It’s not a thought that we commonly have, or an issue that we focus on occasionally, on the contrary, it’s something that may be in plain sight during our daily routines and yet we fail to see. Human Trafficking comes in more shapes that we can imagine. It’s not just the ‘girls in a container being shipped around Europe, but more of a local and undetectable crime. A beautiful lady walking past you in the supermarket may very well be a victim, being held by chains that you can’t hear, touch, or see.

Human and sex trafficking in the U.S. is a concerning issue that should worry everyone because it can affect anyone. According to the Florida Department of Health, the ever-growing business of sex trafficking has rapidly outpaced local law enforcement’s understanding of the issue and ability to cope with it. Leaving many cases and leads to potential sex trafficking to go cold. More disturbing still: Florida authorities estimate that over half the victims are under the age of 18. And for some of the youngest of them, victimization happens less than a few miles from their home.

Most victims are almost exclusively runaway youth, who get caught by older men who then exploit them. “A teenager on the street alone, scared and hungry, is a huge target for a pimp. Victims generally are not locked up. Instead, that person feels traumatically bonded to their perpetrator. So they might be allowed to walk around freely but the pimp says ‘if you ever leave, I’ll kill you.’” “It’s happening under our noses every day and a trafficking victim could appear willing and happy,” said Justin Payton, Rode’s partner at Global Children’s Rescue.

Sex Trafficking in Big Sporting Events

Whether it’s the FIFA World Cup or the Super Bowl, these events generate a significant influx of sex-trade workers, with many being victims of human trafficking. U.S. police departments arrested around 750 people during nationwide sex-trafficking sting operations ahead of last year’s Super Bowl, the largest sweep performed since human traffic operations began 13 years ago.

Although the attorney general of Texas called the Super Bowl the “single largest human trafficking incident” in the United States in 2011, this is largely a myth, according to anti-trafficking campaigners. According to Lauren Martin, a trafficking expert at the University of Minnesota. The demand for sex market intensifies during Super Bowls, but it acts the same during other large events, from the Las Vegas consumer electronics show to Memorial Day weekend. Martin also says that the research points to a likely boost in sex trafficking because 5 to 20 percent of sex workers are trafficking victims. “But after the event is over, the levels of activity in the commercial sex market will go back to what they were,” she said. It’s estimated that 1.5 million people in the United States are victims of human and sex trafficking, the majority being sold or used for sexual exploitation, with children being on higher demand, according to a U.S. Senate report in 2017.

While it’s not a topic that we may always have in mind, being able to actively search for and recognize signs of human and sex trafficking is extremely important. Identifying and providing leads to the proper authorities can result in saving someone’s life.