The Super Bowl, Human Trafficking and Kokomo and Howard County

Posted on January 10, 2012


by Linda Burris

Does anyone in Indiana care that women are exploited through human trafficking?It is unclear whether the majority of state Democrats do, as their walk-out effectively stopped work on pending legislation, according to Indiana Public Media, and shoved back consideration of an important anti-trafficking bill.

However, Gov. Mitch Daniels does care.

In fact, Daniels wants to close loopholes in the current law before the onslaught of human traffickers come to our state during the Super Bowl next month, according to WFIU News (Brandon Smith, ‘General Assembly Looks to Prevent Human Trafficking’, December 16, 2011.)

Currently state statute only prohibits forced marriage and prostitution, but the new measure would bar arrangement of any forced sex act. (WFIU)

Daniels has been made keenly aware that the Super Bowl is the biggest marketing exposition for this corrupt ‘business’ by leaders in other states who have hosted the event in the past.

Senate Bill 4 made it quickly out of committee last week with unanimous approval and is now ready to be addressed by the full Senate.

According to Indiana News Center (Scott Sarvay, ‘State Lawmakers Toughen Up on Human Trafficking Laws’, January 5, 2011):

Human trafficking can include the recruiting, harboring or selling of a person, especially a child, for purposes of prostitution, commercial sex acts, forced labor or involuntary servitude.

The bill would more effectively define the crime of “promotion of human trafficking of a minor” so that prosecutors could bring charges against traffickers even if no force was used, and for situations involving prostitution and involuntary servitude by minors.

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, approximately 12.3 million adults and children are trafficked across international borders into forced labor and sexual exploitation worldwide.

Concerning the specific difference this bill would make in relation to minors, the South Bend Tribune (Tom Davies, ‘Senate Committee Backs Tougher Indiana Sex-Trafficking Law’, January 9, 2011) reports:

The bill, which now goes to the full Senate for consideration, makes recruiting, transporting or harboring anyone younger than 16 for prostitution or other sexual conduct a felony punishable by 20 to 30 years in prison. It also would bar defendants from arguing a child consented to the sexual activity.

The bill also would make it illegal for anyone to sell or transfer custody of a child for sexual activity. Current law only mentions a child’s parent, guardian or custodian.

It is hard to imagine that there were so many gaps in the previous law.

Yet, should this bill still pass before the Super Bowl arrives, there is still much difficulty in targeting offenders, because the victims are easy to hide.

Abby Kuzma, Deputy Attorney General and Director and Chief Counsel of the Consumer Protection Division, stated in the above-mentioned article in the South Bend Tribune that since 2006 there have been 50 human trafficking investigations in Indiana. However, only 1 of those cases was actually prosecuted. She feels that the current bill would strengthen prosecution of offenders.

Splash ! Kokomo made a call to Ms. Kuzma’s office to learn if any of these 50 cases had origins in Howard County. (Should information be received, it will be added here later.)

What should concerned citizens know about this exploitation of women and children?

According to a document on the state website, entitled, “Pillars of Hope: Attorney Generals United Against Human Trafficking”, this is a $32 billion global industry and the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal activity after drug-dealing. Also, up to 300,000  children in the U.S. are at risk.

So, where are the victims?

Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships (HTAP) says that they are:

  • In agricultural fields
  • In homes, working as nannies, maids, caretakers
  • At restaurants, hotels, resorts
  • In sweatshops and factories
  • At construction sites
  • At nail spas, massage parlors, beauty shops
  • In your neighborhood, at the mall, at school

HTAP also gives some clues as to how to recognize a victim of human trafficking:

  • A person who is non-English speaking or not allowed to speak to customers
  • Someone showing evidence of being controlled, physically or psychologically
  • A person who does not speak for himself and is overly dependent or fearful of those around him
  • Someone in poor working conditions
  • A person who seems depressed or exhibits nonverbal behavior of fear through posture, facial expression and tone of voice

Should the citizens of Kokomo and Howard County be concerned about human trafficking?

Yes, for our governor recognizes that the Super Bowl may increase Indiana’s level of this exploitation.

In May of 2011,  St. Joseph Hospital offered a local seminar on the topic of Human Trafficking.

That was a starting point; but, we should not stop there.

Instead, we should care enough to become educated on the issue, to be aware and to report any suspicious activity.

We should not look the other way.

Posted in: issues