There is much anticipation and excitement flowing around this weekend — the 49th Super Bowl will be played in Arizona on February 1. Along with the ads for the big game, the state’s attorney general’s office has been pushing the “Arizona’s Not Buying It” campaign, designed to raise public awareness about human trafficking. In the United States alone, sex trafficking brings in $32 billion annually and endangers more than 300,000 children.
For several years now, the Super Bowl has been labelled as one of the biggest sex trafficking days of the year. And it makes sense — lots of men with lots of money looking to have a good time descend on one city for one weekend. Why wouldn’t pimps take advantage of that?
Studies are showing, though, that there is no substantial evidence that trafficking actually increases around the Super Bowl. Bradley Myles, CEO of the anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project, noted, “It is important to know that there isn’t much evidence linking the Super Bowl to a major rise in trafficking. Although there is a market for commercial sex around the time of the Super Bowl, this market demand exists 365 days a year. It could be there at any event where masses of people descend upon a specific city or region, and it is also there on any average day when no big sporting events are taking place.
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“Human trafficking exists everywhere, from rural towns to large cities, and in every U.S. state – anywhere a trafficker can make a profit by exploiting vulnerable people.”
If anything, the heightened awareness about trafficking could discourage pimps from doing business at the Bowl. Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, who studies the connection between trafficking and sporting events, said, “I think if you are a trafficker and a pimp, and you bring a person here to be trafficked, you are asleep at the wheel. The Super Bowl has really sent a message, the NFL has sent a message, our community has sent a message — that sex trafficking will not be tolerated here.”
Regardless, the problem of human trafficking is very real and very serious; and while awareness about the issue and involvement in combating it have increased in recent years, there is still much work to be done. The International Labor Organization estimates there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally (including 5.5 million children), and 4.5 million of those are trapped in forced sexual exploitation.
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The Polaris Project is one of the organizations leading the fight to eradicate slavery. They teach people to recognize the signs of human trafficking and have set up a hotline at 1-888-373-7888 that victims, or people who know victims, of human trafficking can call. Trafficked individuals can also send a text to BeFree (233733) to receive help.
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