By Caitlin Giddens
More than 100,000 fans will flock to the Cowboys Stadium on Sunday to mark Super Bowl XLV, but for many young women, the Super Bowl marks a day of terror.
During past Super Bowls, hundreds of people have fallen victim to sex trafficking. Baylor’s International Justice Mission will travel to Arlington on Saturday to educate fans of the prevalence and risk of sexual exploitation, especially during major sporting events. More than 50 girls were rescued from sexual exploitation at the past two Super Bowls.
“People think trafficking is something that happens in different countries, in poor parts of the world,” Katy sophomore Kristina Miller, a member of International Justice Mission, said. “But this happens in our backyard, especially in Texas. We just want to educate people because once people know trafficking is going on, they want to help.”
An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 U.S. children are at risk for sex trafficking each year. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness of this growing statistic.
Miller invited students to join. Members of the organization will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday at Irving Baptist Church in Dallas.
The Dallas area has been preparing for the Super Bowl by initiating Anti-Pimp My Ride, a campaign that will educate football fans on human trafficking by implementing fliers and bumper stickers. After attending an Anti-Pimp My Ride training session in Dallas, Miller anticipates more than 300 participants will join the protest.
“We went to Dallas for the training session last weekend,” Miller said, “and received a huge bag full of giant magnets and stats about human trafficking. We just want everyone at the Super Bowl to realize what is happening.”
International Justice Mission encourages Super Bowl fans who witness suspicious situations, such as a young girl who seems to be held against her will, to immediately call the trafficking hotline. The hotline, 1-888-3737-888, receives more calls from Texas than any other state. Fifteen percent of those reports come from the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, according to the organization’s reports.
“This is happening a lot in Houston, and even in Waco,” Miller said. “It’s American citizens being bought and sold for sex. You don’t have to be a social worker or a police officer to help. You just have to open your eyes and see what’s happening around you.”
International Justice Mission teaches members to look for signs of sex trafficking, even in their seemingly innocent hometowns, and take a stand. Houston sophomore Dalychia Saah, a new member of the organization, hopes students from all different majors will join.
“When you sit down and look at the statistics, it can be overwhelming,” Saah said. “This epidemic can’t be solved with just social work and pre-law students. We need everyone to help, especially pre-meds so we can show them the signs.”
Taking another step to prevent trafficking, Baylor’s International Justice Mission has been showing local doctors the signs of victims.
“We’ve heard stories of some of these victims who went to doctors, and they didn’t see the signs,” Saah said. “Pimps can be like boyfriends, saying you don’t love me if you don’t do this. It’s a very confusing relationship. Pimps will beat these girls, but then take them to the hospital.”
In addition to reaching all majors, International Justice Mission hopes to involve both genders in its mission.
“Men can play a powerful role in this,” Miller said. “It’s men who can go undercover in brothels. And men can hold each other to a new standard. When their friends say they may get a prostitute, a man can stand up and say that’s not OK.”
On average, American girls are first prostituted at age 13. Professions in pornography and exotic dancing often begin with trafficking as a minor.
“Society perceives these women as scum of the earth, and they’re not,” Miller said. “They’re victims, and they need to know they deserve more.”
International Justice Mission partners with It’s Not My Fault, a campaign that reaches out to trafficking victims.
“At 13 years old, you don’t decide to sell your body,” Saah said. “So It’s Not My Fault tries to take the shame out of prostitution among minors.”
Students planning to join the organization can attend the weekly meetings, which take place at 5:30 p.m. each Thursday in the Cowden room of the Bill Daniel Student Center. Those interested in attending the Super Bowl protest should contact Miller at Kristina_Miller@baylor.edu.
In addition to its involvement with the Anti-Pimp My Ride campaign during the Super Bowl, the organization is planning a spring break trip to Houston and a summer trip to Los Angeles.
“Investing in the younger generation is a vital step to stopping this cycle,” Miller said. “Another step is flexing our political power by supporting candidates who make issues like trafficking a priority. This is going on right under our noses and we as Americans should take it personally that in the home of the free, a type of slavery still exists.”