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Monday, February 4, 2013

Sex Trafficking and the Superbowl

Last night was one of the biggest events of the year for American sports fans -and non-sports fans for that matter- as the Baltimore Ravens battled the San Francisco 49ers battled it out for Super Bowl XLVII. However as the Ravens worked to see their way into NFL history, countless people were the victims to the sex crimes - all directly associated with football’s biggest day.

America's biggest sporting event is also America's biggest day for sex trafficking. Only days before the Super Bowl XLVII, New Orleans police arrested eight people and rescued five women from a human-trafficking-related operation (Fox 8 News).  Busts such as this one are not only a small indicator to the large scale, but have now dubbed the sports event the “single-largest human-trafficking incident in the United States". Some 300,000 American women and children as young as 12 years old are sexually exploited each year. While it is possible for people to be abducted during the Super Bowl, most are likely taken beforehand and used at major, large-scale events like the Super Bowl.

Such incidents include the estimated 10,000 women and minors that were trafficked in the Miami area during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., according to the Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking. The Tampa Bay Times provided details of a trafficker being arrested for offering two girls, one 14 and one 18, for $300 as "a Super Bowl special." The trafficker, Manuel A. Walcott, was apparently advertising the girls on Craigslist and was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison. The girls had been held captive as prostitutes for two years.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today in 2011 -when his state hosted Super Bowl XLV- that; "The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly," In 2011 while the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers; 133 prostitution-related arrests were made that year.

Clemmie Greenlee, a survivor of sex trafficking,recounted in the New Orleans how she was taken to Southern cities to prostitute for those attending such large-scale events as the Super Bowl. She's sitting in the lobby of a New Orleans hotel, decorated with San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens decorations. Her pimps took advantage of the large influx of people who attended the Super Bowl to increase business by mandating 25 a day to Greenlee and their other victims. If they didn't make the quotas they were severely beaten, raped, or forced to watch another girl receive the punishment. Now 53, Greenlee works at Eden House in Uptown New Orleans, the first shelter for sex-trafficking victims in Louisiana; the center opened in October 2012.

This year in preparation for the the Super law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups collaborated with local businesses in order to spread awareness. One such group of volunteers and coalition members, Klaas Kids travel to each Super Bowl to investigate the sex trafficking. They often find young girls, some who were reported missing. According to Brad Dennis, Klaas Kids search director, as many as "2,200 children are reported missing every day in the United States. That`s an awful lot of kids on the streets for predators to take advantage of..." and the primary reason they target Super Bowls for their investigations (Fox).  He and Nita Belles, who began work after researching human trafficking for her book ‘In Our Backyard,’ along with other members split up into groups searching through neighborhoods from New Orleans to Biloxi, MS. They`re sending information to joint task forces in both states. Biloxi Police Sgt. Aldon Helmert says, “when we`re able to have citizens to be our eyes and ears, it provides us a great deal more resources.” The investigations have led to at least 15 rescues with one of the girls had been reported missing.

Large scale awareness campaigns such as the USA Today  full page ad promoting the End It Movement -an anti-human-trafficking campaign launched at the 2013 Passion Conference, in accordance with the Super Bowl. The A 21 Campaign, established in 2008, released several Super Bowl-related info-graphics -such as the one shown above- about human trafficking this year.

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