The fight against human trafficking will get a visible boost in the Valley for the next eight weeks with a campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the problem by placing dozens of billboards in the Phoenix metro area.
The 60 billboards are designed to take advantage of the notoriety of the upcoming Super Bow; by alerting the community that the crime exists, said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, an anti-sex trafficking group that has partnered with the McCain Institute and Clear Channel Outdoors in the initiative.
The narrative that women and girls are being forced into commercial sex at the Super Bowl in unprecedented numbers has been debunked by researchers who have said there is no evidence that shows there is a significant rise in sex trafficking over what occurs any other day.
While human-trafficking can be found during the Super Bowl, it is a problem that is present 365 days of the year, Myles said.
“This is an important campaign and an opportune moment to raise awareness of human trafficking in Arizona and beyond,” said Cindy McCain, co-chair of the Arizona Human Trafficking Council. “This is the continued work to combat this enormous problem and make a difference.”
“Fighting human trafficking is the responsibility of every single person,” he said.
Diane Veres, president of Clear Channel Outdoor, the group that has sponsored the electronic billboards displaying facts and statistics on human trafficking, said they are designed to reach the community at a large scale. The boards are aimed to urge victims to ask for help, as well as anyone who witnesses a the crime to report it, she said.
Carolyn Jones is among those who have regained her freedom after she said she was a sex-trafficking victim and said the billboard initiative is a smart way to provide knowledge on the issue and a lifeline for victims.
“We have a group in Phoenix that we didn’t have when I was 15 years old,” said Jones who now works for StreetLightUSA, a program that aims to eradicate child rape for profit. “We have places to go. We have people to fight for us.”
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