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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Human Slavery at the Super Bowl? The US is #1 Consumer of Human Trafficking in the World

“There are 20 million trafficking victims this year. That is equivalent to one out of every five of the 111 million people who will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday Feb 1. We have to do something about it right now.”

According to Nita Belles, human trafficking expert and author of the book In Our Backyard, there’s data that shows that between dollars spent in the US and overseas, U.S. citizens buy more human slaves, many of them children, than any other country.

“People think human trafficking is carried out primarily in foreign countries, but it’s right here on U.S. soil,” Ms. Belles says. “Thousands of children and adults in every state of the union are lured by predatory traffickers and forced into prostitution, pornography, farm labor, domestic labor, manufacturing, hotel services, restaurants, and other activities.”

“There are more slaves today than any time in history. This happens not just at Super Bowl and other high population events, or in big cities, but in every town, in suburbs, and in the country-side all across this country. The human trafficking problem cuts across all racial lines, age brackets, and socio-economic levels.”

It’s not just at big events like the Super Bowl and other major events that attract huge crowds. This is happening 365 days a year and in every nook and cranny in the United States.

Here’s a summary of the problem.

  • There are over 20 million trafficking victims this year.
  • Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world
  • 1 in 3 Children who runaway will be lured towards human trafficking by seemingly caring people within 48 hours of running away.
  • 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2013 were likely human trafficking victims.(National Center For Missing and Exploited Children)
  • Human traffickers entice children to run away via social media and while playing video games in the “safety” of our living rooms.
  • Although runaways and at risk children are a high percentage of the victims, this crime is happening to children from middle class and upper middle class homes.
  • Traffickers are recruiting children right out of their bedrooms via smart phones/gaming systems and computers
  • Young people are increasingly being coerced or forced into human exploitation
  • According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 100,000 children are at risk every year
  • This doesn’t just happen to girls, boys are trafficked as well

In Our Backyard describes real life stories of human trafficking victims, survivors, perpetrators and people who are fighting this enormous problem. Belles describes numerous examples of the situations in which girls, boys, women, and men relate their traumatic experiences after being conned or charmed with promises of security and high income, or lured to the U.S. by phony employment agencies. Among them:

  • A 16 year old girl from a nice upper middle class home met a new friend at school who introduced her to an exciting 20-something man. They “fell in love” and within three months she went missing and he forced her into prostitution.
  • An attractive master chef in Manila answered an ad for a restaurant position in America. She was chosen, but upon arrival in the U.S., she had to sign a binding multi-year contract.  She was forced to work 12 to 15 hours a day for an abusive boss, unable to find a way out, right here in the United States.
  • A girl who could not afford college was offered a modeling career earning thousands of dollars a month. She was flown to Los Angeles and housed in a mansion. Her caretaker surprised her with a bill for travel, housing, and photo shoots. She could help pay the huge debts by posing nude, and later in films that turned out to be hardcore pornography, as well as forced prostitution.

“Escape is difficult.” says Ms. Belles, “Victims are closely watched and are often traumatically bonded to their captors. We can all assist in rescuing victims by learning how to recognize human trafficking in our midst and knowing how to get them help when we see it.”

Questions and Answers for Nita Belles

How big is the human trafficking problem?

This happens not just in the big cities, but in every town, every countryside in this great country. There are more slaves today than any time in history. The problem cuts across all racial lines, age brackets, and socioeconomic levels.

Another myth is that it involves only the poor, the foster kids, or youth who have been in trouble. The first chapter In Our Backyard is about a 16 year old, straight A student from a nice Christian home whose parents marriage was intact. She was lured in to human trafficking by another student at her school.

People think it can’t happen to them, to their kids, but it can.

Tips For Parents To Keep Their Children Safe:

  1. Educate your children about human trafficking. That it is here, what it looks like and to talk to you or another responsible adult if they think they see it. If they are able, have them read In Our Backyard. It will help them recognize it.
  2. Communicate with your children, and let them talk to you without judgment. They need to know they are safer with you than anywhere else. One rule we had with our children was that if they did something wrong and they told us before we found out, they might have some consequences but their punishment would be less than if we found out another way.
  3. Technology is a big part of how human trafficking happens with youth. Know your children’s passwords, know what is on their phone. A good rule is “as long as you live under our roof, we have access to passwords, emails, texts, etc.” Your child’s privacy is important but so is their safety. If you talk to parents whose children have been human trafficked, without exception, they will all tell you they wish they had monitored their computers, cell phone and activities on social media.
  4. Technological devices now exist which include :
    • GPS tracking devices which can be placed on phones, clothes, and in backpacks which help parents and authorities track your child and find them when they first go missing.
    • DNA scent kits which can be used to help authorities and dogs track a scent trail.
  5. Know your children’s friends. Have them over to your home. Feed them a pan of brownies, a batch of cookies and sit down and talk with them. Know where they hang out and what they are like.
  6. Get youth involved in positive things, community groups, sports, music, community service, and church youth groups. Surround them with positive peer pressure.

How to Identify a Human Trafficking Danger — What to Look For

Ordinary citizens can be trained to recognize the signs and what they can do to stop it, particularly at crowded events like the Super Bowl. Possible situations to look for include:

  • A young girl who is with someone who is older, partying and/or romantically involved and that person seems to be in charge of where she goes, what she does and who she talks to
  • Someone who appears to be soliciting for prostitution (majority are human trafficked, even though they may claim to be on their own.)
  • Those dressed in a provocative way, are exceptionally flirty and repeatedly check in with someone else on a cell phone or in person.
  • Someone who seems to have a bodyguard, or friends watching from a distance.
  • Someone who is avoiding normal eye contact with others, unless soliciting
  • Someone who acts a bit skittish, fearful, or appears drugged or drunk
  • Many people coming and going from a single hotel room at all hours
  • Teens who are trying to appear as adults and carry and present fake ID
  • Physical appearance shows signs of injuries, abuse or torture.
  • Hotel housekeeping staff notices unusual amount of condoms, lubricants, etc. in hotel rooms.

