For most people, the Super Bowl means football, big screens, chips and chili. But with this big event, and other big sporting events, there is a dark side—a surge in the human sex trafficking of girls, boys and young women. American Airlines flight attendant and best-selling author Heather Poole says victims are brought in to sporting events and they will be “sold over and over again to men at the game.”
Flight attendants are now trained to recognize human/sex trafficking, and they are asked to volunteer and report possible human trafficking activity to the police during the Super Bowl. Each year people are being arrested due to these coordinated efforts. Poole says, “Airlines employees are the first line of defense for protecting the countless children who are trafficked on major flights each day.” Some of the signs they are told to look for include:
Can the passenger speak for themselves, or is someone with them controlling what they say? Does the passenger avoid eye contact? Do they appear fearful, anxious, tense, depressed, nervous, submissive? Are they dressed inappropriately, or do they have few possessions — even on a long flight? Can the passenger move independently, or are they accompanied by someone seemingly controlling their every movement.
One of Heather Poole’s friends joined forces with the founder of a nonprofit organization that fights child exploitation and human trafficking to educate airline employees and create a human trafficking hotline.
The State Department estimates 2 million women and children are victims of human trafficking every year. There are more slaves today than any other time in human history: Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, second only to drug trafficking. And while drugs can be sold once, a person can be sold several times a day. It’s a business that brings in an estimated $150 billion every year.
Poole says human trafficking is happening “everywhere, in strip malls across America.”
Redondo Beach is a very nice town — a very nice town with way too many massage parlors. A Yelp search for massage brings up 88 results in a town covering six square miles.
After learning more, Heather Poole decided to reach out to her city council. It was her first public speaking meeting and her goal was to help find/prevent/end human trafficking. She started her three-minute speech talking about the signs of a fake massage parlor: Security cameras outside, customers getting buzzed in. Windows covered with bars, boards or dark curtains, employees who rarely leave the location. Friends of Poole’s found it hard to believe human trafficking is happening in their neighborhood.
Some of my friends drive their children to school down a street where there are 13 massage parlors in the span of two miles. On this same street, the grocery store went out of business, the dentist closed up shop, but all the massage parlors that nobody seems to notice are thriving. Prostitution is one thing — after all, it’s theoretically happening between two consenting adults — but there could be something darker happening here. I don’t care if somebody wants a happy ending. But I do care if somebody forced into captivity is the person giving it to you.
Next time you see a shady looking massage place, notice if the entrance is uninviting, or security cameras are pointing at the door. If the windows are covered with metal bars, ask yourself if the bars are there to keep people out — or to keep them in?
In her extensive Mashable piece, Heather recommends “one of the best articles” she’s read about human trafficking. After reading it, she says, “You’ll never look at a strip mall the same way again.”
You can also learn more about human trafficking via the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).