We are excited to share the next installment of our 2020 Student Blog Series! The student blog series highlights original pieces authored by first-year law students at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Read on for Allyson Fifer’s contribution to the Student Blog Series.
“The Super Bowl Remains Target for Human Trafficking,” “Super Bowl LVI in Miami a Draw for Sex-Trafficking Industry,” “Community leaders warn about human trafficking during St. Patrick’s Day.” We’ve all seen these headlines that seem to explode in the days leading up to major events, such as the Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day Parades. However, how true are these assertions?
In reality, there is no data that proves, or disproves, that sex trafficking increases around these major events. However, the premise of this theory ultimately stems from a basic economic concept: when there is an influx of demand for a product, the supply for that product increases. Sex trafficking is a heinous market that ultimately boils down to the same fundamental elements as that of any other profit-generating market: supply and demand. The more demand increases for commercial sex, the more supply rises to meet that demand. Without the buyers, there would be no demand for commercial sex or for the victims as a product.
Thus, when these large events occur, they result in an influx of people in those areas and are therefore more likely to result in an increased demand for commercial sex. For example, the Super Bowl draws an crowd of primarily middle-aged men, the most common demographic of people who buy sex. Further, an abundance of adult entertainment and high alcohol consumption also increase the likelihood of the existence of commercial sex and sex trafficking, both of which increase drastically during events such as the Super Bowl and holiday parades. With any influx of people, there is also an increased demand for commercial sex.
The vast majority of victims involuntarily enter the sex trade, against their will. 100,000 children alone are commercially sexually exploited every year. It is estimated that 4.8 million people were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016 globally. However, these numbers are likely deflated: the actual number of victims is probably much higher, as many cases go unreported. Victims are trafficked across all states, social classes, and ethnic groups, illustrating that no one is immune from becoming a victim of human trafficking. When speaking to a Forbes reporter, a trafficker explained that victims are often coerced into the commercial sex industry through psychological persuasion and manipulation, coupled with physical abuse.
It must be understood that sex trafficking is occurring everywhere at all times, not just during major events such as St. Patrick’s Day parades or the Super Bowl. It is dangerous for there to be hysteria surrounding only certain events, places, and times of the year. Trafficking is happening all of the time, everywhere, in every country, state, and city, every day. Although media coverage and attention surrounding sex trafficking is helpful and important for awareness, it can mean that these issues get forgotten the rest of the time. It is crucial that there is education and awareness surrounding sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation at all times, not just during events such as these. Increased awareness helps victims escape sex trafficking, prevents future victims from being trafficked, and aids law enforcement in arresting and charging traffickers. The power of information must not be overlooked. Tobacco kills approximately 8 million people each year. However, since there are constant informational ads raising awareness about the dangers of smoking, from 2012-2018 the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign alone has motivated at least 500,000 smokers to quit. Imagine what that same kind of awareness could do for the estimated 4.8 million victims of forced sexual exploitation around the globe. Awareness and education work. Consistent awareness and education, rather than situational hysteria, work even better. For there to be a substantial decline of the commercial sex industry, it is crucial to spread awareness and education at all times, not only during major events.
Allyson Fifer is a first-year student at the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Allyson is from central New Jersey and attended The College of New Jersey. Allyson holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Marketing with a Minor in Law, Politics, and Philosophy. Upon graduation, Allyson hopes to make a difference in the lives of others as a criminal law attorney.