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Sex trafficking: Not just a problem during the Super Bowl

Feb. 1, 2018

Photo of a child sitting alone in a bare room.
Photo: ​Sex trafficking doesn’t happen during the Super Bowl alone, but the big game presents an opportunity to raise awareness about this year-round problem.
 

It’s true that sex trafficking is a problem during the Super Bowl. Studies show that sex buyers are predominantly middle-aged white married men, which also happens to describe a lot of NFL fans. But to think that sex trafficking is a problem unique to the days surrounding the big game would be to fool ourselves.

In 2017, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) started the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force. Their aim is to dismantle organizations that are trafficking people and to hold sex buyers accountable. They also try to connect sex trafficking victims with social service agencies. Their main focus is on sex trafficking cases involving juvenile victims, but they also investigate instances involving adults.

The 13-member task force is made up of investigators from five agencies, plus a prosecutor from the Ramsey County Attorney's Office. They believe they would be more effective by combining their efforts, especially because this crime tends to be multijurisdictional in nature.

Right now, the task force is working with all Minnesota law enforcement agencies to stop sex traffickers and anyone who tries to purchase trafficking victims for sex. Trafficking in Minnesota comes with a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Someone who purchases sex may, at best, have to register as a predatory offender, and at worst, serve jail time and have their mug shot seen by a lot of people.

And for the victims of sex trafficking, there’s help. They can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text “HELP” to 233733.

But a sex trafficking victim may not be able to ask for help on their own, which is why it’s important to know the signs. A sex trafficking victim may not be able to come and go as they please. They may avoid eye contact, be malnourished, and show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse. They are likely to have very few personal possessions or money and may have had their ID or passport taken away.

This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it guaranteed that an individual who displays these characteristics is in fact a sex trafficking victim. But knowing the indicators of sex trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them get the help they need. 

Sex trafficking doesn’t happen during the Super Bowl alone, but the big game presents an opportunity to raise awareness about this year-round problem. The Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force – along with other government agencies and nonprofit groups – is working hard to combat it so that no one will have to endure being sold for sex.