I began to think about what the Super Bowl would mean for Arlington, and for that matter, all of North Texas. Obviously, it will be an enormous boon to the economy, which we can definitely use. In addition, as the eyes of the world are upon us, they will see that we Texans are not a bunch of ranchers sporting cowboy hats and six-shooters. Most of us don't live on large swaths of land featuring oil wells and tumbleweeds. We don't all drive pick-up trucks and eat barbecue at least once a day. Our town is diverse, friendly, hospitable, and fun. And even though I'm not attending the game, I get excited when I think of all the immense energy that will vibrate through every crevice of the Metroplex when the AFL and NFL champs arrive in town to do battle. Yea!!!
I recently came off my Super-Bowl high about two weeks ago when I was smacked in the face with this unbelievable fact: the Super Bowl (where ever it is held) is sex trafficking's biggest weekend. Now, from what I hear, there are plenty of prostitutes already in Dallas. It boggles the mind that there will be ten thousand or more additional sex workers brought in specifically for the Super Bowl--and many of them will be under-aged children who are forced to work as sex slaves.
I shake my head in horror and disgust when I watch a TV show or read an article about the selling of boys and girls in filthy brothels in places like Cambodia or the Philippines. I tell myself that we in America are far more cultured and refined; sure, there is plenty of sex sold between supposedly willing adults, but the buying and selling of children so they can be raped by the highest bidder is extremely rare. WRONG.
Why all the trafficking of children during a massive sporting event? Apparently, the Super Bowl is ripe for this kind of exploitation for the following reasons: large numbers of male tourists travelling without family, lots of drugs and drinking, and revelers with money to spend. Add to this the fact that 40,000 people come to the Super Bowl host city who don't even have a ticket to the game--they just love the party atmosphere.
According to the Department of Justice, "Children trafficked into prostitution are often found around major sporting events. Since children are often more vulnerable, they are easy to move and in high demand, they make ideal victims to travel to major sporting events." Online sites like backpage.com make it easy to "advertise" children; customers can scroll through page after page of exploited children as though they are choosing a consumable product from a catalog. Many pimps and traffickers will rent homes or apartments near the event to establish a brothel to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand for sex with underage minors.
I have to admit, when I hear about things like this--the evil underbelly of one of our most cherished cultural and uniquely American events--I want to pretend it does not exist and hope it will go away on its own. I do not want to even consider the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated against innocent ones who are made in God's image the same as my own daughters. But in my heart I know that turning a blind eye is not the answer; only when it is exposed and dismantled will there be healing, restoration, and justice.
But what can be done? Obviously, part of the answer lies with law enforcement. I am glad to see the Texas Attorney General, the FBI, and the Metroplex police forces are taking this issue seriously and training and dispatching extra staffers, analysts, and officers to deal with this problem.
Also, I came across an organization called Love 146 (http://www.love146.org/) who is doing all they can to prevent this type of atrocity from happening at the Super Bowl and to rescue children who are brought to Arlington and surrounding areas for the event. You may be curious how Love 146 got it's name. I read the story behind the name on their website and it is so disturbing to me that I'll omit most of the details and simply say that the number "146" was pinned to a little girl's dress in a Cambodian brothel where an undercover sting operation was taking place.
Both Love146 and Traffick 911 are planning a number of events prior to the Super Bowl. These include a screening of "The Playground" (a movie about child sexual exploitation), a community prayer service, a tailgate party to raise awareness of the issue, fliers posted in high-risk neighborhoods, and billboards posted around the Metroplex. Both groups will continue to be active after the Super Bowl, involved in the restoration of children who have been rescued.
If you live in the DFW area, please consider attending a Prayer and Awareness Event at Irving Bible Church on January 28, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. (http://www.irvingbible.org/).
Really, I think the absolute most powerful weapon against the horrors of child trafficking is prayer. Prayer can be done anywhere and anytime--prompts like a billboard or TV commercial advertising the Super Bowl can remind us to offer up a prayer for any young victim whose health and life is at stake as she is being prepped to be trafficked and abused during the Super Bowl.
A few prayer thoughts that came to my mind:
1) pray for a spotlight to be shined on this type of evil--making brutalization that thrives on secrecy more difficult.
"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." John 3:19
pray for freedom from those held in bondage
[Jesus said] "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has send me to proclaim freedom of the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed." Luke 4:18
3) pray that justice will be manifested in the lives of the pimps, the customers, and the victims.
"It is not good to be partial to the wicked or deprive the innocent of justice." Prov. 17:5
4) pray that these precious children will come to understand God's love for them.
[Jesus said] "Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:13
5) pray that a canopy of angels surround the Metroplex during the Super Bowl and that the forces of evil will be brought to ruin and destruction.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Eph. 6:12
If you happen to encounter anyone you think could be a victim or to report suspicious behavior, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.