(Photo by Pete Prodoehl)
USA (MNN) ― This week is full of sales in the U.S. for chips, soda and household appliances as Americans prepare for the annual football Super Bowl. But other less advertised--and far less innocent--sales are also beginning.
Human lives are for sale at the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl has been called the largest sex trafficking event in the United States. Women, men, boys, and girls are all sold on the underground for the sexual pleasure of fans caught up in football mania, parties, and alcohol. Thousands of girls will be brought into Indianapolis for this single event.
Indiana has responded. Indiana rushed a bill through state legislature to ramp up penalties for sex-traffickers two weeks ago. Hundreds of cab drivers have been trained to know whether or not they are hauling a prostitute, pimp, or john. Catholic nuns have even been making phone calls to all the hotels and motels within a 50-mile radius of Indianapolis to make sure the management knows how to spot trafficking.
Despite any lengths Indiana has gone to, however, girls will still be coerced and kidnapped into the trade because the demand is so high.
Theresa Flores knows all too well what horrors will take place. She was a victim of trafficking for two years as a teenager living in Detroit's ritzy suburbs.
"You have traffickers that are businessmen and looking for this opportunity and exploiting vulnerable people. So they will be bringing in literally vans full of girls who work. They'll be putting their pictures up on Backpage and Craigslist, and offering them for sale. They'll be going to area motels to service these men," explains Flores. She says most girls will be domestically trafficked runaways--American preteens.
Flores is the founder of S.O.A.P., or Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. S.O.A.P. is headed to the Super Bowl this year a few days early to hand out thousands of free bars of soap to Indianapolis motels.
A group of 150 volunteers will have marked each bar of soap with labels such as, "Are you being threatened?" or "Are you witnessing young girls being prostituted?" The number for the human trafficking hotline is also on the bar of soap, allowing young girls finally alone in a motel bathroom a possible way out.
The distribution of the soap comes with tutorials to motel management on what to look for when it comes to trafficking. S.O.A.P. volunteers are distributing the bars February 1-2, around the same time InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students will be handing out fliers and raising awareness.
InterVarsity students at the Indiana University/Purdue University commuter campus in Indianapolis are making people aware about this tragic consequence of the Super Bowl. InterVarsity campus leader Bob Shultz says students have decided to hand out fliers and send out anti-trafficking videos in preparation for the event.
It's a way to follow Christ's command to care for the least of these, but it's also a reminder to non-believers about who Christ really is.
"[Advocacy is] something we think that anybody--not just Christians, but people who are exploring the faith--can sink their teeth into and get a taste of what it means to be Kingdom-minded, and to see what Christ does in and through the life of a person," explains Shultz.
InterVarsity students are excited to raise awareness during this event, but to also use this as a launching pad for a series of anti-slavery campaigns. Students hope to advocate on behalf of victims in multiple ways from now on.
The Super Bowl comes with all sorts of unintended consequences, but thankfully the Lord has the power to take even the world's darkness and turn it into opportunities for light. Pray for victims of this year's trade to be brought to safety through the efforts of S.O.A.P. and to experience the peace of Christ.
Pray also for InterVarsity students as they advocate, and for the hearts of those they reach. Pray that their work would have a real impact on the sex trade, helping to abolish it for good in the future.
You can get involved yourself through prayer, advocacy and even financial support. Partner with S.O.A.P. at future events when you visit www.traffickfree.com.