Eight men have already been arrested as part of a sex trafficking ring exposed today in New Orleans. This case supports advocacy agencies' claims that the Super Bowl is the "single largest human trafficking incident in the United States." When you combine beer, testosterone, and cold hard cash with hundreds of thousands of people in a major metropolitan area, you know sex trafficking is going to become a reality for a number of women and men on the ground, but the question is, what's being done to fix it? In January 2011, Christian advocacy organizations united to expose trafficking occurring in the shadows of the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, and Texas attorney general Greg Abbott "beefed up a [police] unit that was assigned to investigate and arrest those who trade in child prostitutes." As a result, there were a routine 113 arrests for prostitution at the 2011 Super Bowl--but none for trafficking.
In the past, attempted crackdowns by law enforcement have misfired by treating prostitutes as criminals to be locked up rather than victims to be rescued. According to Nevada District Judge William Voy, providing former prostitutes and sexually exploited girls with restoration services is crucial--he's seen more than his fair share of girls appearing before him shackled at the hands and feet, "as though they were criminals instead of victims:"
"Frankly, I'm tired," Voy said. "Show me the money. That's what we need here."
The money Voy suggests would go toward restoration programs (Atlanta's Wellspring Living and RESTORE NYC are a couple of examples), and continuing to educate and equip law enforcement officers and task forces to arrest and prosecute pimps and johns on the ground. Today's arrest, mentioned at the top of this post, is an encouraging one, perhaps indicating law enforcement is at the top of their game leading into Super Bowl weekend as advocacy and awareness campaigns are in full swing.
Statistics on human trafficking are flying all over social media channels, and advocacy leaders are also taking action, including Terra Koslowski, director of program development at FREE International. Koslowski is going to New Orleans to try to get hotels to put the number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888) on their bars of soap:
"The Super Bowl is a huge game," Koslowski said. "And we know that pimps show up from all over the country for what essentially is one big party. And we're going to be there."
Advocacy and awareness are key, but without taking out the pimps and johns who propagate this madness, where's the hope? In Las Vegas, Assembly Bill 67 is working its way through the system. The legislation would increase prison penalties for pimps, and is an example of how the fight against sex trafficking is tangibly shifting to the men trafficking the girls instead of the women on the street, but these things take time. The immediate answer likely lies in prayer, and in finding the girls on the street and having them lead prosecutors to their pimps' doorsteps.
Want to help? Take action locally - Polaris Project is a global effort to end human trafficking worldwide, and provides a number of resources on their website for ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking locally (here's a link to their Illinois resources). Also, in addition to munching on Doritos, yelling at your TV, and voting for your favorite commercials Sunday, send up a prayer or two for the girls lost in the darkness to be saved, and for individuals around the world to step up, prosecute traffickers, and provide resources for individuals rescued to be restored to health and wholeness instead of being thrown in the clink like criminals.
I don't know about you, but I'll be trolling the web this weekend, watching for more stories of trafficking arrests in New Orleans. Also, if you're looking for ways to join in the fight, here are three tips to join in the fight against human trafficking in your local community.
Friday, Feb. 2, 2013
USA Today ran a full-page advertisement today promoting the End It Movement, an anti-human trafficking campaign launched at the 2013 Passion Conference (read details on the conference that raised over $3.3 million to combat human trafficking worldwide here). The End it Movement is operating under this tagline:
Slavery still exists. We want every man, woman and child to know that there are 27 million men, women and children, just like them, living in the shadows. Working as slaves. In 161 countries. Including our own. Let's shine a light on slavery and END IT.
As over 60,000 university-aged students left the Passion Conference at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 4, 2013, they took the vision of the End it Movement with them. In addition to the $3.3 million raised at the conference over the course of four days, over $1115,000 has been raised to promote this movement from campuses, organizations, and individuals worldwide after the conference. Action is being taken daily by thousands of college students worldwide who are "in it to end it" by hosting prayer vigils, awareness campaigns, fundraisers, and websites worldwide.