The chair of Mayo Clinic’s sponsorship of the Minnesota Super Bowl Human Trafficking Committee presented at Saint Mary’s Feb. 12 in the Science and Learning Center.
April Elsinger emphasized that human trafficking is a “huge problem that is happening under our noses, in our backyards, every single day.” She said that a sting operation set up by the Rochester Police Department and the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester, Minnesota, resulted in 54 calls to buy sex with a child within one hour during an average Saturday morning in Rochester.
Elsinger said that human trafficking is related to Super Bowl LII because big events cause an increase in it. In preparation for her role, her boss sent her to meet the Sisters in order to learn about the global issue of human trafficking. After one hour of meeting with them, Elsinger was “determined that the Mayo Clinic sponsorship needed to mean more than just providing good exposure for Minnesota.”
Elsinger said that while Houston did a fantastic job of raising awareness that this problem was going to increase during Super Bowl week, it did not as efficiently teach them what to do in such situations. She said, “Don’t just teach people to look for problems, but let’s give them specific directional cues.”
She saw Mayo Clinic’s sponsorship as “opening eyes and offering hope.” Another goal of the sponsorship was to set an example for future host cities. One of the efforts on Mayo Clinic’s part was partnership with The Link, a Minneapolis-based, nonprofit organization that helps youth and families overcome the effects of poverty and social injustice. Together, Mayo Clinic and The Link created the Rise Up Initiative, which includes the Rise Up gift registry.
Mayo Clinic raised awareness about trafficking through a TV advertisement that ran in Rochester, La Crosse, and Mankato for a total of 3,500 times. The clinic also ran an advertisement in the Star Tribune and is currently creating a class for physicians that teaches them to recognize the signs of trafficking and to know how to respond.
A misconception that arose was that some saw Mayo Clinic’s involvement with Super Bowl LII as support for an event that increases human trafficking. Elsinger said that trafficking will increase regardless, and that she feels as though, “We owe it to our community to be involved and help,” and that “the Super Bowl is a fantastic platform to raise awareness.”
Elsinger said that a sex workers union was “pretty upset” about the TV advertisement because of the perception that people in such unions are also in the industry against their will. In response, Elsinger said that it is fine if people are in the industry if they choose to be, but that she and her team meant help those who were or are being forced. The advertisement was meant to be “a message of hope.”
An audience member said that the advertisement is really relevant because often, “you don’t think of it as…it could be your kid.” She said that the connection is not made that trafficking could very well impact you, but is rather thought of as something distant.
With relation to human trafficking, Elsinger brought up the I Am Priceless campaign and the Don’t Buy It Project. “It’s an interesting time right now in our culture with the Me Too and the Time’s Up movements,” she said.
Elsinger said that our rape culture needs to be rethought. “You get to a point where you’ve become desensitized to it, we all are,” she said. “This shift happening now and perhaps your generation can be the one to flip that around.”
This presentation was sponsored by Campus Catholic Relief Services. The aim of the event was, as Campus Ministry Director Colleen Dunne said, to “bring awareness of global issues to our campus.”