As football fans travel to Atlanta this weekend to cheer on the Rams or Patriots at Super Bowl LIII, some local churches will be actively working to combat sex trafficking, which can spike around sporting events.
According to groups like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, major sporting events like the Super Bowl often see an increase in sex trafficking due to conditions including visitor demographics and a celebratory atmosphere within a concentrated geographic space.
Courtney Dow, director of Out of Darkness, a nonprofit organization of the Atlanta Dream Center, told The Christian Post that she was helping to coordinate efforts to address the issue of trafficking during the Super Bowl.
Dow, who has been working to help exploitation victims for more than 13 years, directed CP to the website “Safe Zone Atlanta,” which features a coalition of groups seeking to end sex trafficking during large sporting events in the city.
“I've heard for years that trafficking increases during the Super Bowl, and when we found out Atlanta would be hosting Super Bowl 53, we were going to be ready,” said Dow.
“Because we've been working in Atlanta for over 10 years, we have a baseline of data and will be able to compare it to the data we receive from the weeks surrounding the Super Bowl and determine empirically whether or not trafficking increases during the Super Bowl.”
Hundreds of volunteers have signed up, according to Dow. They have been trained to identify and minister to exploitation victims.
“We are partnering with over 50 organizations to offer services to individuals in Atlanta who are working in the sex industry,” continued Dow.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to have the spotlight on our city and on the issue of sexual exploitation. However, sexual exploitation is occurring every day, in every community. We need people to be concerned about it year-round until we can finally put an end to it.”
Grace Midtown Church, which is less than a mile away from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Super Bowl game will be played, is partnering with Safe Zone Atlanta.
Abany Bauer, communications director at Grace Midtown, told CP that her church was serving as a host facility for training to help provide resources for those who are in need of safety from exploitation.
“As proud Atlantans, we’re pumped to host the 53rd Super Bowl right here in our city. But along with excitement, we are deeply aware that this event also brings an enormous volume of dark, unsafe and violent circumstances for many who are vulnerable and powerless,” said Bauer.
“We realize that this issue does not begin and end with the Super Bowl, as we have been partnering with Out of Darkness and the Dream Center for many years to raise awareness to the growing epidemic that is sexual exploitation, and refuse to stop until those who are vulnerable are safe.”
Bauer added that her church sees this as part of their calling to “be the hands and feet of the love of Jesus to this city and to invite all people into a real, authentic life with God and to become awake to His work in our lives.”