Practice Description

Some of Our Sex Trafficking Litigation Work

Seeking Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking

The advent of the Internet, particularly social media, has led to an expansion in sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.  It has become far easier to both exploit victims and take part in the industry. However, the rise of social media, and the speed at which a story can spread has also helped bring the plight of sex trafficking to light, and created a broader understanding of the crimes, and who is liable for the systematic abuse victims suffer.

Sex Trafficking By The Numbers

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world, with a majority of cases falling under sexual exploitation. Over 100,000 children a year are forced into prostitution, contributing to a $9.8 billion industry in the US alone. Prostitution is one of the most dangerous acts in the country. The majority of those taking part, willingly or not, will face physical violence from Johns and from their handlers. The current death rate for sex workers is roughly 204 per 100,000, and that is simply what is reported. Often, abuse and deaths aren’t reported to the police for fear of reprisal, either from the courts or from pimps. The level of vulnerability faced by sex trafficking victims is impossible to fully quantify.

The Rise Of Civil Lawsuits

One fairly unknown legal remedy for victims is their ability to bring civil suits against both their traffickers, and any person or institution that financially benefited from their abuse. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 also allows victims to sue anyone that knew or should have known that the abuse was occurring. This law is being invoked more and more often in the last few years, with hotel chains forced to pay millions in damages to sex trafficking victims that suffered in their locations. Truck stops, motels, and even AirBnB rentals have had suits brought against them, and victims are finding justice through those suits.

Hotels are the biggest offenders in these cases, partially due to their legal obligation to care for their guests. Failure to protect them constitutes a breach of duty, leaving them open for legal repercussions. While traditionally there have been few cases brought against hotel chains, there have been a few high profile cases that have proven the efficacy of such lawsuits. Among the recent wins, a Gwinnett County jury awarded $13.8 million to a woman whose baby died during an extended stay in a hotel, where she and others were held captive by a cult leader for 4 years.

How Lawyers Can Help Victims of Human Trafficking

Since criminal cases can be difficult to prosecute, civil lawsuits have become an important avenue for survivors to seek justice from abusers. That can include:

  • Handlers/Pimps
  • Hotels and apartments where sexual transactions took place
  • Johns/customers
  • Websites that allowed the promotion of sex
  • Any individual or group involved.

Victims aren’t the only ones that can report human trafficking. The actions of individuals that suspect illegal activity can be instrumental in saving the lives of victims.

Victims of human trafficking have sustained significant financial and non-financial damages that can be recovered through a civil cause of action, meaning a lawsuit or claim. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) provides specific protections and legal rights to human trafficking victims and victims of sex trafficking.

Under the TVPA, human trafficking includes coerced labor of any sort as well as the use of children under the age of 18 for commercial sex acts. Labor trafficking often encompasses organizations that rely partially on legitimate labor but which use forced or unpaid laborers to supplement their business needs.

Regardless of the type of trafficking you or a loved one has been forced to endure, you can find hope in the fact that you have legal rights to financial restitution through the TVPA along with other applicable state and federal laws.

An attorney can represent your civil case to help you obtain compensation for your damages from all liable parties. Often, these parties include businesses and corporations that either directly engaged in human trafficking or who should have been aware of trafficking’s role within their business model had they exercised “ordinary care” as a “reasonable person” would.

Hiring a Georgia human trafficking litigation lawyer empowers victims to investigate the companies responsible for their plight and seek all applicable damages caused by their exploitation of forced labor. Damages include the direct physical harm caused, hospital bills for conditions resulting from forced labor conditions, lost income as a result of exploitative payment schemes, pain and suffering experienced, and other incidences of serious financial losses or emotional distress.

Businesses Where Human Trafficking Occurs

For most Americans, sex trafficking isn’t necessarily something that’s hidden from view. It can occur at businesses we drive past every day. It could be taking place in the same strip mall where you pick up your laundry or go shopping for home goods. It may even be happening at places you give your money to regularly without you ever being aware it’s happening.

Non-profit research group Urban Institute notes that the most common industries where human trafficking occurs in the U.S. are: hospitality, domestic service, construction, and agriculture.

Many consumer-facing businesses and consumer-adjacent businesses tend to participate in, harbor, or directly benefit from human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline notes several, including:

  • Massage parlors
  • Brothels
  • Escort services
  • Exotic dance clubs
  • Modeling agencies
  • Hotels and motels
  • Truck stops
  • Domestic service employers
  • Agricultural operations
  • Labor brokers
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Illegal sex trade rings
  • Small businesses

Additionally, many service industry businesses such as restaurants and nail salons can use forced labor directly or procure forced laborers from brokers. Any business where high levels of immigrant populations are used as labor can be a front for the recruitment, use, trade, transport, or exploitation of forced laborers, including among underaged children.

Impact of Social Media and Technology on Human Trafficking

The rise of the internet, social media, and technology use has come with the unintended consequence that all three provide major resources for human traffickers to exploit. Social media acts as an active recruiting method, where strangers or even known acquaintances pursue future victims through a combination of advertising, grooming, and false promises.

For immigrating human trafficking, recruitment most often happens through social media interactions in the home country of the future victim, says the Urban Institute.

According to Polaris, a non-profit dedicated to ending human trafficking in the U.S., people, often posing as businesses or recruiters, will comment on the posts those who fit the profile for the type of people most often tricked into exploitation. These include young adults, people in desperate financial situations, those facing prolonged unemployment, and those swayed by false promises.

Many victims are enticed by the prospect of travel, high pay, or a promising career in a coveted industry. Victims frequently enter the country legally under a work visa, such as through the H-2A or H-2B program. Then, they are coerced into performing labor for little to no pay, and they are threatened against leaving their job or reporting work conditions to authorities.

Some human trafficking fronts will even post job ads on social media as well as classifieds listing websites, like Craigslist. These advertisements may be used to recruit new victims, but they may also be used to offer the forced services of the victims, such as advertising sex. Polaris’s research discovered that 26% of survivors had their personal social accounts exploited by traffickers. Social media can also be used to monitor the actions and interactions of victims, bullying them into not engaging in activities that could expose the trafficking ring.

Resources for Human Trafficking

To report an emergency, call 911 to contact your local police department.

To report suspected crimes, or get help from a nongovernmental organization:

    • The National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. Available 24/7, all reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous.
    • Text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)

To report suspected human trafficking crimes to law enforcement:

    • For anonymous tips, call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: 1-866-347-2423

To report sexually abused or exploited minors:

  • For a child in urgent need of assistance, contact local law enforcement by dialing 911.
  • Contact the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline to speak with a professional crisis counselor at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Counselors can connect a caller with a number to report suspected abuse.
  • Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
  • Report incidents online at cybertipline.org

If you or a loved one has been the victim of human trafficking, we are here to help. Criminal Law Attorneys Patrick McDonough has decades of experience as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, and has unique insight into how best to seek justice for victims of human trafficking.

For more information, or to request a case evaluation, call our law office at 770-339-9835.

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