When hearing of human trafficking, one may think about third-world countries. It seems like one of those issues that teens living in the New York City don’t need to worry about, but believe it or not, it is closer to home then one might think. As any famous and popular sport, football brings many people together. According to SportingCharts, the total attendance of all Super Bowls combined is 3,747,914 people. Surprisingly enough, the Super Bowl hosted by the NFL unintentionally provides an opportunity for human trafficking, the exchange of humans for sex or labor. A time when so many people are only focused on the NFL Super Bowl, human traffickers had the perfect opportunity to sexually exploit females. The Super Bowl also brings together thousands of men from different states and countries leading to such acts. (Photo courtesy: New York Times)
Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It is the exchange of humans for sex or labor. Men, women and children are exploited on a daily basis. Kimberly Ritter, an anti-sex trafficking advocate, describes the horror during the super bowl: “They take little girls and walk them from truck to truck, they call them lot lizards. The pimp needs to keep control of the girls, that pimp can sell her up to 20 times a day, 7 days a week.”
This year, the NFL Super Bowl took place on Sunday, February 7th in Santa Clara. But this issue of human trafficking during the Super Bowl takes place almost every year. The sporting event attracts more trafficking than any other sport in the U.S. according to Huffpost. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, the Super Bowl is the “single largest human trafficking incident in the U.S.” Researchers from Arizona State University found that leading up to the event, the number of online advertisements involving sexual content spiked in volume and almost half of these ads involved sex trafficking victims according to Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Human Trafficking Task Force said the business of selling sex was up in the weeks and days leading up to the Super Bowl. Teenagers and adult women are being exploited and forced into prostitution coming from different countries. Nita Belles, the anti-trafficking activist and the author of “In Our Backyard”, an account of the trafficking in the US says, “The enormity of the sporting event provides an ideal setting for traffickers to cash in.” She also says, “Any time you have a large number of people gathering in one place, especially males, and it’s a party atmosphere, it’s prime ground for sex trafficking.”
This issue is prevalent right in front of our eyes, yet we don’t see much of it, it’s hiding in plain sight. There is human trafficking taking place discreetly in Flushing, Queens and Long Island. “Queens is not only the epicenter for trafficking foreigners in New York, it really is on the entire East Coast,” said Lee, the Executive Director at Restore, which offers safe homes for victims who are able to escape and seek refuge. Many victims in Lee’s organization claim that when they first immigrated and got involved in the trade, they started in Flushing. Human trafficking happens in the US, often times when people are guaranteed a job which later turns out to be sex trade work and prostitution (Queens Chronicle). According to the US Department of Justice, 83% of victims are citizens. In Queens, people are forced to work in salons, shops, and brothels and on farms in Long Island. The issue is closer to home than many might think.
There are several efforts to prevent human trafficking, specifically the exploitation of women for sex. The United Nations is taking care of the issue on an international basis since it is prevalent in many parts of the world including countries such as Pakistan, Tanzania, Bolivia and Morocco. These countries have a significant number of victims and has shown no evidence of efforts to improve conditions, thus placing them on the United Nation’s watchlist (www.theguardian.com). There are many laws that prevent or reduce the risk of human trafficking which many countries choose to obey or disobey secretly. Here in the U.S., there are numerous agencies that help with the issue such as the National Human Trafficking Resource Center which can be contacted on a 24/7 basis. The media also makes efforts to cover the issue when it is prevalent during the Super Bowl or other events to bring awareness to people which can sometimes help prevent it.
Written by Lamia Rahman
Photo Credits to New York Times