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January 31, 2014 at 6:08 AM

Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl and sex trafficking

Opinions are mixed on just how much Super Bowls really attract sex trafficking, but several stories this week  by CBS News, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor place a spotlight on this widespread, illicit crime ahead of the match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.

By Thursday morning, New York’s attorney general announced the arrest of 18 people suspected of running prostitution and drug rings in Manhattan for “high-end clientele” in town for Sunday’s game.

So here’s the message to the 12th man traveling east for the game: Have fun and represent your hometown. Don’t get caught doing you know what.

New Jersey officials are cracking down, too. Gov. Chris Christie has taken a beating in recent weeks for his staff’s shenanigans, but his blunt talk is worth paying attention to. Check out these tweets:

As this NBC News report suggests, advocates disagree on whether major sporting events cause trafficking. Some see a distinction between those who choose to be prostitutes and those who are coerced or forced into entering what’s known as “the life.”

What we do know is pimps and ring leaders see a chance to make money during big events. The same NBC News story reports that during the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, “back-page ads for commercial sex in local alternative newspapers went from an average of 22 before the event to 269 the week of the game.”

That’s gross. No wonder a  U.S. House subcommittee held a hearing on trafficking this past Monday featuring witness testimony on lessons learned from previous Super Bowls.

Here in Seattle, advocates gathered on Wednesday at Town Hall to discuss the local response to sex trafficking. The forum, titled “Not On Our Watch,” highlighted a sea change in the way law enforcement officials deal with sex workers. Once viewed as criminals, many are now treated as victims. More programs and services exist to help these men and women transition out of the life, but a video shown during the event cited federal statistics indicating the Emerald City is the third most popular destination in the world for “johns” to exploit sex workers.

Awareness should lead to additional action at the state and federal level. Here’s a look at some of the latest statistics featured in Wednesday night’s program:

— The average age for youths being recruited for prostitution is 13 to 14 years old.

— Ninety percent of sexually exploited and trafficked youths have a history of abuse, neglect or trauma.

— Fifty to 60 percent of sexually exploited and trafficked youths are in the foster-care system.

— Survivors of prostitution routinely experience physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse.

— Those who are disproportionately harmed and impacted by the sex trades are: girls and women, people of color, LGBTQI individuals, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness and poverty, and youths in the foster-care system.

— Sexual exploitation is driven by the demand for commercial sex.

The Seattle Times editorial board has made combating sex trafficking a high priority. Read some of the board’s latest editorials on this topic here, here and here.

Comments | Topics: seattle seahawks, sex trafficking, Super Bowl


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