(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)
The Super Bowl is one of America's largest sporting events, and also one of the largest sex-trafficking events. Thousands of girls, many under-aged, will be brought to Indiana for the game on Feb. 5.
Theresa Flores, founder of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.), told The Christian Post that major sporting events like the Super Bowl generally have more men in attendance who are visiting from a different city, and often do things they wouldn't normally do at home. This creates a demand that "traffickers and pimps are there willing and waiting to supply," she said.
Because of this, about 150 volunteers for S.O.A.P. are heading to Indiana before the event, not to tailgate, but to pass out soap at Indianapolis motels.
Each bar of soap will have a label on it with phrases like "Are you being threatened?" or "Are you witnessing young girls being prostituted?" The soap provides the number for a human trafficking hotline so that those at the hotel, or young girls who are being trafficked, will see it and can call for help.
S.O.A.P. volunteers will distribute the bars Feb. 1-2, in conjunction with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students who will hand out fliers to raise awareness for the trafficking issue with football fans.
A group of volunteers from Assemblies of God Churches, and a coalition of anti-trafficking organizations are also providing material and tutorials to hotel management to show them what to look for when it comes to trafficking.
Mike Bartel, co-founder and director of FREE International, an organization that fights human trafficking, is helping with the outreach and training at Indianapolis hotels. His organization, and a coalition of other anti-trafficking groups, have partnered with the City of Indianapolis to pass out missing children booklets to raise awareness for the child trafficking problem.
Bartel told CP that during major events like the Super Bowl, "everyone is opportunistic, prices go up, demand is there. Pimps and traffickers are entrepreneurs; it's evil."
He explained that because there are so many people with a disposable income out partying and drinking, there are many opportunities for traffickers to take advantage of.
Indiana lawmakers, in efforts to fight the increase in trafficking, recently passed legislation to ensure stronger penalties for sex trafficking.
The Huffington Post reports that "Gov. Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Logansport Republican Sen. Randy Head and other leaders say they want to arm prosecutors with more tools to combat an expected rise in prostitution that has accompanied the Super Bowl in other cities."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami saw 10,000 prostitutes brought in to the city. In Dallas last year, 133 people were arrested due to prostitution.
Indiana cab drivers have also been trained in how to spot prostitutes, pimps or johns in their cars. Catholic nuns are also pitching in by calling hotels in the area to ask management if they know how to identify trafficking if it takes place in their establishments.
Bartel told CP that they have seen the faith community, and many organizations step up this year to take the lead on anti-trafficking initiatives, and that the Indiana Super Bowl Host Committee and law enforcement officials have partnered with these organizations to help fight trafficking. He said everyone's desire is "to make an impact on the lives of those who are being exploited."