Raising Awareness with the Help of the Super Bowl

Sex With Jewrotica

Written by Mara Yacobi. Mara, a certified sexuality educator and licensed social worker, is Jewrotica’s resident sex educator. Check out Mara’s latest posts on Sukkot: The Fun & Fertile Festival, Summer and Sex, Getting in Touch, Resources for the Curious and The Many Flavors of Pleasure.

Rated PG-13

Yesterday, my family received an Evite to a Super Bowl party. If we decide to go, each of us will be going for a very different reason. When it comes to football, I can take it or leave it. For me, the allure of the Super Bowl is the friends who are invited to the party, the endless goodies I have a chance to indulge in, and the outrageous commercials. My husband loves hanging with his buddies, drinking beer, and of course, watching the actual game. My children, well, they just love spending time with family and friends . . . and running around the house creating havoc.

Committed or single, football fan or not, there is likely something you can relate to in my sentiments about the day. In other words, for some it’s about the football, for others it’s about the food, and still for others it’s about socializing—or all three. And while most of us have these festive associations, it would be naive to believe that there aren’t some people out there who associate the day with darker ideas. . . .

You see, while the host is planning the menu, snacks, drinks, and decorations, others are in the midst of a different kind of planning. These are corrupt and violent people who are pimping, coercing, beating, stealing, assaulting, and abusing victims who have fallen prey to human trafficking. Perhaps you have read the headlines about Super Bowl–related sex trafficking. It’s hard not to see some mention of this issue as the big game nears. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this problem isn’t just about sexual exploitation and not just at Super Bowl time. It is also about forced labor, which affects both genders, adults and children alike, every single day of the year. It’s critical that we recognize both types of human trafficking because the media tends to focus on the “sex” more than the other.

For clarification, sex trafficking is when adults and/or children are forced or coerced by threats of bodily harm and even death into the commercial sex trade against their will. One of the biggest myths is that sex trafficking occurs in impoverished communities. However, it can and does appear in all residential neighborhoods, nightclubs, fake massage businesses, and escort services. Labor trafficking occurs when adults and/or children are forced to work against their will with threats of violence and/or punishment from the person who is exerting a degree of ownership over the victim. Forced labor often includes domestic services as well as agricultural, factory, or janitorial work. Both types of human trafficking are dehumanizing, traumatizing, and perverted, and both are a fundamental violation of human rights.

I am certainly not suggesting that the Super Bowl is the main event that draws such abuse, but it does provide a great opportunity to raise awareness of this issue with a caring and sensitive community that has the power to help minimize this issue. I understand that as a Jewrotica member you may expect my posts to be about the good side of sex and daily Jewish life, but I urge you to keep reading anyway. You can make a difference.

Typically, Passover is the one time a year that Jews hear the word “slavery” and associate it with the freedom from slavery for a solid eight days. During these eight days, we read the story in the Hagaddah and eat matzah to remind us of the slavery that the Jewish people endured thousands of years ago. We all know the bland taste of matzah . . . and we can all relate to the names of the ten plagues, even if we never experienced them directly. We can imagine what it would be like to live with lice, skin irritations, and hail, just to name a few. This is a collective experience that Jews share around the issue of slavery. When Passover ends, unfortunately, we tend not to think much more about the issue of slavery. But we must. “Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt . . . Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

And now, here we are, thousands of years later. It’s 2014, and we are confronted with the same issue of slavery. President Obama referred to it as “modern-day slavery” and declared that the “United States will be a leader in this global movement” to eradicate it. According to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus, “One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks.” Moreover, Anna Gristina, a former madam, is quoted in the Daily News as saying, “The Super Bowl was always the busiest time of the year for the world’s oldest profession.”

When I write posts for Jewrotica, I strive to implement some aspect of Jewish ethics to honor and dignify every topic. Today, with this more serious issue at hand, I ask you to think about how you can take the notion of our ethical obligations to make an effort to help those who have been enslaved and victimized. One of the core values in Judaism is Din V’rachamim: Justice and Mercy. Justice signifies our obligation to live with a code of ethics, including the instruction “not to abuse power” (Teaching Jewish Virtues, 1997). And the value of Mercy reminds us to perform acts of loving kindness, including freeing those who are captive (Teaching Jewish Virtues, 1997).

So, what can be done? One idea is to get involved with one of your local organizations that is combating human trafficking. For example, in preparation for the 2014 Super Bowl, New Jersey’s Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest launched a coalition to combat trafficking and created a project to deliver 10,000 bars of soap imprinted with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number to area hotels. This initiative is a wonderful way of educating and informing a mass number of people, especially those in need, with a specific hotline to get help.

As for those of us who want to raise awareness from the comfort of our homes or gathering with friends, we can also take action to further these efforts. Here are a few ways you can help:

1. Start a dialogue with your friends and family. If you find it helpful to bring the subject up on the day of the Super Bowl, that would be great. However, it’s most important we simply start the conversation about human trafficking when you feel there is an opportunity to share your concern.

2.Victims of human trafficking can find support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-888-373-7888. Keep this number handy in the event you suspect someone is being victimized in this manner.

3.Post Outreach and Awareness fliers in your community where people are likely to congregate, such as the grocery store, gas stations, local businesses, and libraries. Download the flier here.

4. Review the following partial list of organization and websites to help you become informed and involved in stopping modern-day slavery:

Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) — the only organization in New York City specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking

End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) — a network of organizations and individuals working together to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children around the world

Freedom Network — empowers trafficked and enslaved persons

Free The Slaves — dedicated to ending slavery worldwide

Polaris Project — takes a comprehensive approach to combating human trafficking and modern day slavery

Mara Yacobi is a Certified Sexuality Educator, Licensed Social Worker and Founder of JLove and Values. Mara lives in New Jersey with her family and dreams of becoming a talk show host and finding more hours in the day.