Super Bowl Brings a Focus on Human Trafficking

Civic and community leaders in Minneapolis are hoping the attention on this year's Super Bowl will also help illuminate the issue of human trafficking in the city and across the country.

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Presenter: (the guy beat the daylights out of one of the girls that worked for him and then had to take her down to the hospital…)

The Super Bowl was still two months away. But the ground game by Minneapolis civic leaders to put a spotlight on sex-trafficking was already in full swing.

At an outreach event in a Minneapolis suburb in December, experts said that while big events like the Super Bowl are commonly associated with an uptick in sex trafficking, the reality is that it happens every day in every community. With the football championship coming in February—along with thousands of people and millions of television viewers—advocates for sex-trafficking victims hope to draw attention to what is both a local and national issue.

Beth Holger-Ambrose, executive director, The Link: “Even though the Super Bowl doesn’t necessarily bring in a huge influx of trafficking, it has brought a huge awareness to the issue and an opportunity to increase services that we need now.”

The Link in Minneapolis serves young people who have been trafficked. The non-profit is among 40 local organizations that are part of a Super Bowl anti-trafficking group that formed in 2016 when Minneapolis was selected to host this year’s event. 

As part of the Super Bowl effort, The Link produced a public service announcement titled “I Am Priceless,” aimed at preventing young people from being sexually exploited.

Video: (my body belongs to me. I am priceless.)

Beth Holger-Ambrose speaks frequently at the grass-roots level and was among the presenters at the Dec. 6 gathering in Stillwater, which was hosted by the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.  

Holger-Ambrose: “It was an opportunity for community members and alumni of the Citizen’s Academy to really learn about sex trafficking. It was a great event. There was a lot of interest. Even for one of the first cold, bad-weather nights in Minnesota, I thought, a good turnout. So that’s good.”

Amanda Koonjbeharry, who works for Hennepin County, which encompasses Minneapolis, spoke at the event about Super Bowl-related efforts. She runs a local initiative called “No Wrong Door” that seeks to prevent the sexual exploitation of young people. And she sees the Super Bowl as an opportunity to illuminate the issue to a broader audience.

Amanda Koonjbharry, program manager, Hennepin County: “We know that a lot of folks will be here. There’s a ton of attention on the cities and the states where the Super Bowl is hosted. We want to highlight that the issue is happening 365 days a year. And we had research done to show that there is a slight uptick in the ads that are placed online. But again, as I mentioned, it’s not any more significant than any other large event.”

Among those attending the outreach event was Lauren Schmitz, an FBI victim specialist in Minneapolis. In the run-up to the Super Bowl, she’ll be on the job working with trafficking victims, just as she is the rest of the year.

Lauren Schmitz, victim specialist, FBI Minneapolis: “Trafficking happens every day of the year. The range of trafficking victims that I’ve worked with have been from age 13 and up. The end goal is to really assist that victim with getting out of the life and getting the services that they need to do that.

Attendee: (I’ve just had a 15-year-old that has been a multiple runaway…)

Schmitz: So, I do believe that it’s—the Super Bowl is great in that it brings awareness to this issue.”


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