February 1, 2018 -- By Sarah Tuckowski
On Super Bowl Sunday, yellow penalty flags will be thrown to signal illegal blocking, a face mask grab, or a false start on the field. However, off the field, another penalty is being called to combat the trafficking and exploitation of children.
For It's a Penalty, an organization using the platform of sports to raise awareness and combat the trafficking and exploitation of children, January 24th signaled the beginning of their global efforts. This year, The Hue Jackson Foundation is proud to be a "Friend" (sponsor) of the campaign and join in on the efforts surrounding Super Bowl LII. Through this Super Bowl LII campaign, It's a Penalty will work collaboratively with hotels, airlines, local organizations, law enforcement, and many others to raise awareness of the signs of trafficking and exploitation while also providing information on how to report cases of suspected human trafficking in the area. In a recent interview with Sarah de Carvalho, CEO of It's a Penalty, she shared her thoughts on how an attachment to sports has allowed for her organization to reach large audiences and to gain insight on human trafficking as a global issue.
Q: Sports often have a tendency to unite people across boundaries and differences. Like The Hue Jackson Foundation, It's a Penalty is rooted in sports. How has this affiliation with sports contributed to the level of awareness and impact It's a Penalty achieves?
de Carvalho: It’s a Penalty harnesses the power of sport to raise awareness about the abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children and young women, the penalties for offenders (extraterritorial legislation which allows for prosecution abroad and at home), and the mechanisms that exist to report a crime. Utilising sport’s global popularity, we position major sporting events as platforms from which to strive for positive change. The way in which these events attract people’s and the global media’s attention ensures an impressive worldwide reach for the campaign messages of child protection. Some of the biggest names in sport are our global Ambassadors, and appear in our 30-second campaign films. Including such sporting icons as Rashad Jennings, Usain Bolt, Cathy Freeman, and David Luiz, these internationally renowned athletes are the voices of the campaign on the global stage. Their sincerity and commitment to the cause, along with their enormous global followings, ensure that the voices of vulnerable children and young women are heard worldwide.
Q: When you created It's a Penalty, was your goal always to reach audiences on a global level?
de Carvalho: The initial It’s a Penalty Campaign was launched ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and, at first, we specifically targeted British sporting fans travelling on British Airways flights to the World Cup in Brazil, educating them about the prevalence of child sexual exploitation in the country and the penalties for offenders. The year before the World Cup, in 2013, the UK government had introduced extraterritorial legislation which enabled the prosecution of British citizens who committed crimes of child sexual exploitation both whilst abroad and at home.
Moving forward, because of the border-defying nature of human trafficking, as well as the growing problem of child abuse and exploitation online, we felt that the only way to make a real difference in addressing this worldwide plight was to make It’s a Penalty a global initiative.
As we began to prepare for the second It’s a Penalty Campaign around the Rio 2016 Olympic & Paralympic Games, we were able to broaden our targeted reach with the involvement of 9 international airlines and an impressive global social media reach of 92 million.
Now as It’s a Penalty launches our 2018 Campaign, we are doing so on a truly global scale. This year’s packed international sporting calendar means that we can deliver our child protection campaign at four major sporting events taking place all around the world: Super Bowl LII (USA), Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games (South Korea), Cathay Pacific/HSBC Rugby Sevens (Hong Kong), and Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast, Australia). Working on-the-ground in each hosting country with hotels, airlines, law enforcement agencies, the respective sporting governing bodies, and local NGOs, our efforts to prevent the abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children and young women are maximised in 2018. We are so excited for the worldwide impact It’s a Penalty will have this year!
Q: If there is one thing you want everyone to know globally about human trafficking, what would it be?
de Carvalho: Many people simply aren’t aware that human trafficking is a truly global issue. It is not one country’s or one city’s problem, human trafficking, as well as the abuse and exploitation of its victims, occurs in every country in the world. It is a highly hidden issue and it is therefore so important to know the signs and be able to make a report if you suspect a crime is being committed. This is why we have created the It’s a Penalty App to accompany the Campaign to keep people equipped with #knowthesigns information (available for download on the App store now!) and created a World Map of reporting mechanisms (visit www.itsapenalty.org/makeareport to learn more). We encourage everyone globally to take a stand – ‘if you see something, say something!’