Some Facts and a Myth
It's hard to miss that there will be a big football game played in New Jersey this Sunday. The players, commentators, commercials and other hype are all over the airways.
But, away from the field and the bright lights, the big game brings along another, far less positive activity - human trafficking. More than 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 championship game, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Often called 'modern-day slavery', individuals involved in human trafficking are often in the sex trade but can also be domestic or farm workers held against their will. Each of these uses force, fraud, or coercion to control people. The UN estimates an estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking
The Dioceses or New Jersey and Newark have been working on this issue in the lead up to the game and their efforts are highlighted in a recent Episcopal News Network story.
One way you can help is to know the signs of human trafficking and speak up if you sense something is wrong. To report a tip, request information on services in your area or to get more information, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
Closer to home, you may also have heard that more women are victims of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. While this is a powerful statistic - I'm pleased to say it's actually a myth. This 'statistic' stems from an anecdotal comment made at a 1993 press conference which has evolved into fact through repeated telling. There is actually no statistical increase in reports of Domestic Violence on Super Bowl Sunday.
Even though this urban legend has been debunked, domestic violence is very real. The NOMORE Campaign is a national effort aimed at reducing domestic violence and sexual assault through education and awareness. This Campaign has the support of all the major advocacy agencies for the cause as well as several major corporations such as Allstate, Avon and Verizon.
As always, if a person is in immediate danger, they should call 9-1-1 (in the US and Canada). However, if a victim is in a safe place, 1-800-799-SAFE is the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, where there is information and referrals to local organizations throughout the country. It is helpful to post this number (or the crisis line for your local domestic violence organization) in the women's restrooms at your facility - restrooms are some of the few places where a woman can safely be away from their abuser.
So, while the spotlight this weekend will be on football, let us also think of those who live or have lived in abusive relationships and those who have been sexually exploited.
Almighty God and heavenly Father, You have created us, Your people, to do Your work in Your world. Be with, protect, and comfort all those who are in situations of fraud, force, and coercion, especially those ensnared in human trafficking and those who minister to or care for them. Through Your Holy Spirit, open the hearts of this country and the world, and enliven all our minds as we remember those who are sold in our midst, and inspire us to proclaim the freedom You offer to all through Your well-beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns. Amen.