Following the culmination of Super Bowl LI, hundreds of thousands of tourists have left Houston, and with them, the eyes of the nation have as well. The city is already being praised for hosting one of the best games we’ve seen. Yet this praise and focus on the game masks a pertinent issue that hurts Houston long past last weekend: human trafficking.
Houston has the highest number of human trafficking victims nationwide, with 330 cases reported in 2015. Texas Interstate I-10 is one of the largest routes for human trafficking in the United States. This coupled with Houston’s reputation as a trafficking hub has led Texas to house a disproportionately large number of victims. In 2016 there were a reported 670 cases, with a total of 3751 victims since 2007 in the state.
A large myth has been perpetuated around large events such as the Super Bowl, suggesting that these events increase the rate of human trafficking. Large campaigns have been preparing for this setback, but are only implemented for Super Bowl weekend. Since this myth is not fully consolidated, these short-lived campaigns do little to solve this issue for the other 51 weekends of the year.
“It’s not that you can’t find anecdotal evidence of a human trafficking problem in a given place — it’s that there is no reliable data for any given day in the U.S.,” Bridgette Carr, University of Michigan clinical law professor, told the Huffington Post in an interview last year. “There’s this idea that we can say there’s an increase around any event, when we aren’t able to say what’s happening on any given day.”
The Super Bowl has seen the rise and fall of a massive ad campaign in Houston against human trafficking. But the short life of such a campaign doesn’t help combat the larger, daily issue of human trafficking that Houston must deal with. Such a campaign fails to take any effect when it only accounts for the supposed rise in trafficking during the time frame of the event. Rather than halting such large ad campaigns that bring attention and awareness to the issue to the residents of Houston just because the Super Bowl has ended, the city should promote these campaigns year round.
Though the Super Bowl may be over and the weekend-long campaign has ended, the larger issue still remains. Victims are still being sold into slavery for prostitution and labor at high numbers, which aren’t declining. Perpetuating harmful myths about the prevalence of human trafficking only allows the general public to ignore the reality. Human trafficking is a daily occurrence in the U.S., and its prevalence in Houston doesn’t live and die with the Super Bowl.
Berdanier is a philosophy junior from Boulder, Colorado. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @eberdanier.