On Sunday, in Sunnyvale, California, roughly two dozen volunteers, including many teenagers, joined the Grateful Garment Project, an organization based in San Jose, California, to stuff survival backpacks for victims of sex trafficking during Super Bowl week.
The game, which will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on February 7, will likely attract thousands of tourists, some of whom will be youngsters lured into sex trafficking by predators and discovered later by police. Some activists fighting sex trafficking have called the Super Bowl “the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
Lisa Blanchard, executive director of the Grateful Garment Project, told the San Jose Mercury News, “We’re already a hot spot, so when you bring in a big event like the Super Bowl, common sense tells you there will be an increase.”
She added that many girls and boys trapped in the sex trade will be arrested or detained, and by the time they are gathered by police, dressed “scarcely, almost naked.” Often victims have to relinquish their clothes to the police for evidence and return home wearing hospital robes.
Thus her project stuffed the 165 backpacks with “fleece pants and sweatshirts, underwear, socks, toiletries, flashlights and books,” according to the Mercury News. In the last fiscal year, the Grateful Garment Project distributed 14,371 items, according to its website.
Last May, law enforcement officials and activists gathered at Levi’s Stadium at The Freedom Summit 2015 event to discuss sex trafficking in the Bay Area, considered a prime spot for the trade. The Anti-Trafficking Coalition rented the stadium for $100,000, approximately half the organization’s annual budget.
As the Mercury News reported in April, 2015, “…most of the known trafficking victims in the cases that are prosecuted in the Bay Area and across the country are not immigrants, but American women or underage teens sexually exploited by pimps, gangs or other crime rings.”