(Image: Shared Hope International via Facebook)
A Christian advocacy group against the commercial sex trade and human trafficking has launched a social media campaign to coincide with the millions of people who will be interacting online during this Sunday's Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Shared Hope International says there were 12.2 million Super Bowl related posts on social networking websites during and after the game. "As a matter of fact, the halftime show alone garnered 862,000 comments," officials stated.
The organization said that these types of large numbers related to the game means there is "a chance for us together to get in the game and create awareness for the fight against human trafficking, through online advocacy."
Shared Hope International is also using its pledge group, Defenders USA, to fight the commercial sex industry.
"We're guys who take a pledge and take action. We educate, equip, and empower other men to fight against the sex industry and protect their families," the group states on its website.
Justin Holcomb, who is a pastor at Mars Hill Church, where he also serves as Executive Director of Resurgence, recently wrote that "the Super Bowl and other large sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup are increasingly being recognized as magnets for sex trafficking and child prostitution. The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought in to Miami, while the 2011 event resulted in 133 prostitution-related arrests in Dallas."
Holcomb stated, "In the past, attempted crackdowns by law enforcement have misfired by treating prostitutes as criminals to be locked up rather than victims to be rescued, but awareness efforts have been working, and government agencies have begun to pay more attention to the problem.
"As Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller explained, 'There are enormous economic benefits of hosting large sporting events such as the Super Bowl, but the disturbing reality is that such gatherings in other states have drawn criminal rings that traffic young women and children into the commercial sex trade.' Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott acknowledged the Super Bowl as 'the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States,'" he wrote.
SHI recently released state-by-state reports cards that rate the legal system within each state when it comes to sex crimes. "It's time we encourage the masses tuning into the big game to know the real score that matters, for women and children all across our great nation," officials stated.
Alabama, for example, received a "D" grade with a score of 69.5. A summary with the report card states, "Alabama's human trafficking law requires the use of coercion or deception to cause a minor to engage in commercial sex acts. Demand is largely unaddressed in the law, leaving buyers to exploit minors through prostitution without serious risk. Sex trafficking victims who wish to pursue justice are not protected by a 'rape shield' law or courtroom protections and are not assured non-punitive response and treatment."
SHI states, "As Christian abolitionists we believe trafficking survivors deserve the opportunity to be restored to dignity and purpose, regardless of their faith or system of belief. As Christian stewards we prayerfully seek to use wisdom and Biblical guidance for every dollar we spend. As Christian leaders we seek to inspire change by informing and empowering activists, providing strategic guidance to local shelter and service partners, and influencing policy makers and first responders."
Organizers of the awareness campaign to take place during the Super Bowl are encouraging participants to share their messages on Twitter and Facebook. SHI began posting this week with messages such as, "49ers vs Ravens (California vs Maryland) Know the score. How did your state do? #superbowl [link to report card]."