Sports

Groups Target Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl

| by Baptist Press

ARLINGTON, TX -- In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas, at least two North Texas organizations are working to curb the demand for sex trafficking associated with such prominent events.

Traffick 911, a year-old organization in Fort Worth, and Love146, an international group with local support, are planning informational events at churches and theaters prior to Super Bowl week. They are enlisting churches, home groups and Sunday School classes to volunteer for such things as prayerwalking, a rescue awareness campaign, and flyer distribution in neighborhoods with sexually oriented businesses and other areas prone to prostitution.

Prostitutes will be in high demand for the 2011 Super Bowl, which inevitably means the trafficking of minors, said Deena Graves, founder of Traffick 911.

"First of all, you have a large number of male tourists traveling without families. Second, there are large amounts of money at these events," Graves said. "For example, the Super Bowl host committee estimates there will be 40,000 people coming into our area who do not even have tickets to the Super Bowl. They're coming just for the party atmosphere. It's kind of that mindset of 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.'"

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With estimates of between 100,000 to 300,000 American minors being trafficked for sex each year, the United States is one of the leading demand-and-supply countries for child prostitution, Graves said.

Traffick 911 has launched a nationwide "I'm Not Buying It" campaign leading up to the Super Bowl to raise awareness of the problem. The group has representatives serving on two workgroups associated with a task force commissioned by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to combat human trafficking in the state.

At a news conference in Arlington on Nov. 30, Abbott said the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking reported "tens of thousands of women and minors were trafficked in the Miami area during the last Super Bowl."

Looking ahead to Super Bowl week in Texas, "it's clear we are going to be defining ourselves as a state and as a people by the way in which we respond to human trafficking," Abbott said.

Another anti-trafficking organization, Love146, has begun a similar campaign called "It's Not My Fault," a title alluding to the oft-cited guilt expressed by children of divorce, by sexual assault victims, and by abused children.

The name, Love146, came from a fact-finding trip to southeast Asia where the group's founder, Rob Morris, witnessed the enslavement of pre-teen girls -- held in large glass boxes with televisions playing children's cartoons -- being marketed to traffickers. Each girl was identified only by a number. The defiant look of one of the girls, number 146, haunted Morris, he recounts in a video accessible at www.love146.org/videos/love146-history.

The groups are planning several events leading up to the Super Bowl:

-- On Jan. 14 at The Palace Theater in Grapevine, Texas, Love146 will host a screening of the documentary "The Playground," distributed by Nest Entertainment, a Christian company, and produced by actor George Clooney -- an unusual collaboration but a very moving film, Jones said.

-- On Jan. 28, a community prayer service aimed at combating sex trafficking during Super Bowl week will be held at a location yet to be determined. Jones said time and location of the prayer service would be posted later on the Irving Bible Church website at irvingbible.org.

-- On Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl, Traffick 911 will host a tailgate party to raise awareness of the human trafficking problem. The event will include a concert, speakers, a prayerwalk, and a graffiti wall on which attendees can write encouraging messages for young women and children staying in the organization's safe house.

Both organizations plan to continue their efforts after the Super Bowl leaves town, helping restore the young people they are able to rescue and continuing efforts to diminish demand for the sex trade.