Next weekend, football fans from around the country will converge in Santa Clara, California for the largest sporting event in the country — the Super Bowl. According to researchers, another group will be arriving for the big game as well — sex workers, many of whom have been trafficked. In 2010, an estimated 10,000 prostitutes were brought by their pimps to Miami for the Super Bowl, and in 2011, Dallas police made 133 arrests for underage prostitution during the week of the big game. This year promises to be more of the same, despite an increased focus on stopping the practice. It’s no secret that both prostitution and trafficking see a spike around major sporting events. It seems that whenever hordes of sports fans descend on a city, many are seeking entertainment beyond the sporting event — which may lead to purchasing commercial sex. The biggest of these major sporting events, the Super Bowl, is the largest human trafficking event in the country.
While reasonable people may disagree about the ethics of prostitution, there can be no argument in favor of human trafficking for sex (or any other purpose). It is estimated that 20 million people worldwide have been trafficked. Victims — typically vulnerable people, like teenage runaways and homeless youth — are forced to have sex with men for money. Their abductors or pimps control and manipulate their victims in a number of ways, from physical abuse to drugs to isolation. Fear of law enforcement may prevent victims from seeking help; in many states, underage trafficking victims can be prosecuted for prostitution.
Sex trafficking can happen anywhere, in any state, and during any time of the year. But it seems that major sporting events attract pimps, who see a potential for profit with so many potential “customers” in one area. One former victim, abducted at age 12 and forced to work as a prostitute, was expected to sleep with 25 to 50 men per day during the Super Bowl. Law enforcement has made it a priority to target traffickers during major sporting events like the Super Bowl, but even these initiatives may not be enough when the demand for commercial sex is so high during these events.
So how do we stop human trafficking? One way is to learn the signs of trafficking, and be prepared to act by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. You can also get involved in the fight to end human trafficking through organizations such as The Polaris Project. Learn more about this crime — which can happen anywhere, even here in Westmoreland County — and speak out against it. By raising awareness, you can become part of the solution!