An FBI report released yesterday documents rescues of 16 children, ages 13-17, and over 50 adult women who had been forced into prostitution in locales near the Super Bowl. More than 45 pimps were arrested in the sting which focused on heightened sex trafficking activity associated with the football championship.
The children were found in Newark, N.J. (6), New York City (6) and New Haven, Conn. (4) and have been referred to local agencies for assessment of long-term needs such as counseling, medical care and educational opportunities. Many had already been listed as missing by their families.
Over the past several years, Super Bowl host cities have been increasingly alert and responsive to the draw that major sporting events have for the sex industry. Special training is given to police units which work closely with the FBI to identify possible trafficking scenarios. Venues such as Dallas (2011) and Miami (2010) expected thousands of pimps and their girls to come to town. Although the 2014 arrest records seem miniscule compared to the expected number of trafficking incidents, “several of the 45 people arrested admitted to traveling to New Jersey “specifically for the purpose of prostituting women and children at the Super Bowl,” the FBI said.” During the 2012 game week, law enforcement officials conducted a nationwide sting in eight cities which netted 565 arrests, of which nearly half were buyers of sex.
Children caught in sex trafficking activities suffer extreme trauma which literally takes decades of therapy to resolve, according to Dan Allender, author of The Wounded Heart and authority on sexual abuse of minors. A victim commonly will experience several of the following symptoms:
Physical health issues (Jeal & Salisbury, 2004):
- Injury resulting from violence perpetrated by pimps and customers (Dalla, 2003; Raphael & Shapiro, 2004)
- Physical pain from frequent sexual activity and stress.
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Drug addiction (Schaffer and DeBlassie, 1984) and related health issues (e.g. asthma, Hepatitis C, skin infections
- Stress-related pain (e.g. tension headaches, back pain, stomach problems)
- Poor diet
Ongoing physical abuse (Silbert & Pines, 1982)
Relationship issues (Williamson & Cluse-Tolar, 2002)
- Trauma bond (i.e. Stockholm Syndrome)
- Poor boundaries
- Trust issues
Mental health issues
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (Farley & Barkan, 1998
- Dissociation (Roe-Sepowitz, Hickle, & Cimino, 2011)
- Development of poor coping skills including drug use and other forms of self harm (Young, Boyd, & Hubbell, 2000)
- Suicidal ideations
- Explosive disorders/violence
Sexual abuse and victimization of children is not limited to the Super Bowl. Every day, thousands of minors are sexually violated in the US, most often by someone in the family or in a close circle of influence. The awareness activity around the big game provides one opportunity to focus on the number of children who are being sexually abused right under our noses on an hourly basis.
Hope for these little ones comes as communities work together to create a culture that honors all people and draws a strict line for those who want to perpetrate further abuse.