Sporting events spark rise in human trafficking - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Sporting events spark rise in human trafficking

Study shows human trafficking increases in cities hosting sporting events (Source: WOIO) Study shows human trafficking increases in cities hosting sporting events (Source: WOIO)
The NCAA Tournament will draw thousands to Cleveland where thousands of basketball fans will be watching another slam dunk for the city.

What may not get as much attention are the victims of human trafficking who will be peddled around more than ever during major sporting events like the Sweet 16. That's according to a recent study done by Dr. Theresa Hayden from the University of Louisville.

"These events draw people who have money, so that's part of the entertainment, so to speak, that they think they are entitled to for that time period that they are in town," said Hayden.

Human trafficking victims are typically as young as 13, some are even younger. They are used as sexual slaves, often physically abused and threatened with their lives if they try to escape.

"They are either physically trapped or are in mind control, and they feel like they can't get out of it. That's the stories I've heard from people who have survived it," added Hayden.

Theresa Flores survived the nightmare of human trafficking.

"I was left for dead in a hotel after being sold to over two dozen men in a night," said Flores.

She is now behind an effort to put soaps in hotel bathrooms that have a number victims can call for help.

The Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is joining the effort to put an end to human trafficking, knowing their buses may be used to get the victims to those hotels.

They have signs that tell victims where to go for help and drivers are trained to spot the red flags. 

"Whether that be physical abuse, people that seem to be guided by others and controlled by others, people that seem to not be able to speak for themselves. Those are some of the signs that we look for when we are looking for human trafficking," said George Field, a spokesperson for RTA.

CLICK HERE for access to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. 

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