Super Bowl Is Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident In U.S.: Attorney General
The Huffington Post | By Eleanor Goldberg Posted: 02/03/2013 9:04 am EST | Updated: 02/04/2013 10:47 pm EST
When it came time for the Super Bowl, Clemmie Greenlee was expected to sleep with anywhere from 25 to 50 men a day. It's a staggering figure, but it doesn't shock advocates who say that the sporting event attracts more traffickers than any other in the U.S.
"The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today in 2011 when his state was gearing up to host the event. "It's commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States."
The influx of fans fosters the optimal breeding ground for pimps looking to boost their profits. Experts say that the sheer number of men looking to pay for sex substantially increases demand and the massive crowds allow for pimps and victims to essentially go unnoticed, newsnet5.com reports.
"It's not so much that you become a victim at the Super Bowl, but that many victims are brought in to be used for all the men at the Super Bowl," Stephanie Kilper, a representative for Operation Freedom Taskforce in Akron, Ohio -- an organization which aims to end to human trafficking -- told newsnet5.com
According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010 and 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl.
Prostitution of minors is considered trafficking under federal law.
Greenlee, a former sex trafficking victim who was abducted and raped by her captors at 12, told the Times-Picayune that she was shuttled around cities in the South to work as a prostitute at large-scale events. The 53-year-old, who now works as an advocate for sex trafficking victims in Louisiana, said there was immense pressure to meet her traffickers' demands at events like the Super Bowl.
"If you don't make that number (of sex customers), you're going to dearly, dearly, severely pay for it," Greenlee told the Times-Picayune."I mean with beatings, I mean with over and over rapings. With just straight torture. The worst torture they put on you is when they make you watch the other girl get tortured because of your mistake."
But some advocates argue that the statistics for the instances of trafficking at the Super Bowl are overstated. A Village Voice article from 2012 challenged Abbott's claims with reports from Tampa and Phoenix officials who said that they didn't see a "huge" influx in prostitutes when their respective cities hosted the Super Bowl.
Rachel Lloyd, founder of GEMS -- New York's only organization that serves women who have experienced sexual exploitation and trafficking -- responded to the story in a HuffPost blog in which she agreed with the paper's stance. While she recognized that Village Voice Media profits from the sex ads it posts on its Backpage.com, she agreed with the paper that trafficking figures at the Super Bowl are exaggerated and said that victims are at greatest risk when the crowds dissipate.
"The real crime is happening when no one's looking and no one cares, not when every media outlet, advocate and cop has its sights set on it," Lloyd wrote in her blog.
As of Friday, five women were rescued and eight human-trafficking related arrests were made in New Orleans, according to FOX 8.
To help crack down on the number of sex trafficking cases this weekend, law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups are collaborating with local businesses.
They're handing out pamphlets to local clubs and bars, explaining what to look out for and advocacy groups have been doling out bars of soap to hotels that have hotline numbers etched on them so that victims in need of an escape know where they can turn for help.
"We treat these people as victims," Ray Parmer, the local special agent-in-charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement told FOX 8. "They are not arrested, they are not removed from the United States, we treat them as victims."
CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated to include additional opinions from experts on the topic.