LOS ANGELES (AP) – Frank Reich is heading to Los Angeles this week for an important mission.
A year after he became head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Reich and his wife, Linda, formed kNot Today, a nonprofit that works to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation. Their foundation is among five organizations working together at the Super Bowl to combat sex trafficking, which is often heightened around major events.
“This is one of the most horrific crimes,” Reich said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “Children who are actually looking to adults to protect them and nurture them and help them to grow up to live mature, holistic lives are the actual ones who adults are using – that trust the children are placing in them and then exploiting them and abusing them for their own good. It doesn’t get any worse than that.”
Former Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone formed The Alliance Against Human Trafficking and Exploitation, consisting of kNOT Today and four other groups. With support from the NFL and the Los Angeles Super Bowl Host Committee, the goal is to disrupt the illicit operations and assist victims.
“We have a real problem in America, with our children being under attack, being targeted by predators, and it’s scary,” said Malone, co-founder and CEO of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. “It’s evil and people aren’t talking enough about it.”
Kay Bennett is one person who talks about it a lot. Bennett is executive director of the Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans. She works regularly with human trafficking victims, and she saw firsthand the crowds that descend on a Super Bowl city in 2013, when her town hosted the game.
“Like any event, when you’re going to have a large number of people, you’re always going to have more human trafficking victims because you’re going to have more people to buy them,” Bennett told Baptist Press.
She said the best way for churches or individuals to get involved is to work with groups that area already established. She recommended the human trafficking prevention efforts of Send Relief, Southern Baptists’ compassion ministry, as one such option.
“There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “Just join with others. It’s so important just to be aware and to make other people aware of what’s going on.”
Bennett added that the first thing anyone should do to combat human trafficking is pray.
“When we pray, God opens our eyes to what’s going on around us,” she said. Then, get involved by helping individuals one by one.
“In my church and congregation and local schools, I would be a champion for people that are vulnerable,” Bennett said. “Folks living in poverty, folks in the foster care system, folks that are homeless, runaway, throwaways. We can be preventative when we’re being a champion for those folks that are vulnerable.”
Reich and his wife along with daughter Lia are working to not only raise more awareness and help bring prevention, but their foundation also focuses on aiding victims in the area of mental health.
“We’re doing everything we can to prevent this from happening, but the reality is it’s still going on and in crazy numbers,” Reich said. “There’s a lot of people who are needing help. Even when a child is restored, when they’re rescued, there’s a lifelong battle to get back to full mental health.”
The Colts offer support through the Irsay Family’s “Kicking the Stigma” initiative, which raises awareness about mental health disorders.
“It’s such a blessing for us to be connected right with them,” Reich said.
Reich’s NFL journey has included stops in many cities. He played for the Bills, Panthers, Jets and Lions and served as an assistant coach for the Colts, Cardinals, Chargers and Eagles. Along the way, the Reichs discovered child trafficking is prevalent across the country.
“It’s everywhere. It knows no boundaries,” Reich said. “We all know the international things and we’ve seen the movies and we’ve seen the statistics and the clips, which keep us up at night. But there’s equally bad stuff going on in neighborhoods that are right near us that are all over U.S. cities, smaller trafficking rings of children being sexually abused and exploited in horrific ways. That’s what we have found out more than anything.
“So, we’re really taking a multi-level approach. It is grassroots, boots on the ground in these small communities making a difference, but also using the NFL platform to have a major impact on a national and international level.”
Bennett urged anyone who suspects they have witnessed a case of human trafficking to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888. The hotline workers have contacts in areas around the U.S. who can respond locally.
“That may save a life,” she said. From The Associated Press. May not be republished. Baptist Press staff contributed to this report.