I like to put a damper on exciting things, so while I’m just as pumped as anyone (okay, decidedly less pumped than anyone in the Northeast) to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, I want to talk about a real problem with our nation’s favorite sporting event.
And it’s not concussions. It’s sex trafficking.
I didn’t know anything about sex trafficking until a few years ago when I watched an absolutely amazing movie called Trade. I can’t recommend it enough, even though it’s incredibly heavy and heartbreaking. You can see for yourself:
The most striking thing about the film is that it brings sex trafficking home. Because while we would like to think of it as a far off problem affecting only places like Taiwan, Haiti or Mexico, the reality is that the US estimates there are 10,000 sex trafficking victims in this country. Some estimates are higher. Miami police estimated that in 2010 there was as many as 10,000 prostitutes from outside the area for the Super Bowl, considered one of the largest sex trafficking events in the country and possibly the world.
I can’t think about it without tearing up. Women, men, boys, girls being brought as an extra sideshow, extra entertainment.
If you think back to Econ 101, most every business operates on a simple premise: increase supply to meet the demand. So what do we need to do to stop sex trafficking? We need to stop the demand.
That’s not what we’ve been doing. According to a 2005 bill in Congress:
According to recent studies —
- a) 11 females used in commercial sexual acts were arrested in Boston for every arrest of a male purchaser;
- b) 9 females used in commercial sexual acts were arrested in Chicago for every arrest of a male purchaser;
- c) 6 females used in commercial sexual acts were arrested in New York City for every arrest of a male purchaser.
There’s something not right here. And Indiana has been rushing through the legislator bills to crack down on sex trafficking. But what can we, as people probably not engaged in the sex trade or law enforcement do to stop the demand?
A group of Catholic nuns has reached out to local hotels training and educating them on how to recognize and prevent sex trafficking. 200 hotels in a 50 mile radius of the city have agreed to or had participated in training or receiving information on local safe houses and help lines. The nuns have enlisted local congregations to pray and take action for those engaged in sex trafficking.
The problem of sex trafficking is large and complicated. It’s not just evil men in back alleys, it’s a world where families are so impoverished selling oneself is sometimes the only option. It’s a culture that turns a blind eye to sex crimes, or even glamorizes it. We can think it’s not our culture all we want, but I go to a school that ignored rapes on campus. We hear about the Penn State scandal every day. Big scandals aside, we watch sexist TV commercials and laugh and them like they are funny. But there’s nothing funny about treating women like they are less than what God created them to be. There’s nothing okay about a culture that refuses to stop the demand.
I can’t rush in to Indianapolis and save everyone, as much as I would like to. But I can be a person who respects life, respects human dignity, and respects sex. I wish I knew how to take a bigger stand than just yelling at the internet. But I can tell you this, when I’m cheering on the Giants (or Patriots? Have we decided yet, John?) on Sunday, I’m going to be cheering on those nuns, and men and women all over the world who are taking a stand against sex trafficking.
Even if it’s just a small voice saying this needs to stop.