New Jersey cracks down on sex trafficking ahead of Super Bowl

Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:58am EST
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By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shandra Woworuntu was 25-years-old when she flew to New York from her native Indonesia for what she thought would be an interview for a hotel job, but instead found herself forced at gunpoint into prostitution.

For several months in 2001, the former bank employee was moved around from brothel to brothel in New York and New Jersey, until she finally escaped by jumping out of a bathroom window while an armed guard slept.

Now working with survivors of human trafficking, Woworuntu is helping train over 3,000 law enforcement and civilian workers ahead of the February 2 Super Bowl to help spot people who may have been trafficked.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the area around East Rutherford, New Jersey, for the week-long buildup parties and the game.

Demand for prostitutes surges ahead of the Super Bowl and officials warn trafficking gangs are likely to cash in on the influx of football fans, forcing people they have often bought into the country illegally to work in the sex trade.

New Jersey's ports, freeways and major airports make it a "destination state for human trafficking," said Melanie Gorelick of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

"They are preparing to have as many arrests as possible during the Super Bowl and to make it as difficult as possible for traffickers to bring women and labor to the area."


Shandra Woworuntu, a victim and now counsellor on human trafficking, poses in New York January 9, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton