The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking: What Really is the Connection?

Feb 1, 2019 | by KT McClure

You may have heard that the Super Bowl is the largest venue for sex trafficking in the US.  

In the last couple of years, more awareness has been raised on human trafficking at the Super Bowl.  Hosting cities have made an effort to reinforce anti-trafficking units in law enforcement, to broadcast Public Safety Announcements in the days and weeks leading up to the event, and to allocate extra money to community organizations to provide support to operations that take place.  These operations have sometimes resulted in victims being recovered and traffickers being prosecuted.

Unfortunately, media coverage around this issue has often mispresented and sensationalized the issue. When looking at the statistics of sex trafficking in the Super Bowl; it is unclear if the number of trafficking victims increases because of this event or if the event simply lures traffickers and the people that are already being victimized.  Traffickers are people that tend to be business savvy and that are drawn to wherever a profit can be made.  The Super Bowl—an event where large masses of people descend upon a city for a few days looking for a good time—is a place where demand is inevitably increased. But human trafficking happens all year long and this is not the only time we must be vigilant to when and where human trafficking occurs.

Aside from large-scale sporting events, there are other venues where large transient populations could create demand for commercial sex—which can increase the likelihood for situations of exploitation and trafficking.  Human trafficking occurs at truck stops, work camps near pipelines or mines, and near military bases--among other places. The Department of Defense recently took a zero-tolerance stance against prostitution; patronizing a person in prostitution is now a chargeable offense according to military policy.

We welcome responsible and accurate attention around human trafficking at the time of the Super Bowl, rather than attempts at raising fears among the public that they somehow would be taken and then trafficked if they are simply in the vicinity of the event itself.  Instead, we should be harnessing the momentum from coverage around human trafficking to push back against stereotypes and misinformation. We should continue to raise awareness on the issue all year long, emphasizing that human trafficking happens in our own communities, in seemingly legitimate businesses and places of work, daily.  

The participation of the whole community is needed as we try to identify and combat human trafficking.  If you come across a person that appears to be in a controlling or dominating relationship, someone not in charge of their own documents, has a tattoo that they are reluctant to explain, or a person that appears to not be speaking on their own behalf—these could be signs that a person is being exploited.  If you suspect that an individual is being trafficked, please reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1.888.373.7888 or text at 233733.  If you are in Cook County and the nine collar counties, you can call our STOP-IT 24-hour hotline at 1.877.606.3158.

As you sit down with chip and dip this Super Bowl Sunday, remember that human trafficking happens right here. In our very own communities. We all have the power to raise awareness before, during and after the Super Bowl. All year long. Share this post to spread the word!

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