Super Bowl Sunday. Those three words are on almost every American’s mind this week. Whether you’re a die hard fan waiting to see the Giants and the Patriots clash it out, or if you just want an excuse to throw a party and watch the commercials, many of us look forward to this weekend year round. Amid all the excitement and festivities however, there exists a dark potential threat; a huge upsurge of human trafficking.
Along with the thousands of fans that will descend upon Indianapolis this weekend, many traffickers and their victims will likely follow suit. For pimps and traffickers, this massive influx of predominately male, and soon-to-be inebriated fans, offers a large customer base for their illegal operations. For the past three Super Bowls, cities, law enforcement, and NGO’s have made efforts to combat any potential spike of human trafficking, and this year’s efforts look to be the largest yet. Indiana Governor Mitch Davis passed legislation Monday that expands the definition of sex trafficking to any forced, sexual act, and increases its penalties. The law also calls for added training for hotel workers and taxi drivers on the warning signs of trafficking.
Indianapolis officials aren’t the only ones stepping up their game for the big day; non-profits are also doing their part to fight any surge of Super Bowl sex trafficking. 150 volunteers from Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, or S.O.A.P. are currently visiting city motels, passing out just that; bars of soap inscribed with a human trafficking hotline for victims to call. Along with the thousands of bars of soap, the organization is also providing awareness training for workers at motels surrounding the stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
Some have argued that this threat of sex trafficking is sensationalized by the media, and that very little hard evidence exists. It’s entirely possible that the numbers could be exaggerated, or the threat may be over-hyped by the media to increase viewers/readers. However, it doesn’t take an expert to see that thousands of men coming to a huge sporting event where alcohol is widely available would be appealing to pimps and sex traffickers. At the very least, this possible threat has made the government ramp up its safety efforts and establish new anti-trafficking laws, and awareness among workers has been raised by organizations such as S.O.A.P.
This Sunday, as you celebrate with friends and family, cheer for your favorite team, and rate/be-rate the new crop of million-dollar commercials, keep in mind those who do not have such luxuries. Keep a watchful eye as you shop for the big Super Bowl party, talk to friends about their thoughts on the relationship between sporting events and human trafficking, and just be aware of the larger social impact of America’s most-watched event. Enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday and whatever traditions it entails, I’ll be right there with you watching the 46th battle for the Lombardi trophy.