Every year, as we draw near to the Super Bowl, news cycles and our social media feeds see an increase in articles about sex trafficking. If you look at Google Trends for the terms “sex trafficking” and “human trafficking”, you’ll see searches for those terms take a sharp uptick in late January and February.
And this uptick is not without reason—cities that host the Super Bowl see an increase in sex trafficking surrounding the event. In a recent report from KARE 11, a Minneapolis NBC affiliate, U of M researcher Lauren Martin said, “A lot of the news coverage tends to exaggerate the impact of the Super Bowl or it tends to look for a big splash… Any event, any consumer trade show that would bring a large number of people to the city, would likely have a similar impact.” Where there is demand, the supply follows.
We can’t forget that sex trafficking is not a one-week-a-year phenomenon. Today, in cities around the country, the individuals who will be trafficked during the Super Bowl this weekend in Minneapolis—are likely already being trafficked. They are already being coerced and forced into commercial sexual exploitation. And on the day of the game, men, women, boys, and girls, will trade sex as a result of force or coercion or for survival needs like housing and food across the country, across the world—not just in the hosting city.
In fact, many of the exploited individuals will not actually be from the hosting city—they will be brought in from cities across the country. In the KARE 11 report, Sergeant Grant Snyder, head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Human Trafficking Team, talks about his 2017 trip to Houston for Super Bowl 51, “In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, we had intelligence, information—current—about traffickers here, that were going to be bringing victims to Houston for the Super Bowl.”
We are grateful that attention is being brought to commercial sexual exploitation during Super Bowl season; but we are also well aware that we cannot relegate this to being a seasonal, event-based issue. When the Super Bowl is over, and the winning hometown has had their parade, the heartbreaking realities of the domestic sex trafficking industry will persist.
Here in Seattle, REST works closely with other local organizations like Seattle Organization for Prostitution Survivors, Seattle Against Slavery, The YWCA, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, our local law enforcement agencies, and the King County Prosecutor’s office to ensure that victims of sexual exploitation have access to the services and support they need. You can learn more about the harm of sexual exploitation here in Seattle from the Ending Exploitation Collaborative, and more about our city’s stance on demand reduction from the CEASE Network.
We are inviting you to remember the victims and survivors of sex trafficking beyond the Super Bowl—to learn how traffickers exploit people for sex, how you can protect your own children and how sex trafficking impacts your own community—and what is being done in your community to combat it.