Sex Trafficking and the Superbowl in New Orleans

There’s a lot of talk about sex trafficking and the Superbowl. Though the claim that the Superbowl (or other major sporting event) is a “magnet” for sex trafficking (forced prostitution of underage girls) is a popular one, it is ultimately inaccurate. Some even assert that it’s simply a scare tactic used to rally the public and local law enforcement against prostitution in general:

“It’s a myth that’s been playing to sell-out crowds for more than a decade. But there’s been trouble at the box office in recent years. No one gets too excited about garden-variety prostitution anymore. As a culture-war wedge, it’s so 1912. So promoters of the panic have changed their advertising. Instead of adult harlots, the siege now consists of underage girls.”

Last year, The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women published a paper dispelling the myth of increased sex trafficking during the Superbowl. You can read it here:

What’s the Cost of a Rumor? A guide to Sorting Out the Myths and Facts About Sex Trafficking and Sporting Events 

“As a global anti-trafficking organisation, GAATW is concerned that international sporting events are being linked with increases in trafficking for prostitution, without evidence. This has been promoted most heavily by prostitution abolitionist groups, who argue that large numbers of men automatically results in a greater demand for commercial sex which can only be met through trafficking women into prostitution. …Linking trafficking and sex work in this way has resulted in ‘collateral damage’ that is negatively impacting some of the groups who are affected by anti-trafficking policies, particularly sex workers.”

(GAATW is a group that works “to ensure that the human rights of all migrating women are respected and protected by authorities and agencies…(and) promotes rights of women migrant workers and trafficked persons and believes that ensuring safe migration and fair work places should be at the core of all anti-trafficking efforts.”)

Remember the claim that the highest number of domestic abuse incidents occured on Superbowl Sunday? We now know that’s a myth, or inaccurate at best (futureswithoutviolence.org). These rumors persist because of stereotypes and sensationalism, and lack of knowledge, and they overshadow the REAL problems, which need REAL solutions. Spread the truth, not a rumor!

While we of course do not support sex trafficking, attempts to rescue sex trafficking victims often broadly target sex workers in general, and relatively few trafficked minors are helped. In the FBI’s Operation Cross Country 2008, 47 juveniles were “recovered,” but 518 adult prostitutes were also arrested. That operation was considered a success. There are better ways to help trafficked minors that do not include arresting 11 adults for every one child.