Megan Mechelke, representative of the Sartell High School Students Against Human Trafficking Club
The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery” that uses “force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” In 2012 the International Labor Organization estimated about 21 million people were enslaved globally, 1.5 million in the United States and Canada. That number continues to grow nationally and statewide. Minnesota Department of Transportation reported in 2015, Minnesota had the third highest number of trafficking cases in the United States, and in 2013 the Twin Cities was named one of the 13 largest trafficking centers worldwide. The United Nations names sexual exploitation the most common form of human trafficking. A November 2010 study from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota found 45 girls under 18 are sold for sex in Minnesota on any weekend night. Globally, this criminal industry can profit up to $150 billion a year.
Furthermore, it has been suggested the number of sex-trafficking cases increases around the Super Bowl. In 2011, current Texas governor Greg Abbott called the Super Bowl the “largest human-trafficking event.” In an October 2017 article published by Kare11, Sgt. Grant Snyder, head of the MPD Human Trafficking Team, suggested this claim is not entirely accurate. He argued year-round trafficking numbers are equally as high as those seen during the Super Bowl and suggested inflation of trafficking numbers around the time of the game is likely due to the simple fact there is an increase in the number of people in the area. However, Pete Orput, the Washington County Attorney, sees things differently. He states the number of advertisements related to sexual exploitation sees a huge increase during events such as the Super Bowl and theorizes it may have just as much to do with the attendees as the population increase.
In the end, trafficking statistics do see a spike during the Super Bowl, regardless of the reason. However, the more pressing issue is that of trafficking on an everyday scale. This is a real problem that impacts real people every moment of every day, and it’s not something that can be ignored. It’s essential the general population understands the depth of the trafficking pandemic and realizes there is something they can do to stop its spread.
The first step is to become educated about the issue. Human trafficking is often referred to as a silent crime as victims of trafficking very rarely come forward due to trauma, abuse and fear of those who have exploited them. Along these lines, it’s also important to end the criminalization of victims. Individuals who have been sexually exploited are victims of a terrible crime, and they do not deserve further punishment and shaming. Lastly, without a demand, sexual exploitation would not be the extremely lucrative business it is today.
Both the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recognize one of the major factors influencing the rise and profitability of human trafficking is the extensive market for pornography. The Pure Hope Coalition reports more than $3,000 is spent every second on pornography, making the industry as profitable as it is terrible. Education of youth and adults alike of the terror that is sex trafficking will help to reduce the number of individuals looking to buy sex and thus end the demand and stop the trade. In this way, it falls into the hands of all human beings to educate themselves and work to stop the spread of human trafficking.