Summary & References

The media have sensationalized claims of dramatic spikes in human trafficking activity during major athletic events (such as the Olympics), perhaps to the point of “urban legend.” Research suggests that labor trafficking may experience dramatic increments in some parts of the world, but studies have not yet corroborated similar claims for spikes in the sex trade. These blogs posit a middle path between dramatic upswings in the sex trade versus no increases at all. Research suggests that rates of general crime do indeed experience modest to moderate increments on “game day,” including both violent and financially motivated forms of criminal behavior.

Since the sex trade is both violent and financially motivated, it seems reasonable to presume that this particular form of crime also experiences modest to moderate increments during major sporting events. However, victims of general crime are much more likely to report criminal acts than the victims of human trafficking, leading to the chronic problem of underreporting in the sex trade, which all researchers seem to universally lament. Regardless, the problem of human trafficking (for both labor and sex) is—at its baseline—already ubiquitous, already epidemic, and already year-round. Therefore, sensationalizing inaccurate claims of dramatic spikes in only certain locations at certain times may deflect attention away from the true magnitude of this problem the rest of the year.


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Co-authored with Sheresa Wilson-DeVries