What are the most important red flags people should look for?

There are several red flags people should look for and if present pay very close attention. You should pay heightened attention to people you see who:

  • are not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • are under 18 and are providing commercial human acts
  • work long hours with no breaks or unusual restrictions
  • avoid eye contact and show signs of physical abuse or restraint, confinement or torture
  • are unable to clearly explain where they live
  • are fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, or paranoid

Indicators of human trafficking in the lives of those around you:

Situation: Teen receives an offer that sounds too good to be true — a dream life, fancy cars, fancy clothes, fast living for seemingly nothing
Solution: keep in good communication with your children, do things with them to build relationship.

Situation: Teens whose circle of friends change completely and their new friends may have a gangster or provocative look
Solution: Know your children’s friends, don’t be afraid to be the parent and say no.

Situation: Children are bringing home new cell phones – gifts from a new friend.
Solution: Find out where the cell phones came from, confiscate them, and contact authorities if necessary

Situation: Children have increased and unexplained absences from school
Solution: Work with school to ascertain what is happening and cooperate to find your child immediately in an unexpected absence.

Situation: Children/teens come home with unexplained money or gifts.
Solution: Find out where they came from. Bring in outside help from counselors, relatives or others who can help. Don’t ignore or hide this to save reputation. Get help!

Situation: New tattoos
Solution: Find out who did the tattoo, find out who was with them for the tattoo and what does it mean? Who else has the same tattoo?

Situation: Girls, especially teens with a new boyfriend who may be several years older
Solution: Restrict contact with him. If that doesn’t work consider relocating your child to protect them.

How can people help the victims?

Victims that have been rescued … are hoping that they can get the help needed to find a new, safe, happy life. Human trafficking victims, particularly minors, have a tough road in front of them even under the best circumstances. They need trauma-based treatment, kindness, understanding, a stable and non-threating environment and lots of time. Many will need professional counseling and medical or mental health services to recover from the atrocities that happened to them.

There are several professional organizations who provide support and help people in the throes of domestic minor human trafficking, adult human trafficking and labor trafficking. Belles can help with those referrals.

What you should do if you find a trafficking situation

Belles advises anyone who suspects human trafficking to call local authorities or the toll-free 24-hour hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 888-3737-888, or text BeFree (233733). Its website is

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In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do To Stop It

Nita Belles

New edition coming out June 2, 2015 Trade soft cover, Baker Books

Available in bookstores online and nationwide wherever books are sold.

For more information visit

About the Author:

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Nita Belles, is the Central Oregon Regional Director for Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH). A former Associate Pastor, she holds a Master’s Degree in Theology with a concentration in Women’s Concerns.

Belles leads a team of professionals who volunteer with In Our Backyard by fighting human trafficking during the celebrations surrounding the Super Bowl each year. She works with each states Office of the Attorney General, other government agencies and law enforcement to help prevent human trafficking and rescue victims who have been trafficked.

Belles has worked in the business arena as well as with victims/survivors of domestic violence, specializing in working with churches on related faith issues.

What People Are Saying

“Nita Belles has done us a great favor. She not only addresses the sensational aspects of the problem in a clearly documented manner — she has the chutzpah to point out the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. “

——Dr. Ted Roberts, CSAT CMAT, Best selling author, pastor and clinical counselor, Founder, Pure Desire Ministries International

“Nita Belles uses stories, statistics and history to illustrate the scourge of human trafficking that exists in America today.  That this crime against humanity targets our children in such great numbers is an outrage that should not be tolerated. In Our Backyard is a call to action…”

——MARC KLAAS, President and founder of KlaasKids and Beyond Missing, frequent guest on CNN’s Nancy Grace and other news networks

“Belles shows how trafficking victims aren’t “illegal aliens”; they are ensnared migrants and, often, pimped U.S. citizens…This book does as much as any to shed light on how economic forces—greed and demand, and even advertising—propel trafficking.”

—— MARK LAGON, former U.S. Ambassador, and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), former Executive Director and CEO of the Polaris Project, and Chair, International Relations and Security, and Visiting Professor, Georgetown University, MSFS Program

“This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about issues of justice and compassion in this generation. Though clear in exposing evil, there is no harshness in her tone. Her words are always marked by hope.”

——DAVID JOEL HAMILTON, Vice President for Strategic Innovation, University of the Nations, Youth with a Mission (YWAM)

“The reality is that trafficking is taking place right on our doorstep! Belles gives a compelling, comprehensive account of the veracity of trafficking in the United States. The narratives are an eye opener—revealing the hardships and hopelessness of countless thousands of victims who are the commodity of this multi-million dollar industry. Shame on us!”

—— GABRIELLA VAN BREDA, Executive Director of World Impact Network, Board of Directors of Foursquare Foundation

“I have had the opportunity to see first-had the passion Ms. Belles has for the victims of human trafficking all across our country, not just in her home state of Oregon. I’m very pleased to have had the honor to work alongside Nita. It is somewhat overwhelming to work in the presence of someone who has truly made a difference in so many lives.”

____HEATHER P. Wagner, Special Assistant Attorney General, Mississippi

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