The Super Bowl & Sex Trafficking, What’s the Deal?
Every year around mid-January, there seems to be a flood of articles and media attention surrounding sex trafficking at the Super Bowl. As one of the largest sporting events on earth, it attracts tens of thousands of men into cities, and there’s no denying that many of them are willing to pay for sex as part of their big entertainment experience. The numbers released by many local agencies in cities where the Super Bowl has been held are proof enough.
In advance of the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta, law enforcement is already making plans to combat sex trafficking before the event. The week leading up to the Super Bowl, law enforcement in Atlanta arrested 33 traffickers.
While many sources cast doubt on whether sex trafficking actually spikes during the Super Bowl, we know that it clearly happens, and no city in America is immune to it. One of the many lessons we’ve learned at AIM is that traffickers are constantly evolving their methods to stay out of the sights of law enforcement. In years past, the problem of sex trafficking during Super Bowl was more visible and measurable than it seems to be now.
In 2011, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart spearheaded the launch of the National John Suppression Initiative, which is a nationwide sting operation that many local police departments participate in. These operations occur around the time of the Super Bowl and other times throughout the year. In 2015, law enforcement agencies in 17 states arrested nearly 600 people and rescued 68 victims of human trafficking during a sting in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX, which was played in Phoenix. Five Hundred Fifty-Two people were arrested in 2016 for trying to purchase sex, 160 “johns” or pimps were arrested, and 10 teens were rescued from forced sex trafficking in the National John Suppression Initiative sting that took place in 14 states right before Super Bowl 50.
But It’s Bigger than just the Super Bowl…
When his state was gearing up to host the Super Bowl in 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today, “The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly… It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” But while Super Bowl stings like the National John Suppression Initiative can make a big difference in a short amount of time, many advocates point out that they’re not enough because sex trafficking is an issue in all 50 states, and it’s a year-round problem. Others also add that the Super Bowl is not necessarily the source of the sex trafficking problem, it is simply an event that brings it all together into one concentrated place.
Stephanie Kilper, a representative for Operation Freedom Taskforce in Akron, Ohio — an organization which aims to end human trafficking – said, “It’s not so much that you become a victim at the Super Bowl, but that many victims are brought in to be used for all the men at the Super Bowl.” In 2011, Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children supported this notion. He said that each year, 100,000 to 300,000 American kids, some as young as 12 years old, are exploited in the sex trade, and at the Super Bowl, “The traffickers try to seize that opportunity to do business.”
What Can I Do?
So, what can we do to address the larger year-round, nationwide, and even GLOBAL issue of sex trafficking? The first and best step is always increasing our awareness and knowledge on the issue so that we can keep our eyes open and help end the criminal activity. Then, as Kilper says, “… pray and give. Prayer is such a powerful way to combat trafficking. It accomplishes more than one might think. And give. Give to the organizations that are fighting human trafficking. They have the ability to go in and save these men, women and children. But they need the funds to keep their organizations going.”
Agape International Missions (AIM) exists to fight the evil of sex trafficking specifically in Cambodia, but we’ve compiled a list of resources and ways that you can get involved even in your own community:
- Learn about the issue – We’ve gathered some great information and links about Sex Trafficking on a global scale and specifically in our program area in Cambodia here.
- Raise awareness – Donate your guess of what the final score of the game will be and share it with your friends.
- Report suspected incidents of trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. This hotline is not only to report suspected trafficking, but to get help if you have been a human trafficking victim.
Agape International Missions (AIM) was founded on the ground in Cambodia in 1988 as a humanitarian aid and church planting organization. Since 2005, our ministries have focused on ending the evil of child sexual slavery.
AIM takes a holistic approach to fighting trafficking, restoring victims and transforming communities, in order to defeat trafficking. Our projects Prevent, Rescue, Restore and Reintegrate. AIM is guided by a distinct philosophy that God anointed the Church through the power of Jesus Christ to overcome evil.
AIM has a US Headquarters in California with administrative staff and local, in-country staff for our programs.