Fans gathered in their homes, in bars and at the field to watch the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos fight for the championship at Super Bowl LXVIII.
But there’s another fight that’s happening: the fight against sex trafficking. Americans tend to see this as a faraway problem, but it happens in our own backyard. Non-profits such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Traffic in Our Streets, a website dedicated to the research of human trafficking, report a spike in sex trafficking during major sporting events, like the Super Bowl.
“When you’re about ready to have 400,000 men come to this area of the country, you’re invariably going to have more people try to take advantage of that by providing prostitutes and prostitution,” New Jersey prosecutor John Molinelli told the Associated Press.
In response, New Jersey prepared to combat sexual exploitation this year. Did they succeed? We don’t know yet, but we know they tried. According to Fox411, New Jersey created a task force in early 2012 to train police officers and raise awareness among employees in and around East Rutherford to look for signs of sex trafficking.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed The Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, which “revises and expands the state’s human trafficking law by creating a new human trafficking commission, criminalizing additional activities related to human trafficking as well as upgrading certain penalties on existing human trafficking or related crimes, increasing protections afforded to victims of human trafficking and providing for increased training and public awareness on human trafficking,” according to a brief on the legislation.
Yet, somehow, many Americans have no idea that sex trafficking is a problem in our country.
Did you see a Super Bowl commercial opposing sex trafficking? We didn’t. New Jersey may have been spreading the word, as they should have, but what about the rest of the nation? The ones who have been advocates for those that are voiceless were extremely active before the Super Bowl. But what about everybody else?
The Protected Innocence Legislative Branch, a branch of Shared Hope International that uses report cards to monitor how states handle sexual exploitation cards, rated Oregon a B for its efforts. This is a huge improvement from last year’s D. This improvement was simply made by educating Oregonians, and training employees of businesses to look for the signs.
So what can the average person do to fight sex trafficking?
The Polaris Project, also an advocacy group, says sex trafficking victims may
• be unable to provide a home address,
• have few or no personal belongings,
• appear malnourished,
• appear to work or live under high security,
• exhibit unusual fearful or anxious behavior at the mention of law enforcement,
• have many inconsistencies in their story, or
• demonstrate a lack of knowledge of their whereabouts, and may not know what city they are in.
Being aware that sex trafficking exists in the U.S. is half of the fight to end it, but it’s not enough. Spreading the word, signing petitions that can be sent to our governors and not supporting sexual exploitation, is the key to ending this modern form of slavery.