Kelleyann Stackhouse, co-leader of MVNU's Traffick Jam, had a hard time focusing on football during Sunday night's Super Bowl.
That's because America's biggest game also has a reputation for being a hotbed for prostitution and human trafficking. According to Reuters News Service, 750 people were arrested for sex trafficking in Houston leading up to last year's Super Bowl, with six minors and 86 adults being rescued.
Those statistics are hard to ignore, Stackhouse said. Though she's not a huge football fan, she spent a lot of time reflecting on the event in the days leading up to this year's NFL championship game in Minneapolis.
"I definitely had it on my mind," she said.
While some debate exists on just how big the sex trade is at the Super Bowl, a Carnegie Mellon University study found an increase in the number of online personal sex ads during major events including the Super Bowl, the annual Myrtle Beach Memorial Day motorcycle rally and even industry conferences such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Olympics and the World Cup are two other world events that see an increase in ads linked to sex.
Carnegie Mellon researchers have also developed computer programs to analyze the ads and help discover prostitution rings and identify children and adults who are victims of trafficking.
Stackhouse said trafficking is an issue that is important to her because "I have seen seen so many examples of how much harm that sex separate from God's design for it can do. That is an issue that God has laid on my heart and that sparked my interest in human trafficking.”
Traffick Jam had planned a prayer and awareness session about the Super Bowl over the weekend, but the event was unexpectedly cancelled because of illness.
Traffick Jam is a Community Service and Ministry Opportunities (CoSMO) group on campus that exists to educate the community about trafficking and related social justice issues and to do outreach into the communities where trafficking occurs.
The more Stackhouse learns about trafficking, the more she wants to do something about it.
“I hope my involvement with Traffick Jam, where I educate both myself and the community around me about trafficking, and reach out to those who are being trafficked, accomplishes that," she said.