Human Trafficking in America—SuperBowl Sunday!
It is estimated that 200,000 women annually are forced into the sex trade in the US. The majority of these are American, not imported from other countries. The largest annual human trafficking event in the US is the Super Bowl. Difficult to believe? You bet. What’s more American than the Super Bowl?
We think of football parties and tailgating, not men looking to pay for sex with enslaved victims. It is the party atmosphere and the enormity of the crowds which help pimps and victims to go unnoticed. During the last Super Bowl in New Orleans, local, state and federal law enforcement arrested more than 80 individuals for prostitution and human trafficking with the help of Operation Innocence Lost.
We are in denial as a society. It’s easier to think of a prostitute as a beautiful, happy hooker while the John is a wealthy gentleman who looks like Richard Gere. Or conversely we think they are drug addicts who have chosen prostitution to support their habit. The third possibility, that they have been kidnapped against their will and brutally forced into prostitution is just to painful to consider.
Denial is a defense mechanism the brain uses when something is too difficult to admit or face. In this case, denial that the weak, helpless and vulnerable could be forced into such painful circumstances is overwhelming. So we find other explanations and view the sex trade as completely consensual where nobody gets hurt.
Denial does help us to deal with painful issues, but it doesn’t make the issue go away. It’s one thing to allow the psyche to gradual adjust to a situation, but to continue to deny and turn a blind eye is little different than tacit consent.
When it came time for the Super Bowl, Clemmie Greenlee was expected to sleep with anywhere from 25 to 50 men a day. It’s a staggering figure, but it doesn’t shock advocates who say that the sporting event attracts more traffickers than any other in the U.S.
“The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today in 2011 when his state was gearing up to host the event. “It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
The influx of fans fosters the optimal breeding ground for pimps looking to boost their profits. Experts say that the sheer number of men looking to pay for sex substantially increases demand and the massive crowds allow for pimps and victims to essentially go unnoticed, newsnet5.com reports.
“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,” Stephanie Kilper, a representative for Operation Freedom Taskforce in Akron, Ohio — an organization which aims to end to human trafficking –- told newsnet5.com
According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010 and 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl.
Prostitution of minors is considered trafficking under federal law.
Greenlee, a former sex trafficking victim who was abducted and raped by her captors at 12, told the Times-Picayune that she was shuttled around cities in the South to work as a prostitute at large-scale events. The 53-year-old, who now works as an advocate for sex trafficking victims in Louisiana, said there was immense pressure to meet her traffickers’ demands at events like the Super Bowl.
“If you don’t make that number (of sex customers), you’re going to dearly, dearly, severely pay for it,” Greenlee told the Times-Picayune.”I mean with beatings, I mean with over and over rapings. With just straight torture. The worst torture they put on you is when they make you watch the other girl get tortured because of your mistake.”