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Upcoming conference addresses human trafficking at the Super Bowl

Loyola press release - October 22, 2012

While major sporting events like the Super Bowl mean big business for the host city, the event also brings a darker side of business. It presents a major opportunity for sex trafficking. During high profile sporting events, demand for commercial sex acts spikes. Traffickers move people into the area—including children who have been induced or forced into the sex trade—to meet the increased demand.

To help prevent the problem during the New Orleans Super Bowl and to shed light on an issue that thrives in the shadows, Loyola University New Orleans is hosting a conference about human trafficking Oct. 24 and 27. The talks are free and open to the public, but attendees must register online for the full conference day on Oct. 27.

Deena Graves, conference speaker and founder of advocacy organization Traffick911 and the “I’m Not Buying It” campaign, said the issue of human trafficking isn’t just a problem when the Super Bowl comes to town. “This is a year-round problem,” Graves said. “This is an epidemic-proportion crime that happens every day. When the Super Bowl leaves, that problem is still going to be there.”

She added that the problem often involves children who are victims of human trafficking. A 14-year-old girl was recently rescued in the Dallas area, but in 30 days, she had been bought and sold in six states, Graves said.

The “Preventing Human Trafficking at the Super Bowl and Beyond” conference starts Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in room 114 of Miller Hall located on Loyola’s main campus. The keynote speaker is Holly Burkhalter of the International Justice Mission, a longtime human rights and government relations expert. The evening will also feature the documentary “Not My Life,” detailing the moving stories of human trafficking victims. Loyola assistant professor and noted human trafficking expert Laura Murphy, Ph.D., will introduce the film.

The full conference day, Oct. 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be held in the St. Charles Room in Loyola’s Danna Student Center. Speakers include U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten and Louisiana Rep. Neil Abramson, among other local and national human trafficking experts. Loyola College of Law professor Hiroko Kusuda will also speak on the immigration law aspect of assisting non-citizen victims of trafficking.

“Trafficking affects this city each and every day, through sex trafficking of minors, but also in the construction industry and in the entertainment, food and hotel industries as well,” said Murphy from Loyola.

“People aren’t aware of the issue because it’s so hidden,” said conference organizer Sue Weishar, Ph.D., of Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute. “Whether sex trafficking or labor trafficking, it is a despicable, horrific crime that cannot thrive in the light of day.”

For more on preventing trafficking in the New Orleans region, visit the New Orleans Human Trafficking Working Group website at www.nolahumantrafficking.org.

For more information, please contact Loyola’s Associate Director of Public Affairs Mikel Pak at 504-861-5448.

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