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Super Bowl and human trafficking: Work being done to prevent it

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is amongst NFL gamers who’ve joined the Worldwide Justice Mission group to assist combat the atrocities.

TAMPA, Fla. — One night time when Kirk Cousins was 16, as he listened to a presentation at his household’s church in Michigan, he discovered for the primary time concerning the worldwide atrocity of human trafficking.

Thousands and thousands of these victims are youthful than Cousins was then.

“I simply bear in mind being type of struck to the core and being convicted and considering, ‘What can I do?’” the Minnesota Vikings quarterback mentioned this week.

Eight years later, Cousins discovered a solution to his prayer for alternative to assist: a profession within the NFL. As a rookie with Washington in 2012, he was invited by a teammate to attend a profit for the Worldwide Justice Mission. The dots rapidly related in his thoughts.

That speaker Cousins remembered listening to in highschool? His title was Gary Haugen, the founding father of IJM, a Christian group that works to cease trafficking and abuse of the poor world wide by rescuing and restoring victims, holding perpetrators accountable, and strengthening justice programs. That occasion additional stoked the eagerness in Cousins to affix the trigger.

This 12 months, IJM was picked by the Tampa Bay space host committee for Tremendous Bowl 55 to assist anti-trafficking efforts. Cousins, as a part of IJM’s professional athlete group Workforce Freedom, has taken a lead function in serving to increase consciousness. Different NFL gamers concerned embody Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty.

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IJM is predicated in Washington, with 21 area places of work in 13 nations devoted to the work. The Australia-based Stroll Free Basis has estimated that 40 million persons are victims of contemporary slavery worldwide. In response to the U.S. State Division, there are about 25 million people being trafficked across the globe. Meaning individuals pressured to carry out work for an exploiter’s profit. Lots of these victims are being trafficked particularly for intercourse, usually offered as much as 20 occasions per day. One in 4 is a toddler.

“What we have to do is wake individuals up and convey gentle to it to comprehend it is happening,” Cousins mentioned. “I discover once you shine a light-weight on darkness, the darkness has to again off.”

The brilliant gentle is on this week with the staging of Tremendous Bowl 55.

Excessive-profile occasions that draw big-spending, out-of-town guests, even throughout a pandemic that has curtailed the group sizes and occasion scene, are pure targets for traffickers. In Atlanta two years in the past, the FBI reported that an 11-day pre-Tremendous Bowl operation yielded the arrests of 169 individuals, together with 26 alleged traffickers, and the rescues of 9 juvenile victims.

The NFL highlights a number of native organizations on the Tremendous Bowl website annually as a part of community-building efforts, and one grant went to the Hillsborough County Fee on Human Trafficking. With Florida rating third amongst U.S. states in quantity of human trafficking victims, it is a high-priority challenge.

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During the last 20 years, Congress has offered legislation enforcement companies extra instruments for particularly charging human trafficking crimes. Collaboration between municipal, county, state and federal authorities has elevated, and non-governmental organizations resembling IJM and its friends have been included within the course of to boost sufferer assist, mentioned Kevin Sibley, the performing particular agent in cost for the Tampa department of Homeland Safety Investigations.

“I feel that we now have an excellent, strong plan in the present day,” Sibley mentioned. “After I first bought into this 25 years in the past, we actually had no thought what we have been doing.”

A lot of HSI’s work entails faceless victims, however human trafficking circumstances might be emotionally draining for even these with essentially the most steely of demeanors. Victims not often notice they’re victims, mentioned Sibley, as he cited a previous case as a sobering instance.

“Although the trafficker and his pals had raped the sufferer quite a few occasions, even if he had crushed her, even if he had shoved a gun in her face and different locations, throughout sentencing she truly testified on his behalf and instructed him she beloved him,” Sibley mentioned. “So traffickers have a really, very highly effective maintain over their victims.”

These highly effective emotions can be used for good. Former NFL working again Donald Brown is now the director of partnerships for IJM’s Workforce Freedom, impressed to affix after studying about little one intercourse trafficking at a convention for professional athletes whereas he was nonetheless enjoying.

“On the time, I used to be residing in an entire bubble,” Brown mentioned. “It simply pulled on my heartstrings.”

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Elevating youngsters, naturally, has made the trigger really feel much more urgent, as Cousins lately mirrored in a dialog together with his spouse about their 3-year-old son.

“I do know sometime Cooper’s going to go to highschool and somebody’s going to make enjoyable of him. Somebody’s going to criticize him. Somebody’s going to bully him. That’s a part of life, however that may simply infuriate me,” Cousins mentioned. “So you may think about all of the extra somebody truly trafficking him. It is exhausting to even go there, nevertheless it simply explains the extent of darkness, the truth that that is occurring within the hundreds of thousands, and the truth that one thing should be finished.”

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