For most Americans, the Super Bowl is all about chicken wings, beer, and good company. But in the shadow of this massive sporting event, there lie disturbing truths about the Super Bowl’s history of attracting sex traffickers. Large-scale events that are fueled by booze, excess, and consumption are also hotbeds for the underground sex trade, though this gritty reality is often eclipsed by fanfare and funny commercials.
Clemmie Greenlee, a former victim of sex trafficking, spoke to Nola.com about the ordeal of being forced to withstand a massive amount of abuse during big events such as the Super Bowl, sometimes having up to 50 men forced upon her during a single day. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Super Bowl is "commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States."
The state of Louisiana has, to its credit, been working to root out sex trafficking where it can. As a tourist destination, New Orleans in infamous for being a hub of rampant sex trafficking. The Louisiana Human Trafficking Task Force is a joint effort of state, federal, and faith-based organizations that seeks to bump up sex trafficking arrests and provide resources to sex workers.
Some of New Orleans’ sex workers are in the profession by choice, but far too many others are victims of sex trafficking. A study from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that the average American sex worker starts working when she is between the ages of 12 and 14. Of the girls and women being abused during huge events like the Super Bowl, many are working under duress. Clemmie Greenlee was one such girl, and says that
When they come to these kinds of events, the first thing you're told is how many you're gonna perform a day. You've got to go through 25 men a day, or you're going through 50 of them. When they give you that number, you better make that number. If you don't make that number, you're going to dearly, dearly, severely pay for it. 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.
Advocacy groups and police agencies are getting more and more creative with their efforts to curb sex trafficking in Louisiana. Many women who find themselves in the grip of involuntary sex work are brainwashed by their captors into thinking there are no other options for them, so those looking to offer help and support are finding new ways to reach out. Some groups are even handing out bars of soap to hotels and bars with the numbers of emergency hotlines printed on them, so that women looking to escape know where to turn for help.
As with anything, the first step toward ridding the Super Bowl of its sex traffic following is to bring the problem out into the open. By shedding light on this horrible trend, we can help to bring victims of sex trafficking out of the darkness.
Photo via Naomi Martin, Nola.com