I don’t often deal with the macabre. I don’t even watch law & order. I don’t enjoy thinking about monstrous people. I understand the obsession with true crime, but podcasts featuring stories of sex trafficking, torture, murder and rape are the last thing I associate with relaxing.
There’s a place where you can talk crazy shit, and a lot of the time it’s not sports. In the run-up to The Big Game, bring up a human trafficking story at the Super Bowl and watch as many people fidget uncomfortably until they can talk about wide receiver matchups again.
A recently History from the Southwest caught my eye because the headline was so alarming and attention-grabbing, and I thought, damn, this is a good time to draw attention to a terrible aspect of our world.
A Texas family has been reunited with their 15-year-old daughter after she left her seat to use the restroom at a Mavs game and never came back. The girl was located 200 miles away – with more help from a Houston-based human trafficking agency than law enforcement – as part of a sex trafficking ring.
The girl’s father notified police at the game, who told him to call the police department where he lives in North Richland Hills. They told him they couldn’t help him because the incident happened in Dallas, after the story.
Missing persons reports were filed and time passed. Not satisfied, the family contacted the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, which found a nude photo of the girl being used for online sex advertising through facial recognition software and notified the Oklahoma City Police Department. Police then found the teenager and arrested eight people in connection with the case.
It’s embarrassing, and thank God the girl is safe. Hopefully it’s not irrevocably signed. Things don’t always work out for the better, and there probably wouldn’t be a story if it was still missed.
Zeke Fortenberry, the girl’s family attorney, said the parents sent letters to several parties involved in the case — American Airlines Arena, the Mavericks, the Dallas Police Department and the Oklahoma City hotel where the girl was found – to see how they could have prevented the terrible situation. At the time of this story’s publication, the family has yet to receive a response, and Fortenberry said he hopes to hear back soon so the matter can be resolved without a trial.
sports and sex trafficking
I’m just going to rattle off some human trafficking statistics while I have you here because the numbers are staggering/frightening and should be recognised.
A Report 2017 found nearly 25 million people trapped in human trafficking, also known as human slavery. It’s a $150 billion a year business, and while only 19 percent of victims are trafficked for sex, 66 percent of the world’s profits come from exploitation for sex.
While situations like the one in Dallas can happen, these cases are outliers, after the Polaris project, a group dedicated to supporting victims of human trafficking and educating the public. Usually the victims come from vulnerable, exploitable situations and not Liam Neeson’s out of stock– like kidnappings.
There are also numerous articles dealing with the link between major sporting events and human trafficking. A ESPN piece from 2019 said that the Super Bowl, although not documented, is the largest sex trafficking event in the world.
However, a Washington Post article interviewed sex workers ahead of this year’s Super Bowl who claimed that perceptions of sex trafficking at the Super Bowl led to the arrests of sex workers, not traffickers. A scientific study found that human trafficking does not increase during these periods.
A crackdown during the week of this year’s Super Bowl in LA saved more than 80 victims, so who the hell knows how true it is. I think we can all agree that whatever the impetus for the stitches, it’s great that people were saved.
Headlines like the one at the top of this article get clicked and shared because it’s a chilling story. It might be good content for a podcast, but the reality is that human trafficking seems a lot harder to fight than Neeson makes it out to be.
Thank God the girl was found and reunited with her family. Hopefully her story will bring some good and lead to more awareness and sacrifice returning to the waiting arms of loved ones.