Last year's Super Bowl in Miami was pretty big -- country superstar Carrie Underwood opened with the national anthem, legendary ‘60s rockers The Who performed during halftime, and the New Orleans Saints took home the big trophy. And according to the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, tens of thousands of sex trafficking victims were brought to Florida to service the increased demand for commercial sex around the games. Will this year's Super Bowl in Texas be an even bigger human trafficking event? Celebrities weren't the only people in Miami for the Super Bowl last year; activists from the anti-slavery movement were also there. Hordes of volunteers conducted a giant outreach effort to aid underage victims of sex trafficking. Afterwards, Amanda Kloer reported on the success of these efforts: outreach teams recovered six missing children and removed “five girls from potential recruitment or exploitation by pimps.” At least one pimp who was using Craigslist to sell children to Super Bowl patron was arrested and sentenced.
But the biggest victory of all is that authorities in Texas have already started to prepare for the potential influx of sex trafficking victims at the next Super Bowl, taking place February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas, one of the biggest hubs of modern day slavery in the U.S. In 2008, 38% of all calls to the national human trafficking hotline were made from the lone star state.
At the second annual meeting of Texas’ anti-trafficking task force last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot announced that his staff is already getting ready to help authorities stop traffickers during the Super Bowl—which he described as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.” Task force staff will train law enforcement to identify victims of trafficking, and to engage with them as victims, rather than criminals.
While outreach sweeps are an important part of combating human trafficking, they are only part of the solution. Once victims are identified and rescued, the long process of recovery begins. And that’s where direct services and shelters come in. Experts estimate 100,000 American children are exploited in prostitution annually. But only about 80 beds nationwide are set aside to care for them. And if Texas does see an influx of trafficking, they'll need more shelter space than they've got.
This year, authorities, activists and law enforcement will be at the Super Bowl, well prepared to identify victims. But we have a long way to go before their recovery is assured. Help make sure that rescued victims of underage sex trafficking have a safe place to recover. Sign the petition below to urge Texas lawmakers to provide shelter care for the victims they do identify, not just means to keep pimps and traffickers off the streets.