Last year, 111.9 million people around the country tuned in to watch the Denver Broncos face off against the Carolina Panthers. With big name performances, million dollar advertisements, and the two proven best teams playing each other, it’s no wonder the Super Bowl is cause for celebration and is the most watched sporting event in America. Sadly, this major sporting event is a dangerous day for those involved in sex trafficking.
The larger the population, the greater the demand. When thousands of tourists travel to a host city for a popular event, the demand to purchase sex rises. Traffickers are well aware of this. Trends for previous years show ads on websites like backpage.com increase over 60% during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, and over 75 % the weekend of the event.
Of course, other major events are not exempt from this issue. Other large gatherings, like the Olympics, World Cup, Stock Show, and political conventions, are prime opportunities for those who solicit sex.
For those who purchase sex, the anonymity of a crowded host city is appealing, with the feeling of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” For others, the experience of the gathering itself provides temptation and opportunity. Advertisements are increased, and traffickers know where and how to seduce buyers.
The good news:
Awareness among law enforcement agencies continues to grow. Many states now offer training for their officers and are working with anti-trafficking organizations to prepare for major events like the Super Bowl that attract traffickers and their victims.
Texas has been a leader in the anti-trafficking movement. Just a few months ago, the CEO of backpage.com was arrested in Houston. Since that arrest, more investigation has revealed the reality of sex-trafficking in that state. Having this knowledge prepares local law enforcement to put focused efforts into preventative measures and sting operations. So far, in the week leading up to Super Bowl LI, two arrests have already been made of traffickers luring girls to Houston to be sold during the Super Bowl weekend.
Anti-trafficking organizations around the country are also taking a stand with the social media hashtag, #TackleDemand. Other anti-trafficking groups are traveling to Houston to support the city in prayer, and provide resources for the victims.
This Sunday, whether you are rooting for the Atlanta Falcons, or cheering for the New England Patriots, keep in mind those who are walking outside the stadium. Perhaps the biggest win of the season won’t happen on the field, but will take place in the heart of Houston.