Group warns of sex trafficking spike during U.S. Open

Posted at 7:29 PM, Jun 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-07 20:29:08-04

The U.S. Open at Erin Hills has many golf fans in the area excited for the event, however, an advocacy group says big sporting events like this also bring the dark practice of sex trafficking.

"Whenever there are major sporting events or just huge events that bring people from other states, they come with a pocket full of money, they get their hotel rooms, they're looking for a party," said Rosalind Metcalf. "Unfortunately, it's at the expense of another human's body."

Metcalf is speaking from experience. She is a survivor of the sex trafficking industry and says large sporting events bring an increase in child sex trafficking.

FBI statistics also say Milwaukee is often one of top five worst cities in America for sex trafficking. So next weekend's big major tournament has many concerned.

The "Don't Be Quiet" campaign hopes to shine a light on the problem of sex trafficking during large sporting events. On Wednesday, dozens of survivors of human sex trafficking and other volunteers stood near the corner of Wisconsin Avenue & Jefferson Street holding signs that look familiar to golf fans.

The signs look like the classic "Quiet" paddles people will hold up before a golfer hits his shot. But they have a much deeper meaning saying, "Don't Keep Quiet about sex trafficking."  They hope it helps other people know it could happen here.

"They travel for fun," Metcalf said. "It's for sports. But what is actually happening is they're taking that opportunity that should be for a positive reason and they're using it to purchase human beings."

"What's talked about is the Super Bowl and how sex trafficking increases at the Super Bowl," said Jarrett Puckett, Executive Director of Exploit No More. "It's not just the Super Bowl but other large sporting events can have that direct effect also. A lot of guys are away from their families. In this field, men are the key issue in why sex trafficking happens. It's a business. It's economics. There's supply and demand. Men are looking for sex, unfortunately, with younger women and boys also. Where you have an influx of guys, you're going to see an increase in sex trafficking."

Puckett says the average person purchasing sex is middle-aged, Caucasian and mid to upper-class. So he's more concerned because of the golf tournament.

"With the demo that watches and participates in the U.S. Open and golfing and so forth, that exact demo is unfortunately the same demo as buyers," Puckett said. "We're not saying specifically, everyone who watches golf or golfers are buyers. We're saying these types of sporting events can increase the demand for sex trafficking."

For Metcalf, she says she has been to a Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby to be sold for sex. She says the problem is bigger than people might believe because the "johns" aren't who you would expect.

"They are doctors," Metcalf said. "Lawyers, judges, police officers, they work for the city, they're husbands. They're wearing suits and ties. It does not look like dirty, old, nasty men. That's why it's important we continue the campaign of, 'This is in plain sight."

Metcalf says she was kidnapped at 15 and raped by a man. A missing person’s report was filed but he had "broken" her mentally. So when he released her, she didn't tell anyone about what happened and he then started selling her out for sex, all the while living under her parents' roof. He was arrested after about 10 months and Metcalf was freed from the industry.

However, she has compassion for those who are traffickers and those who are buying people for sex.

"I still have fear in me," Metcalf said. "I have guilt. I'm ashamed. I would love to see awareness being brought forth for them as well to put services in place for them as well. It's no different than having a drug addiction or gambling addiction. For some of them, it's a sex addiction, a power addiction, a money addiction. I want to see everyone get help."

The group will have three digital billboards up starting on Monday and have some signs in yards leading up to Erin Hills.

They say they've reached out to the USGA but haven't heard a response.