The Super Bowl Could Never Not Be Breeding Grounds For Sexual Exploitation

Some claim that concerns about a link between sex trafficking and the Super Bowl are overblown, hyperbolic, or, simply, myth. Some have even suggested that a strong law enforcement response is harmful to victims. While it is unfortunately true that there have been arrests of prostituted women in Super Bowl-related policing--a counterproductive strategy that discourages victims from seeking desperately needed police protection--law enforcement is right to step up efforts to investigate trafficking on the eve of the Super Bowl and to hold the real perpetrators--both traffickers and their customers--accountable. For as the recent major busts of traffickers directly marketing women and girls for prostitution to Super Bowl fans underscores, the Super Bowl trafficking link is all too real.

To understand the dynamics of human trafficking is to understand that events such as the Super Bowl could never not be breeding grounds for sexual exploitation. On the most basic level, any location that sees an exponential increase in large numbers of men travelling for entertainment will receive a proportional increase in those who purchase sex--studies conservatively indicate the number of men who purchase sex to be around 16% of the American population. Thus, of the estimated 400,000 flocking to the New York and New Jersey area this Super Bowl weekend, thousands will likely be purchasers of sex.

Statistics about sex trafficking are inherently difficult to solidify because trafficking is an industry that flourishes underground and behind closed doors. We do, however, have some hard numbers. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that over 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami's 2010 Super Bowl. During the 2009 Super Bowl, in Tampa, the Department of Children and Families identified 24 children trafficked into the city for sex. Internet classified ads featuring child victims of prostitution also rose sharply in February 2009 in advance of the game.

A 2011 study by Traffick911 found that online escort ads increased radically as the Super Bowl approached, from 135 in January to 367 just before the game. In 2009, a man was arrested for advertising two girls, aged fourteen and eighteen, on Craigslist for $300, as his "Super Bowl special." Walcott was sentenced to twenty years in prison. The girls had been held captive as sex slaves for two years.

Bergen, New Jersey County Prosecutor John Molinelli reports that online advertisements and discussions--one of the most pervasive arenas for shopping for sex and communication among johns--are on the increase this time of the year, as previously. "When you're about ready to have 400,000 men come to this area of the country," Molinelli said, "You're invariably going to have more people try to take advantage of that by providing prostitutes and prostitution."

Sanctuary for Families, which has provided legal and counseling services to more than 500 trafficking victims, has witnessed the trafficking-Super Bowl link up close through the experiences of the women and girls we serve. One of them recently shared that while her average quota per night was 20 men, during major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, her pimp increased her quota to 50.

Make no mistake. There may not be "extra-curricular activity" on the field this Sunday. But, off the field, know that there will be--the kind that destroys young lives.