An effort to find victims of human trafficking during Super Bowl week has already resulted in two child sex slaves being identified, according to Elizabeth Santeramo of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
Hundreds of volunteers participated in SOAP-up NJ over the weekend, bringing bars of soap labeled with the national human trafficking hotline to more than 300 hotels near MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The NFL championship game is known as the biggest event in the country for human trafficking of mostly women and children who are forced into prostitution.
SOAP-up NJ was modeled after an effort created by human trafficking survivor Theresa Flores, founder of S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution).
When Santeramo saw Flores speak about SOAP during last year’s Super Bowl, she said, "That's what we need to do in New Jersey."
Flores traveled to the state to share her story and train hundreds of volunteers.
A $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of NJ covered the cost of the soaps and materials, which included pictures, names, and ages of missing children from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
The hotels will place in rooms the bars of soap labeled with the national human trafficking hotline, 1-888-373-7888.
Large sporting events are known to increase the demand for commercial sex, Santeramo said. Many of the women and girls who are trafficked for sex are often missing children under the age of 18.