Millions of eyes have been focused on Indiana for the events leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a major event for any region, with hundreds of thousands of people coming in for the big game and all of the festivities that go with it. Unfortunately, victims of sex trafficking rings are among those who arrive in cities where big events like the Super Bowl are hosted.
But here’s a tip of my hat to the state of Indiana for really stepping up its game to send a message to pimps and johns who might be looking to solicit sex-trafficking victims, notably the underage girls who are forced into this world of modern day slavery.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, just days before the big game, signed tough human trafficking legislation into law as a way of giving law enforcement officials and prosecutors the firing power to send a message that says, quite frankly, don’t even think about it. The new law closes previous loopholes and makes it easier to prosecute those who sell children into sex slavery rings. It also reduces the burden for prosecutors to prove coercion, which previously prevented traffickers from being prosecuted if the victim wasn’t being held against her will.
More importantly, though, is the training efforts for non-law enforcement types, such as hotel employees and cab drivers, have received. These folks now know what to look for in a possible victim – young girls dressed inappropriately for their ages who appear to be quiet and insecure and who avoid eye contact. Likewise, they were warned about girls who fit this profile checking into hotels with no luggage. And they’re taught to understand that the victims are just that: victims, not criminals. These girls need to be rescued, not arrested.
The Washington Post last week profiled the efforts of the religious congregations that bought shares of stock in major hotel chains so that they could be heard at the hotel executive levels about the responsibilities of the hotels in this fight. Many of the training programs were the direct result of this pressure campaign.
For some time now, I have been sounding off to anyone who will listen about the responsibilities of online sites – including classifieds sites like Geebo – in preventing these sorts of encounters. Geebo doesn’t accept or post personals ads where these young girls are often advertised for sale. And I have personally called on my industry counterparts - notably Craigslist and Backpage – to do a better job of policing their site for possible human rights crimes.
For the most part, my pleas have fallen on the deaf ears of my competitors. I guess there’s too much money to be made by selling those ads to be worried about the safety of innocent children being traded in sex slave rings. I can only control what happens on my site – but I’m proud to be a part of a growing effort to educate and inform folks about what’s really happening on these sites and how it can be prevented.
This law in Indiana is a big positive push forward for our efforts – and I’m hoping that other states follow Indiana’s lead and get serious about laws that send “You’re not welcome here” messages to sex-trafficking criminals.
Los Angeles Times: Super Bowl: Backed by tougher Indiana Law, nuns target sex trade