Superbowl 2012: Is Indianapolis prepared?

This post is written by guest blogger Deanne Brenneman, who is a mom, a teacher, and an advocate for justice. I’ve asked her to report on the Indianapolis Superbowl, sex trafficking, and how Indiana is preparing to deal with it. Here is her contribution:

While most of the focus on human trafficking centers on countries far away, we are not without our problems here at home.  Every year around this time organizations like Shared Hope International focus on human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, as related to the Super Bowl.  This year, as Indianapolis prepares to host Super Bowl XLVI on February 5, many Indiana lawmakers are preparing to deal with the potential influx of trafficked humans.

Unfortunately, real numbers are hard to come by.  During the last three Super Bowls, in Tampa, Miami and Dallas, there were mixed reports of the numbers of people trafficked to the event, and from what I could tell, most of those were guesses anyway.  For example, in 2010 in Miami, police estimated that about 10,000 women and girls were brought into the area Super Bowl weekend, but the number of women and girls who were trafficked is anyone’s guess.  Added to this, those cities, unlike Indianapolis, are “border” cities with historically bigger problems with human trafficking.

This is not to say Indiana has no problems.  Indiana was recently given a “D” in Shared Hope International’s Protected Innocence Initiative for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.  Indiana was criticized on many levels, including criminalizing the victim and having lax penalties for buyers, traffickers, and facilitators (those who make the traffickers’ jobs possible, or at least easier, such as taxi drivers, hotel staff, club owners, etc. and who benefit from trafficking through indirect involvement).  Indiana law also provides few options for prosecuting these crimes, punishing sellers only if force is used (unless children are trafficked by a parent or guardian).  In fact, Indiana only last year had its very first conviction for human trafficking despite having a law on the books since 2007.

To battle these inadequacies, Indiana Senator Randy Head proposed Senate Bill 4, which would close loopholes in Indiana legislation, making it easier to convict people of human trafficking by making it a crime to sell a child regardless of the relationship between the seller and the child and making human trafficking a Class A felony with a 20-50 year sentence instead of a Class B felony with a 5-20 year sentence.  The Bill passed unanimously through committee very quickly on Thursday, January 5.

Unfortunately, in Indiana the House Democrats have continued their absence from the floor in order to prevent quorum since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session due to differences over Right to Work legislation. If they don’t come back, the legislature is blocked from taking any action and Bill 4 is in danger of being unaddressed until after the Super Bowl.  This very important piece of legislation, which the Attorney General and the Governor have both enthusiastically supported, should certainly be given more priority by the House Democrats, who really need to put aside their differences over right to work in order to pass legislation that would more effectively protect women and children in Indiana.

I encourage any Hoosier whose Representative is currently absent from the floor (you can pretty much assume if they’re a Democrat, they’re absent) to contact them about this important bill. It is much too important to be overlooked as a result of a disagreement about an unrelated piece of legislation.

I intend to write a follow-up post after the legislation is passed, or after the Super Bowl, whichever comes first.  Certainly, if the bill isn’t passed prior to the Super Bowl, it is still an important piece of legislation, but it would be a shame not to seize the opportunity to pass the bill before the potential influx of trafficked people coming to Indianapolis Super Bowl weekend.

Editor’s note: I like Deanne’s point about the fact that we truly do not know how many men and women are involved as victims or traffickers. This is a difficult number to quantify and track. However, it is hard (or is it?) to imagine that the “entertainment” industry can find so many consenting women to prostitute themselves.

If you live in Indiana, getting in touch with your representative regarding this bill is a practical way you can advocate for justice. If you know of any preventative or outreach activities regarding prostituted or sex-trafficked women in Indianapolis, please write in and let us know. What about outreach to the johns to address demand – anybody doing anything there? There are others who would like know what is going on and get involved.

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