In Jefferson Township, many people are celebrating as they prepare for the Super Bowl XLVIII’s arrival at MetLife Stadium. Yet, as serious as the Super Bowl is for many Americans, a group of local high and middle school students has formed a nonprofit organization to address an even more serious concern: Super Bowl sex trafficking.
In 2011, an estimated 10,000 prostitutes were brought to the Super Bowl in Dallas. In 2012, Indianapolis reported 133 prostitution arrests on their own home turf. These students are determined to not let history repeat itself and have created three public service announcements to raise awareness of this “dirty little secret” of high-profile sporting events.
The club itself is named Project Stay Gold, which refers to the vintage teen novel and film, “The Outsiders.” Right now, it comprises 60 members from the high school and 25 from the area’s middle school, and the numbers are steadily growing. Other school districts around the state have reportedly been moved by the campaign as well. These students are not the only ones raising awareness of this all too prevalent social issue: President Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In addition, the federal education department is collaborating with a nonprofit to help raise awareness in schools about this billion-dollar industry.
Prostitution is a particularly tragic juvenile crime, because the easiest targets for arrest – the prostitutes – are victims of crime or abuse themselves. The average age of entry into prostitution is 14. Many are victims of sex slavery and human trafficking. Yet they are often treated as criminals instead of victims in desperate need of help, protection and legal advocacy. These young people, often no more than children, may be afraid to get legal help for fear of becoming victims of the criminal justice system or even of violent retribution from their traffickers and pimps.
Some may have developed drug or alcohol addictions, which may add to their fears when arrested. Yet many criminal defense attorneys do understand the unique plight of juveniles being tried for prostitution. They may be able to persuasively present mitigating circumstances that led to a young person’s voluntary involvement in prostitution or successfully prove that their involvement in the trade or other concurrent criminal activity, such as drug use, was forced. In addition, they may be able to advocate for the minor’s protection.