Washington , January 17, 2011—As the roar of the crowd fills Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on February 5, two teams will struggle for victory in Super Bowl XLVI. Fans will cheer for their chosen heros, unaware that a darker struggle will be taking place in the cheap hotels and brothels surrounding the stadium.
The annual Super Bowl weekend is considered to be the largest sex trafficking event in the United States, and some even say it is the largest in the world. In dimly lit rooms, pimps and johns will buy and sell child prostitutes as part of the reprehensible crime of sex trafficking.
Human trafficking for purposes of sex has become an increasing problem surrounding major sporting events. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the fight against human trafficking was elevated to a new level. Here in the U.S., the Indiana and Michagan based Coalition for Corporate Responsibility (CCR) will be leading the charge against human trafficking during the upcoming Super Bowl XLVI.
The Coalition for Corporate Responsibility includes eleven different women’s religious orders and is a member of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, an instrumental group in the efforts at the World Cup in 2010.
The nuns involved in CCR have their “game face” on for the coming Super Bowl weekend, hoping to bring awareness of, and fend off, the darker side of such large event. Working with the Department of Health and Human Services and members of law enforcement starting early last year, they began preparing for Super Bowl XLVI.
An investigation by the United States Department of Justice from January 2008 to June 2010 found that forty percent of human trafficking incidents involve child prostitution and/or the sexual exploitation of a child. UNICEF estimates almost two million children are involved in the global sex trade, numbers that are increasing.
Indiana has rushed to meet the onslaught of this scourge and rushed a bill through the state legislature to toughen the laws before the first fan enters the stadium.
In situations such as the Super Bowl, teenage prostitutes are typically transported by human traffickers and forced to have sex with up to six men a night. Victims are usually snatched from impoverished nations and promised a better life for their families and themselves. Fear and intimidation are the tools of the human trafficker, and the chains that are placed in the mind of the victim are the hardest to remove.
Sex trafficking is a several billion dollar industry worldwide and it is growing at an unprecedented rate.
The battle against sex trafficking is a battle against the demand of pedophiles for children.
In 2000, one-hundred-seventy-seven countries signed the Palermo Protocol at the United Nations to establish a global standard on human trafficking. Progress is being made in countries like Cambodia, where research documents high rates of child sex trafficking.
Efforts by the United States and the United Nations have provided encouragement for many countries that have turned a blind eye to this horrible crime. According to the State Department, one of the primary roadblocks in the drive to eliminate sex trafficking is the lack of introspection on the part of many of the biggest offenders.
Sex tourism is singled out by many countries as a driving force in the exploitation of children in their countries, but some reports show that the majority of offenders are citizens, with foreigners making up only a small percentage of those engaging in child prostitution.
Regardless of where the “John” comes from – inside or outside the country – stronger laws and enforcement of those laws needs to become a global effort.
Despite our best efforts, the United States has a seen an increase in the frequency of sex trafficking, with border towns becoming entry points for child prostitutes. The Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works tirelessly to stem the flow of child prostitutes into the United States, but it faces the enormous profits that drive this malefic business. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started an Initiative against Human Trafficking in 2004, and by 2009 the number of investigations had doubled. Agents for both ICE and the FBI work long hours at great sacrifice to stem the tide of sex trafficking, but they are fighting a wall of silence built on fear and intimidation.
The problem not only flows across our borders but within them as well. The internet has become both a recruitment and marketing tool for sex traffickers. Innocent children are lured into prostitution by adults posing as children or those offering false romantic overtures to those starved for affection.
Web sites open their pages to sex traffickers and allow the practice of child prostitution to flourish all in the name of profit. Parents unfamiliar with the social networking explosion either fail to take an interest in their child’s internet practices or feel overwhelmed by the technology. Victim groups like the Polaris Project and Ark of Hope work with local law enforcement to bring educational programs to parents trying keep up with the fast moving world their children are immersed in.
We are facing a difficult time in this country, when parents struggle to pay their bills working two and three jobs and time with their children is limited. The majority of them want nothing more than to be good parents, but the need to support their families does not allow them the luxury of choice between spending time with their children and policing the internet.
As we approach Super Bowl XLVI, be aware as you drive to work. Take your children to school and go with them when they visit shopping and entertainment areas, because the victims of sex trafficking are all around us. They are an invisible army of children forced into a nightmare instead of living their lives. Find ways to become involved and seek out credible organizations through local law enforcement agencies who can get you quickly “plugged in” to effective methods to combat the scourge of sex trafficking.
There is nothing more valuable than the life of a child and we all have the power to save someone from a lifetime of suffering. All we have to do is take the first step.
Most exploited children are lured away from their families with the promise of a chance for a better life, usually a job offer far away from their home. Children are even sold by their own parents into a lifetime of sexual slavery, all for the sake of monetary gain.
Taken to far-away locations, they are isolated, exploiters take their passports, beat them, and threaten their families. Fear is a powerful tool in the hands of someone with no respect for human life.
As a survivor of child sex trafficking, I am all too familiar with the methods employed by those who victimize children. For seven years, my exploiters constantly threatened my life to keep my silence. I was trafficked at sporting events and anywhere that depravity created a demand and money could be easily exchanged for the innocence of a child. I was beaten regularly, drawing blood almost every time. I lived my life in fear and coveted the peaceful moments in my life, of which there were few.
Sometimes we sacrifice ourselves to protect others, and children are easy to manipulate into protecting parents, particularly when they are desperate to hold on to any whisper of love they have in their life. They will do anything to protect it.
Even if that love is as twisted as a crown of thorns we still bleed to wear it for a moment.
Escape can seem impossible and in many cases the embarrassment of being sold for sex can instill such fear in a person that they feel they can never face their families again.
Those who do escape must deal with the after-effects of the things they have been made to do. It takes a long time to stop blaming yourself for something forced upon you, accepting that you were powerless. You spend many hours convincing yourself that there was something you could have done, a moment of opportunity that you let slip by.
The echo of abuse in the mind of a victim lasts a lifetime, and it is only through the support and love of friends and family and the miracle of therapy they will find way out of the darkness.