As Super Bowl weekend approaches, many of us in the United States prepare for one of the biggest celebrations each year. We stock up on chips, dip, wings and fun drinks and anticipate some of the best commercials on television. We have family and friends over to cheer our favorite (or second choice) team and make friendly wagers on who will win. Super Bowl is an exciting spectacle, but it has a dark side that looms in the shadows of each host city every year.
Atlanta, GA is hosting the Super Bowl this year and it is one of the largest cities in the US known for sex trafficking according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Atlanta will now become an even greater magnet for victims and perpetrators in the sex trade. While many Americans are preparing for their parties, many teens are being groomed, threatened and coerced to work 3 days straight during the hype of the Super Bowl weekend festivities. Although law enforcement heightens efforts to combat sex trafficking during the Super Bowl, human trafficking is a worldwide problem that is not receiving the attention or intervention needed throughout the year.
The global statistics on human trafficking are staggering. According to the US Department of State, forced/exploited labor makes up nearly 80% of the estimated 25 million people trapped in modern-day slavery. The other 20% are being sexually exploited both in the US and abroad. Human trafficking generates roughly $150 billion a year in profits, whether by cash in hand or money saved by forced/cheap labor. Although only 20% of victims are trafficked for sex, commercial sexual exploitation is responsible for 66% of profits, or $99 billion. In 2016 there were only 9,071 convictions for trafficking worldwide for the roughly 66,520 identified victims.
Adults and children are trafficked in numerous ways and from nearly every nation across the globe. Trafficking almost always involves coercion, threats, grooming and bribery. Traffickers target those who are runaways, living in extreme poverty, victims of war and conflict or those who have suffered social discrimination. Families sometimes willingly give up their children due to their own extreme poverty on the promises their children will be well-educated and cared for by other wealthy couples. Adults are often lured by ads for new employment opportunities outside of their home country but soon learn they were exploited and are forced to work for free or meager wages while their passports or visas are confiscated. Children can also be trafficked for purposes of organized crime, forced military participation, child marriages and indentured servitude.
So how does this affect us in the United States? What are some things we can be doing? Here at MLJ, we are Hague Accredited and adhere to the Hague Convention which ensures children who are eligible for international adoption are not victims of human trafficking. MLJ also properly vets all our foreign service providers in country which assures professional and principled work ethic as they collaborate with the orphanages and child care facilities to prevent child buying. Safeguarding against child buying/human trafficking includes: ensuring ethical and transparent services in country, that birth parents were not coerced or offered incentives to relinquish their child, ensuring the child’s legal documents are authentic and have not been forged or obtained fraudulently and ensuring that all adoptions are in the best interest of the child.
But what about outside of international adoption? What can someone do daily to take a stand against human trafficking? We need to be aware as a community: understand the magnitude and prevalence of human trafficking. Do not support companies that may facilitate human trafficking or use forced/child labor. Many companies overseas are entrenched with modern day slavery. Do not turn a blind eye to behaviors you may observe of teens within your family or community. There are many risk factors associated with youth who are sexually exploited in the US. Some of these risk factors include: truancy, a history of running away, clothes/cell phones/jewelry that the youth cannot justify or afford, suspicious symbolic tattoos, a youth who associates with or has relationships with age-inappropriate friends, history of being arrested for loitering, curfew violations, false identification or possession of a controlled substance, patterns of increased drug or alcohol use, and a history or current incidents of sexually inappropriate behaviors, diseases or pregnancies. A youth who may struggle in one of these areas is not automatically being exploited. However, if there are multiple risk factors associated with a youth, it is a cause for concern and further intervention may be needed. If you see something, say something!
For further information regarding human trafficking or if you suspect someone is being trafficked, please follow the links below or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.