Super Bowl Sex Trafficking a Myth? Let’s Debunk That Right Now!

In a recent plea to journalists, supporters of the sex industry called increased sex trafficking at large events, such as the Super Bowl, an urban myth.

“There is no myth about it,” affirms human trafficking expert Nita Belles, founder of In Our Backyard and author of a book by the same title.

Belles is the regional director for Central Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH), and for the last seven years she has been working, in the months leading up to each Super Bowl, with the host state’s Office of the Attorney General, other government agencies, and law enforcement to help prevent human trafficking and recover victims who have been trafficked.

“Traffickers smell the money present at the Super Bowl celebrations and bring their victims here to exploit them and take the money,” said Belles. “Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world—and that includes the United States. It is happening 365 days a year in every zip code. Trafficking, and even the recruitment of new victims, absolutely escalates around large events that draw big crowds like this week’s Super Bowl.”

A 2014 study by the University of Arizona about increased sex trafficking during large events stated that “The Super Bowl, or any large event which provides a significant concentration of people in a relatively confined urban area, becomes a desirable location for a trafficker to bring their victims for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation.”

“All the traffickers ask is that we keep quiet and perpetuate the myth that it doesn’t happen here. I ask for the media’s help in making it hard to be a trafficker.”

After last year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, the FBI announced that Arizona police departments and law enforcement officers conducted recovery operations for six months leading up to the Super Bowl, where agencies recovered numerous juvenile victims, ranging in age from 13 to 17, as well as adult victims who had been subjected to physical abuse by their traffickers.

Their efforts resulted in numerous arrests, including 360 sex buyers and 68 traffickers; 30 juvenile victims were also recovered.  Belles notes that in 2014, 45 arrests were made around the New Jersey Super Bowl, with 16 juveniles recovered.  In 2013 in New Orleans, 85 arrests made and five victims recovered.

“Any time you have a large number of people gathering in one place with a party atmosphere—especially males, it’s prime ground for sex trafficking,” says Belles. “I know of animals who are treated with more respect than those who are trafficked. They are forced into horrendous acts that we don’t even want to imagine. Prostitutes are usually victims,” she says, “and ‘john’ is too nice a word for someone who should be called a ‘sex buyer.’” She adds, “Those who are being trafficked are precious children of God and deserve to live free of modern slavery. That is why I do what I do.”

belles_InOurBackyard_wSpine.inddBelles explains that escape is difficult because victims are closely watched and often traumatically bonded to their captors. Those who are rescued are hoping that they can get the help needed to find a new, safe, happy life.  Sex trafficking victims, particularly minors, have a tough road in front of them, even under the best circumstances. They need trauma-based treatment, kindness, understanding, a stable and non-threatening environment, and lots of time to heal.

“Many will need professional counseling and medical or mental health services to recover from the atrocities that have happened to them,” said Belles. “Those recovered in the anti-trafficking efforts in the Bay Area will be offered that help.”

This week in San Francisco Belles is leading a team of professionals who will be working non-stop to ensure that those who are being trafficked have a fighting chance at freedom and that the sex buyers and traffickers will be brought to justice.

“There’s a saying that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world,” says Belles. “But it’s the oldest abuse in the world. Here is my request to the media,” she urges: “Don’t be quiet. Don’t fall prey to the lie that human trafficking is not increasing.  All the traffickers ask is that we keep quiet and perpetuate the myth that it doesn’t happen here. I ask for the media’s help in making it hard to be a trafficker.”

Last year, Belles, along with the help of trafficking survivors, designed The Freedom Sticker, which provides a hotline for victims to call or text so that they can be rescued. In June of 2015, Oregon House Bill 3143 was passed by the Oregon State Legislature and was signed in to law by Gov. Kate Brown. The law states that any business renewing their OLCC liquor license will receive the stickers and be asked to place them in the stalls in their restroom—the best place for victims of trafficking to find help.

Find out what you can do to help.

 

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