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Women pose in life-size toy box for sex trafficking awareness

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

The Super Bowl increases sex trafficking — here's how women are taking action

While the Super Bowl is usually considered a time to get together and celebrate, many unfortunate women don't feel that way because major televised sporting events often lead to spiking numbers of human and sex trafficking.

There doesn't seem to be a simple explanation for this, apart from it's a high-stakes event where powerful people get together and spend a great deal of money on varying forms of "entertainment." In order to combat this, Shared Hope International (SHI) has erected a life-size pink toy box that will live at several colleges in Arizona during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

Sadly, sex trafficking is a growing market, and thrives quite well even during lulls between sporting events. The $32 billion per year illicit industry, second only to drug trafficking, victimizes between 300,000 to 400,000 American children every year in some form of sex trafficking, according to the Blue Campaign, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security program aimed at educating the public about the crime.

In response to these appalling statistics and the possibility of elevated numbers during the game, SHI — a group that works to prevent sex trafficking crimes — launched their "Children Aren't Playthings" doll box campaign. Their 7-foot-tall pink doll box exhibit debuted on Monday at Arizona State, and several young female volunteers are taking turns standing inside it for hours on end to represent what the human trafficking market does to the world's children.

"It allows us to have a conversation about how children are viewed as commodities," Taryn Offenbacher, SHI communications director, told The Huffington Post. "This is a real person no matter how they’re packaged."

It's truly an eye-opening image with which to be faced. SHI is hoping it will wake people up, and perhaps even help save potential victims from this revolting market. But will it be enough to make a dent in a business fueled by power and greed? It's a difficult war they're fighting, made more difficult by its elusiveness, and can only be won if everyone is made painfully aware of the situation. So to that end, here are some more terrifying statistics about sex trafficking that I hope get your attention long enough for you to take a stand against this injustice. You can support the cause at SHI's website.

8 Terrifying sex trafficking facts

1. The average age for entering into child prostitution is only 13 years old.

2. Last year, the number of prostitution ads on New York websites jumped by 50 percent over Super Bowl weekend.

3. During the Dallas Super Bowl in 2011 there was a 178 percent increase in internet ads regarding sex trafficking.

4. In the Florida Super Bowl in 2009 they were actually advertising a young woman as a Super Bowl special.

5. Flight attendants and airport workers are among those trained to recognize sex trafficking among the thousands heading to the Super Bowl.

6. In Boston, a child prostitution ring was smashed and 86 children were freed after an airline worker noticed a man traveling with two crying children.

7. Out of 987 ads reviewed in the New York/New Jersey area last year pre-Super Bowl, 97 percent indicated prostitution and 84 percent indicated possible sex trafficking. Five percent of the ads were flagged as potential minors.

8. Obtaining exact sex trafficking figures is notoriously difficult, because it's a crime that occurs behind closed doors and victims are often reluctant to come forward because they fear being treated as criminals.

The Super Bowl increases sex trafficking — here's how women are taking action

More on sex and human trafficking

Should child sex trafficking victims go to jail for prostitution?
5 Things you didn't know about child sex trafficking
Blake Lively, Ashley Judd learn sex trafficking is happening in the U.S. (VIDEO)

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