On Sunday night, millions watched the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles battle it out in Super Bowl LII. While this game is undoubtedly one of the most-watched sports events of the year, there is more at play than just football.
In 2011, Governor of Texas Greg Abbott called the Super Bowl the “largest human trafficking event” and called for action as the game was planned to occur in Cowboys Stadium.
An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. are victims of sex trafficking, and the majority of them are children. Last year, the police arrested 750 people during sex trafficking sting operations.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “Trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used as terms for the acts of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. Human trafficking can include but does not require movement.
However, while the Super Bowl does spike sex trafficking numbers in the host city, research shows the Super Bowl does not have the largest impact, and the extent of the impact is short-lived.
A study performed by the University of Minnesota in June 2017 showed Super Bowls do generate an increase in sex trafficking, but not to the degree often publicized in the media. The study also examined events such as the Olympics and World Cup with similar results. In fact, the study revealed Memorial Day weekend at Myrtle Beach showed the largest number of “new-to-town” (sex advertisements) ads.
During large events such as the Super Bowl, Olympics and World Cup, media tends to create exaggerated hype about trafficking numbers in host cities. Exaggeration has the potential to reduce the credibility of efforts designed to combat sex trafficking and reinstate the stigma associated with women involved in this industry.
Sex trafficking is so much bigger than the Super Bowl, the World Cup and even the Olympics. This industry has exploited millions of lives over the years, but its effects continue long after the buzzer sounds.
Annie Lobert, founder of Hookers for Jesus and a sex trafficking survivor, told Fox News the Super Bowl is just another day for those trapped in the sex industry.
“Based on my experience, I can tell you that the Super Bowl is just another weekend for the hundreds of thousands of sex-trafficking victims in the United States,” Lobert said. Lobert herself was also trafficked for more than a decade in Super Bowl host cities.
According to Lobert, many people assume the Super Bowl was her busiest weekend as a trafficked escort, but it wasn’t even close.
“In a town with more than 39 million visitors annually, any given weekend we were kept busy 24/7, 365 days a year, filling our pimps’ pockets,” Lobert said.
The sad truth is trafficking is happening in every city in the U.S., every hour of every day of the year. Wherever there is internet access or strip clubs, sex is being sold to those who demand it. And where sex is being sold, you can count on sex trafficking going on at the same time.
While it’s great to raise awareness, let’s quit jumping on a campaign during these large sporting events and instead realize awareness needs to continue long after. Awareness campaigns help, but they don’t solve the issue.
As a society, we need to do more than just talk about it.
Each of us can help eliminate sex trafficking. Here are a few ways you can make an impact:
1. Educate yourself.
The more you understand what sex trafficking is and how many lives it affects, the better equipped you are to stop it.
2. Recognize the signs.
Every day you may pass a victim and never realize it, especially if you live in a big city. Learn the signs associated with victims.
3. Report suspicions.
If you see any suspicious activity related to sex trafficking, don’t hesitate to report it. Making a phone call to 911 or to the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line (1-888-373-7888) can make all the difference.