Up Front and Personal

Super Opportunity to Raise Awareness

by RoseAnne Cleary

I am not a football fan. Yet, I probably haven’t missed many Super Bowl parties in the last 48 seasons. The annual mid-winter high point seemed a natural, and whether attending one or hosting, the date was circled on the new calendar as soon as it was hung. The sheer counts surrounding the annual mega-event are nearly as much a part of the hype as the team’s playing records. The well-known per-30-second price tag for advertisers reached a nearly silly $4 million in 2013. With ticket prices starting at more than $2,000, Met-Life’s 82,500 seats will produce $165 million. (Better seats can be had for as high as $13,000.)

The quantity of pizza, fried chicken and beer served ranks the day as the second-highest to Thanksgiving in food consumption. The 2011 Super Bowl was the most watched American TV broadcast in history with 111 million viewers. The players on the winning team earn $88,000; each losing player, $46,000. And, generally about seven million people call in sick the next day – more than the combined population of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

But this mid-winter social event also has a very dark side.

In 2009, Pulitzer Prize winning Nickolas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, produced a book titled “Half the Sky,” detailing the violent suffering of women in southeast Asia and the millions enslaved globally.

It all got “Up Close and Personal” for me when I saw that the 2010 stats of young child slaves described ever lower ages of children. I applied that 27 percent amount to a typical class of mine in the ’80s. Of my 50 six-year-olds, 13 would be child sex slaves!

What has grown out of that research is well known and has had wide and laudable effects. What is much less known and even more disbelieved is the pain and torture, the slavery, that have been imposed on our own women – no, mostly girls – in our country.

From the mouths of two unlikely leaders has come the same definitive statement: The Super Bowl is “the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas commented on what he anticipated to be the 2013 Super Bowl-centered major increase in “forced, underage, commercialized sex.” Pope Francis has used the same words, calling for prayer on behalf of the young victims.

It’s important here to distinguish between prostitutes and call girls, and trafficked girls, who can be as young as six. While all deserve attention, the sex slaves, as they can justly be called, cry out the most pitiably for help they don’t even know exists. They are abused physically and emotionally to instill deep fear against escaping and are subjected to being raped by as many as 40 men a night, all of whom are also permitted any other kinds of violence.

Some typical descriptions include children, girls and boys, who have run away from sexually abusive homes, abducted youngsters moved far from their home locales, troubled adolescents hungry for the “kindness” extended by an adult. In California, half of trafficked children aged 10-12 are in foster care. Boys are first sold for sex usually at 11-13; girls, 12-14.

Much more information is available online: www.free-nola.org, www.tricri.org, www.ncronline.org (search:trafficking), AOL Huffington Post. You can google: Super Bowl, trafficking, child sex; many references. You can read: “The Road of Lost Innocence” by Somaly Mam, (former child sex slave who now rescues others.) After dispiriting data like these, one asks, what can I do?

During the weeks around the Super Bowl, living in the metropolitan area offers us a unique opportunity. The Big Apple is a magnet for dark behavior that can get lost in the crowd. Here are signs that may identify a young sexual captive. If you think you see a victim, keep her/him in view and call this LIFEWAY hotline: 1-888-3737-888. Here are signs to look for: person not free to come and go, works long hours with no breaks, has no cash, fearful or anxious, few possessions, avoids eye contact, no ID papers and inconsistencies in story told.

This column is not intended to tell you how to spend Sunday, Feb. 2. My hope is that the information will take up residence in your mind and lead you to repeat it to even one other person. The crimes committed in darkness against even one child must be brought to light to make that child free.[hr] RoseAnne Cleary is a resident of Middle Village.

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