The most-watched sporting event in America every year is the Super Bowl and this year’s match-up is bound to be no exception. With millions of viewers scheduled to tune in, all eyes are on the host city for the game, but human traffickers have their eye on the city, too.
Like so many large events, the Super Bowl, with its celebrations and parties, is notoriously susceptible to human and sex trafficking. One look at the news shows that Uber drivers are being given training on how to identify victims in their backseat. Hotels are training staff on how to initiate rescues.
It’s the country’s largest sporting event, but is it truly the largest human trafficking event in the world?
What does modern-day slavery look like? It can look like Abha* in India who at the age of 13 was manipulated into being sold in the sex trafficking industry. At some points, she would be sent 20 to 30 customers a day.
It can look like Esther* in Ghana who was enslaved to work on a lake for hours on end when she was just 6 years old. For 10 years all she knew was sweeping, cleaning and processing fish.
It can look like Maarko* in the Philippines, who was seven when his trafficker began to be sexually exploit him in front of a live-audience on the internet.
Human Trafficking Awareness Month is coming to a close this January, and while we cannot say definitively whether the Super Bowl is the largest human trafficking event in the world or not, the significant emphasis on education and awareness is a welcome beacon of light on a problem that thrives in the darkness. That attention must also translate to action.
The reality of human trafficking can be overwhelming, but there is hope. International Justice Mission (IJM) is committed to rescuing and bringing justice to survivors like Abha, Esther and Maarko through strong partnership with local governments and justice systems – but it’s going to take all of us. From NFL players, to small business owners, to moms with young children, it will take all of us using our power and our resources to join the fight to end slavery in our lifetime.
Learn more about IJM at www.ijm.org.
Donald Brown is a former NFL running back for the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Charger now serving as the Director of Professional Athlete & Influencer Partnerships for IJM.