Superbowl Update

Guest blogger Deanne Brenneman posts an update to the human trafficking issues surrounding Superbowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

As Katherine has already posted, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels signed the anti-trafficking bill into law on January 30, just days before the big game. This bill provides more robust penalties for criminals convicted of human trafficking. More importantly, it no longer requires proof that force or other forms of coercion was used in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

After the first posting, we learned about a group of nuns who put together a tremendous awareness campaign, providing counter-trafficking training to the staff at over 200 hotels in the greater Indianapolis area, as well as taxi drivers and other key people with direct access to the public.

The first report of two rescued trafficking victims came on Friday, 3 February. There have been no arrests yet, because the trafficker appears to have fled the state, but apparently his identity is known.  Both victims, now adults, reported being trafficked at the age of 16.

Spending time researching this topic in cyberspace has taught me one thing:  when there is no data, people are more than happy to make up reasons for that lack. My favorite explanation is that so few people are arrested for trafficking during the Super Bowl because no one is being trafficked.  Wouldn’t it be nice to live in that world? It is being called the Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Hoax. And why not? When there aren’t laws on the books to arrest people who traffic in people, then no one is going to get arrested. If no one gets arrested, then it is easy to say that no one is trafficking people.  And for many people, believing that is convenient, but of course that doesn’t make it true. But it is equally difficult to prove that trafficking is a real problem when prosecuting traffickers, even when they are caught, is so challenging.

Of course, the new law can’t stand on its own; it needs to be enforced by a well-trained police force and the cases picked up by dedicated prosecutors. Although I applaud the Indiana legislature for passing this law quickly in an effort to curb or deal with trafficking at the Super Bowl, the problem won’t go away with the end of the Super Bowl, or the Indy 500, or any other major sporting event. Young victims in Indiana deserve protection from traffickers at all times, not just when the nation is watching.

I am hoping that with the new law, a more accurate picture of the current human trafficking situation in Indiana will come to light. Of course, no one would be happier than I would be if it turns out that Indiana has no such problem. But I am more of a realist than that. If we can provide evidence that human trafficking is a problem here, we will be one step closer to proving how necessary it is to have better services for victims of human trafficking in Indiana. And I can’t imagine anyone denying them that.

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