NYTimes: Link Between Super Bowl and Rise in Sex Trafficking is “Just Rhetoric”

super-bowl-football

 Kathryn DeHoyos worries the fight to end human trafficking may be damaged by the revelations made in a New York Times Op-Ed this week.

The New York Times ran an Op-Ed yesterday titled, “The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking,” in which the author points out the lack of data to substantiate the claims that, “the event will cause a surge in sex trafficking to capitalize on the influx of fans and tourists.” Being one of the masses who has heard this over and over and believed it, I was caught off-balance by these revelations:

No data actually support the notion that increased sex trafficking accompanies the Super Bowl. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, a network of nongovernmental organizations, published a report in 2011 examining the record on sex trafficking related to World Cup soccer games, the Olympics and the Super Bowl. It found that, “despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events.”

Even with this lack of evidence, the myth has taken hold through sheer force of repetition, playing on desires to rescue trafficking victims and appear tough on crime. Whether the game is in Dallas, Indianapolis or New Orleans, the pattern is the same: Each Super Bowl host state forms a trafficking task force to “respond” to the issue; the task force issues a foreboding statement; the National Football League pledges to work with local law enforcement to address trafficking; and news conference after news conference is held. The actual number of traffickers investigated or prosecuted hovers around zero.

So I decided to ask GMP’s resident human trafficking expert Cameron Conaway if this could possibly be true. He says:

Unfortunately there’s not much substantial evidence behind these claims, except for the thousands of NGO workers on the ground who see when there are huge sporting events where men travel quite far, are staying in hotels, are drinking huge amounts of alcohol, that other men (and women) are making bank by rounding up as many prostitutes as possible (including trafficked/forced prostitutes) to meet the demand. I think in 5-10 years the research will finally catch up. For now, it seems advocates are using this huge event to raise awareness. Can’t complain about that tactic. Our culture cares more about sport/celebrity than reality…and unfortunately the way to reclaim the awareness of reality is often to piggyback off the former.

That makes sense, right? But it is concerning as well. Here you have the NY Times saying “show me the numbers,” but there are no concrete numbers to show—yet. And if the people on the ground, the people who SEE and KNOW these statements are true can’t present numbers to back up their claims, will people eventually stop listening? Will society eventually become numb to the cry of the anti-trafficking movement in the same way they have seemed to become numb to so many other issues that still need our attention?

While the Times article never actually minimizes the importance of cracking down on human—and in this case specifically sex—trafficking, it feels a bit like they are trying to do away with some of the moral guilt that people seem to be feeling about liking football and supporting the Super Bowl these days. But are they doing more harm than good by highlighting the lack of empirical data to back up what seems, to me at least, to be common sense? Have we become so dependent on statistics and numbers that we are unwilling to acknowledge something is truly a problem until there are numbers on paper to “prove it?”

For me, I think I’m going to continue to believe the men and women on the ground. The warriors who fight every day to end the plague of human trafficking and enslavement. The people in the trenches, who know and see—without the need for hard evidence—that the rise in sex trafficking surrounding huge sporting events is anything but rhetoric.

Like The Good Men Project on Facebook

Photo: AP/Charlie Riedel

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Flight or Fight
Forever Boogies
Are You A Narcissist?

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.

Comments

  1. There have been several articles and reports that debunk the myth and document the impact of the pre-Super Bowl crackdowns, sweeps and stings, which primarily impact sex workers, transgender people, youth of color and immigrants; resulting in traumatic arrests, convictions, broken families,and hurdles to employment and housing.

    A round up of articles is available at http://cfpdx.blogspot.com/

  2. As a survivor, I’m more concerned with real resources not reaching survivors because they’ve been diverted to awareness, the credibility of the movement being impacted due to poorly constructed research studies, and the inability/refusal to differentiate between sex work and trafficking. Trafficking is real, so let’s work with integrity by thinking critically about our abolition efforts so that we can see reduction, healing and restoration for survivors.

  3. http://katiecouric.com/2014/01/30/sex-trafficking-and-sporting-events/
    Katie Couric featured the sex trafficking part of the Super Bowl.
    I don’t believe your theory that it is all rhetoric and
    that you would ignore the ongoing facts of sex trafficking
    that is happening around the world.

  4. Like the “sex trafficking skyrockets during the Wold Cup” headlines I have a hard time putting stock in them because often the statements are made with nothing to back them. I’m not saying that such things don’t happen but I do stop and wonder if there really is an increase during those events.

    (And if anyone is going to ask something to the effect of, “Why are you so stuck on how often its happening? The important part is that its happening?” I’d answer by saying, “If the issue itself is so important then why are you using inflated or even false numbers. If the issue is that important it can stand on its own legs right?”)

    Here you have the NY Times saying “show me the numbers,” but there are no concrete numbers to show—yet.
    That’s basically asking people to trust that there is an epidemic of sex trafficking around these events with nothing to back it up.

    And if the people on the ground, the people who SEE and KNOW these statements are true can’t present numbers to back up their claims, will people eventually stop listening?
    I think this is a very real concern. Its essentially crying wolf. The people who SEE and KNOW that this stuff is going on are gonna have to show SOMETHING to back up the statements. Or else its just expecting people to show blind faith and believe that there is an uptick in sex trafficking because someone said so.

    Will society eventually become numb to the cry of the anti-trafficking movement in the same way they have seemed to become numb to so many other issues that still need our attention?
    That’s a real possibility.

    I think what’s going on is so many anti-____ efforts have latched on to the idea of, “The issue is so serious that we can just tug on heart strings and get attention without evidence.” and some have even adopted the idea that, “This is a serious topic so its even okay to make up myths and outright lies to draw attention.”

  5. You know what’s rhetoric? Saying that The NYTimes said something that actually just one person stated in an opinion piece.
    This type of claim seems popular online to try to substantiate other news sources. Gawker does it, too.
    Newsflash: the NYTimes is a pretty credible news source, for those who know the difference between investigative journalism and editorial.
    This piece, btw, falls under editorial.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The human trafficking awareness campaigns are in full throttle as they attempt to attach their cause with one of America’s largest sporting events. Because there’s a lack of overwhelming statistics, and because the Super Bowl is regarded as the untouchable finale in what is perhaps America’s truest sense of worship save for Christmas, major publications such as The New York Times are calling it all “just rhetoric.” […]

Speak Your Mind

*