor industries.”
However, not everyone agrees with this statement. Rachel Lloyd, a human trafficking surivior and the founder of GEMS, explains that
“there is no huge influx of pimps and trafficked women and girls each year into whatever city the Super Bowl is being held. There is no mass invasion of johns traveling specifically for the purposes of purchasing sex. I wouldn’t say there isn’t any increase, of course there are some pimps who come into town knowing that there will be men who will pay for sex, including sex from children and there are traffickers who are already in their home city and capitalize on the huge numbers of men in town. But every year, post-Super Bowl statistics show that at most there is a slight uptick as one law enforcement official called it and in some cities very little evidence to suggest any significant increase.”
Lloyd explains that focusing solely on the Super Bowl is actually a disservice to those who are currently being exploited. The focus on one annual event ”relies on the ‘rescue’ philosophy that is so harmful to survivors, because it doesn’t create avenues for ongoing funding or support for those individuals who are not involved in any way with the Super Bowl.”
So does that mean that we are wasting our time as we focus on human trafficking during the Super Bowl?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! I believe that it is actually a good thing for us to focus our attention on injustice. However, our responsibility to be advocates doesn’t end after the fourth quarter. We need to recognize that this happens everywhere all the time. The US State Department estimates that approximately 18,000 people are trafficked across US border each year. The Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 american children are enslaved on an annual basis. This will continue to grow unless we decide to see it come to an end.
Will you let the Super Bowl become the day that you started fighting FOR the survivors of human trafficking?
Here are a few practical things that you can do tonight:
1) Use Social Media to make those in your personal networks aware of the problem. Google stats, quotes, images, and post them to your social media channels. Harness the power of your #hashtags. Use #HTChallenge and #notsosuper, as you makes your friends and family aware of this problem.
2) Visit notsosuper.org to see a powerful short film and hear the stories of real sex trafficking survivors. Then, sign the petition and make a difference.
3 Follow @caughtintraffik to see what it’s like living as a sex trafficking victim: https://twitter.com/caughtintraffik
LET TODAY BE THE DAY THAT YOU GOT TIRED OF EXPLOITATION.