Intercourse trafficking specialists break down seedy aspect of sporting occasions like Tremendous Bowl | FOX four Kansas Metropolis WDAF-TV
GRANDVIEW, Mon – “She said she’d be at the Super Bowl in Tampa (to be traded) now if she was still with her pimp,” said Denise Lester.
The story is unfortunately all too familiar to Lester, who works with Rended Heart. Her Grandview-based organization helps women and children who are sexually exploited and trafficked.
During a recent conversation with FOX4 about sex trafficking in the Super Bowl, Lester shared this comment made by one of her survivors about the seedy side of NFL championship games and other major sporting events.
“It had been traded for years and taken to a number of states for sporting events,” Lester said. “I have a lot of customers who have told me they have moved to those cities (where major sporting events are held) for special trade.”
“I firmly believe there are young Kansas City women right now on their way to Tampa to be traded.”
Denise Lester, torn heart
Studies show that sex trafficking, especially among minors, is a major problem in Tampa.
According to It’s a Penalty organization, which sponsors anti-trafficking campaigns at sporting events around the world, including this year’s Super Bowl:
- Children 12 years and older are trafficked for sex in the Tampa Bay area. The region’s tourism industry, adult entertainment industry, and international airports and seaports create what the organization describes as “lucrative and accessible” for sex trafficked minors.
- Tampa has a large population of runaway children, which adds to the sex trafficking problem.
- Every sixth outlier is lured by a sex trafficker and forced into prostitution within 48 hours of becoming self-employed.
- Tampa ranks 12th nationwide for the number of calls per capita on the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
- Florida has the third highest human trafficking rate in the country
- In the United States, more than 100,000 children are trafficked for sex each year.
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But what is the connection between sex trafficking and high profile sporting events? Why are they such a magnet for traffickers?
“When big sporting events happen around the world or in the US, people flock to these host cities,” said Josh Miller, US director of partnerships for the It’s a Penalty campaign. “Even when these people aren’t in the game, they’re still on the back of the boat, having parties.”
And that increased number of partygoers can lead to increased demands on sex and incidents of human trafficking.
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“Our goal is to raise awareness and raise awareness of this issue,” Miller said. “That’s why we’re working with some of the biggest names in the National Football League to help raise that awareness.”
That year, the organization worked with NFL stars like Chris Godwin and Will Gholston with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with Aaron Rodgers, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton and Benjamin Watson to create a 30-second anti-human trafficking video.
This video is shown on all American Airlines flights and is available to travelers using the Southwest Airlines app.
“We’re focusing on visitors coming to Tampa International Airport for the Super Bowl,” Miller said. “We will have signs at the airport and at security checkpoints to inform and equip the public about human trafficking and reporting.”
He added, “Believe it or not, there are people who don’t understand what human trafficking is. There are people who believe that these are violent kidnappings that can happen. But much of the trafficking takes place in our own cities. ”
Miller said his organization has also partnered with other stakeholders interested in fighting sex trafficking, including Hilton Worldwide, Uber, and various state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We trained 44 Hilton hotel managers about human trafficking,” said Miller. “You are the front workers. And we worked with Uber to train their drivers about human trafficking. ”
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The organization also worked with more than 500 volunteers who distributed their campaign awareness kits to nearly 300 hotels and motels in the Tampa Bay area. The kits contained sales of posters, leaflets, hand sanitizer, and leaflets about missing children.
“And I can confirm that four missing children were identified as a result of our volunteer’s acquisition efforts,” Miller said. “It’s only since this weekend.
“We are pleased that we were able to identify these four missing children as the data shows that every sixth missing child was likely involved in a trading situation,” he added. “And we’re still looking for other missing children.”
Effects of COVID-19 on sex trafficking
When asked about the effects of COVID-19 on the sex trafficking, Miller said, “It made it ten times worse. It has made it so much harder for those who are being trafficked because they are locked up with their human traffickers before they can go to public places and see a number to call for help.
“Online exploitation (of children) has increased dramatically due to COVID,” he added. “In April, the National Association of Missing and Exploited Children reported a 300% increase in online exploitation. The human traffickers groom themselves online in COVID-19 because they are locked down and because so many children go to virtual school. ”
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However, Miller is optimistic that his organization’s sports-centric anti-trafficking campaign can address this growing problem.
It already has a proven track record.
“When we ran our campaign at the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami, we saw a 163% increase in calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, compared to the same time last year,” he said. “We are raising awareness, working with law enforcement agencies and equipping people to report human trafficking.”
Back in Kansas City, Lester welcomes the “It’s a Punishment” campaign to stop the sex trafficking.
“I love that it brings hotels into play and engages their people,” she said. “They can have materials at their reception desks and their staff can be the eyes and ears of what is going on in the hotels.
“And being more aware of events like the Super Bowl and proving the training to the people there is very helpful to the community,” she added.
But Miller said there is still a lot of work to be done to stop the lucrative sex trafficking industry.
“People don’t understand how big the sex trafficking problem is,” Miller said.
“If someone is in drug trafficking, they can only sell those drugs once. But when you socialize with people, you can keep selling them and making lots of money. “
Josh Miller, it’s a punitive campaign
Resources to Combat Sex Trafficking
In 2020, Rendered Heart became:
- Received more than 400 calls from women in this area trafficked for sex. Some of these calls included calls from the National Trafficking Hotline;
- Cared for 84 people – 76 women, 5 teenagers and 3 men
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