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. (link to story)
Legal Remedies For Victims
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:
- Hotels and apartments where sexual transactions took place
- 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.
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)
- The National Human Trafficking Website: You may also submit a tip to the organization through its website. However, for immediate assistance, call the hotline to speak with an Advocate.
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) 822-0900.