Girl was abducted from a Mavs game and found 200 miles away being sex trafficked

A teenage girl from the American Airlines center was found a week later being sex-trafficked.

A teenage girl from the American Airlines center was found a week later being sex-trafficked.
Drawing: PA

I don’t often dive into the macabre. I don’t even look Law and order. Thinking about monstrous people is not something I like. I understand the obsession with true crime, but podcasts with stories of sex trafficking, torture, murder, and rape are the last thing I associate with relaxation.

There’s a place to talk crazy bullshit, and often sports, that’s not it. Tackle a Super Bowl human trafficking story as the Big Game approaches and watch how many people fuss uncomfortably until they can talk about games with wide receivers again.

A recent southwestern history caught my eye because the title was so alarming and attention grabbing, and I thought, damn it, now is the best time to draw attention to an awful aspect of our world.

A Texas family found their 15-year-old daughter after she left her seat to go to the bathroom during a Mavs game and never returned. The girl was located – with more help from a Houston-based human trafficking agency than law enforcement – 200 miles away as part of a sex trafficking ring.

The girl’s father notified police at the game, who told him to call the police department where he lives in North Richland Hills. They told him they couldn’t help him because the incident happened in Dallas, according to the story.

Missing person reports were filed and time passed. The family was unhappy and contacted the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, which located a nude photo of the girl used for online sex ads via facial recognition software and notified Oklahoma City police. Police later tracked down the teenager and arrested eight people in connection with the case.

It’s mortifying, and thank goodness this girl is safe. Let’s hope she’s not irrevocably scarred. Things don’t always work out for the best, and there probably wouldn’t be a story if she was still missing.

Zeke Fortenberry, the girl’s family attorney, said the parents sent letters to several parties involved in the case – the American Airlines Arena, the Mavericks, the Dallas police and the hotel. Oklahoma City where the girl was found – to see how they could have prevented the horrific situation. As of this story’s publication, the family has yet to receive a response, and Fortenberry said he hopes to hear back soon so the case can be resolved without a trial.

Sports and sex trafficking

I’m just going to give you some stats on human trafficking while you’re here, because the numbers are staggering/appalling and need to be acknowledged.

A report 2017 found that there are nearly 25 million people trapped in human trafficking, aka human slavery. It’s a $150 billion a year business, and even though only 19% of victims are trafficked for sex, 66% of global profits come from sexual exploitation.

Although situations like the one in Dallas can occur, these cases are outliers, according to the Polaris project, a group dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking and educating the public. Usually victims come from vulnerable and exploitable situations, not Liam Neeson Taken-like kidnappings.

Many articles have also been devoted to the relationship between major sporting events and human trafficking. A ESPN Coin of 2019 stated that although it has not been documented, the Super Bowl is the biggest sex trafficking event in the world.

However, an article from the Washington Post ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, interviewed sex workers who argued that the perception of sex trafficking at the Super Bowl led to the arrest of sex workers, not traffickers. A University study found that traffic does not increase during these times.

A crackdown during this year’s Super Bowl week in Los Angeles rescued more than 80 victims, so who the hell knows how true that is. I think we can agree, however, that whatever the impetus for the stings, it’s great that people have been rescued.

Headlines like the one at the top of this article get clicks and shares because it’s a terrifying story. That might be good content for a podcast, but in reality, human trafficking seems a lot harder to tackle than Neeson suggests.

Thank goodness the girl was located and reunited with her family. Hopefully her story will bring some good, and lead to greater awareness and the victims being sent back into the waiting arms of loved ones.

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