July 15, 2024
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Super Bowl Generates Concern: FBI Asks Locals to Help Prevent Prostitution

Teaneck—At a gathering of more than 250 people, sponsored in part by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Federation and the National Council of Jewish Women, Bergen County residents learned the distasteful facts about what happens when the Super Bowl comes to town. This year’s Super Bowl will be at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, and when it comes to town, so will “ladies of leisure”—many of them enslaved by their pimps, most of them underage, many of them desperate.

Valerie Huttle, local assemblywomen and prime sponsor of the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, moderated the event. “Does everybody know what the number 12 is? Twelve is the average age of the American human trafficking victim.”

That age, 12, was backed up by Keyla Munoz, a victim specialist with the FBI. In July of last year, she assisted with the recovery and reintegration of 109 victims. One was a nine year old girl and another, 12, was pregnant. Though their age and forced profession leads many to deem individuals like these girls child prostitutes, some take issue with that terminology because it implies that there is a measure of choice involved.

Ten thousand prostitutes were brought into Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl. Estimates show that 25,000 prostitutes will be brought into the area surrounding the Meadowlands for the February game and New Jersey law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with the FBI, are working to minimize the issue in Bergen County before the game is hosted here. New Jersey faces another problem. While it is the state with the largest the number of strip malls, it is also has the largest number of strip clubs. Stripping is one of the many potential activities that victims of human trafficking are forced to do.

Lesley Frost of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking Frost said her group was planning to distribute bars of soap with the hotline phone number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center stamped on them to local hotels. They also offer to train hotel employees to recognize and report any suspected prostitution to the police.

Every year, an estimated 100,000-244,000 American children are the victims of commercial sexual trafficking. Typically, these individuals are or fit into a number of the following categories: under 18, lonely, insecure, misunderstood, and learning disabled. They also tend to have social media access and may feel undervalued by their parents.

These children and adult victims enter “the life,” as they call it, in a number of ways including force, kidnapping, being sold, seduction, false advertisements for modeling and similar careers, recruitment and internet chat rooms.

“We need to go to the root of the problem and eliminate the need for commercial sex,” said Lauren Hirsch, the New York director of Equality Now, an organization that works to end violence against women around the world.

Hirsch began her career as a prosecutor and came upon trafficking in the area after realizing that one of her cases billed as domestic violence was actually an issue of trafficking. She shared the story of a girl named Jennifer who was going to college in upstate New York.

Jennifer’s family approached Hirsch with concerns. It turns out her “boy friend,” Scooby, was really her pimp. Jennifer was too scared to testify, but another victim of Scooby’s, a 15-year-old girl, testified against him. While in jail, Scooby reached out to Jennifer and asked her to have the 15-year-old killed on his behalf.

It was that request that, in later years, gave Jennifer the confidence to go speak with Hirsch. Jennifer has Scooby’s name tattooed on her chest. Branding is common among victims of sexual trafficking; it can be tattoos of words like “Daddy,” the pimp’s name, even the pimp’s face. Branding is actually seen more often than not, said Hirsch.

Globally, this is a $35 billion a year industry that exploits one million children in addition to adult men and women. For more information, visit http://www.equalitynow.org/ or http://www.njhumantrafficking.org/

By Aliza Chazan

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