Attorneys working with Top Class Actions are looking to help individuals and their families who were trafficked into sex work.
The hospitality industry has come under fire in the last few years for allegedly turning a blind eye to human sex trafficking activity.
It is also important to note that individuals—not just large brands and Fortune 500 companies—can also be perpetrators of sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking—particularly of young, vulnerable persons—is a global epidemic representing the largest and most extensive criminal enterprise in the world. In the United States alone, forced prostitution generates hundreds of millions of dollars for the perpetrators and businesses.
Human Sex Trafficking: An Overview
Sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery in which victims—often minors—are lured, manipulated, and/or forced into working as prostitutes.
The average age that a teenager gets trapped in the illegal sex business is 12 to 14 years old, with a majority of the victims being vulnerable children who may have come from single home families or foster care, or who ran away from home.
Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, criminal sex trafficking is defined as any “commercial sex act…induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
This means that if the victim is underage, no force, fraud, or coercion needs to be involved in order to bring criminal human trafficking prosecution against an accused perpetrator. The cases currently being prosecuted involve beneficiary cases against the businesses profiting from a victims’ trafficking. They do not involve claims brought in criminal court against the trafficker.
Where Does Human Trafficking Occur?
According to the Department of Homeland Security, hospitality facilities and websites provide high levels of anonymity and privacy that sex traffickers find attractive and useful.
Managers and staff at hotels, motels, truck stops, and similar facilities are often aware that young people are being forced into prostitution, yet are turning a blind eye to these activities and/or are not informing the police about their suspicions. Businesses have the ability to implement standards, training, and monitoring to ensure that their businesses take appropriate measures to prevent, and not profit, from sex trafficking.
This not only includes traditional venues such as hotels/motels, truck stops, and restaurants, but also casinos, theme parks, sporting events, airports, and cruise liners.
What Human Sex Trafficking Lawsuits Have Been Filed?
As the general public has become increasingly aware of the issue of human sex trafficking, a number of lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts. Currently, there are more than 20 cases pending throughout the country against hotels, motels, and technology companies.
The sex trafficking lawsuits claim that the defendants have violated “The Trafficking Victim Protection Re-Authorization Act,” which “extended the nexus of liability to anyone who should have been aware of trafficking happening within its sort of business structure, so that it was profiting from something it should have known was trafficking,” one of the attorneys told WOSU Public Media.
What Are the Laws on Human Trafficking?
In order to try and fight the human trafficking epidemic, there are stringent laws that have been implemented at both state and federal levels. The U.S. Code outlines prohibitions on sex trafficking, slavery and any other form of forced labor, while Chapter 78 provides specific procedures and funding guidelines for government agencies to prevent human trafficking.
Additional legislative protection is provided through the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, which provides guidance on how to protect at-risk youth from sex trafficking within the foster care system.
Each individual state has its own regulations on human trafficking, starting with Washington in 2003, which was the first state to criminalize human trafficking.
Human Sex Trafficking Potential Penalties
The human trafficking penalties for committing such a heinous crime are rightfully severe.
A conviction of holding a person in forced labor or slavery can result in both fines and a maximum sentence of 20 years. If there is a death, sexual violence, or assault of any kind involved, then the maximum punishment will increase to life imprisonment.
Certain states have provided law protections against businesses who may be guilty of human trafficking. In South Carolina, for example, an additional penalty of up to 10 years is provided to business owners who may have used their operating business to conduct sex or human trafficking crimes.
A woman in Washington filed a lawsuit against Craigslist—as well as three motel chains in Dec. 2019 after sharing her story of being sex-trafficked and forced into prostitution at the age of 12.
The connection between Craigslist and the three motel chains mentioned in the suit—including Motel 6, Wyndham, and Howard Johnson—is outlined in the woman’s lawsuit, which alleged that Craigslists’ adult advertisements aided in drawing in the men who sexually assaulted her.
“A continuing parade of buyers would arrive at the motel locations and enter into a room they either did not rent or did not rent for the purposes of an overnight stay. One by one, dozens to hundreds (of) … unrelated buyers used defendant motels and services to commercially sexually exploit, rape, sexually abuse and physically assault the plaintiff,” the lawsuit reads, according to The Seattle Times.
Facebook also faced allegations of facilitating sex trafficking activities, with a court in Texas dismissing Facebook’s appeal in April 2020 to seek protection from the three lawsuits.
Online platforms such as Craiglist and Facebook are only a few tools used to perpetrate sex-trafficking crimes. Increasingly, attention is being focused on the entertainment and hospitality industries, where the majority of human sex trafficking takes place.
Help Human Trafficking Survivors
If you or a loved one is a survivor of sex trafficking, legal help may be available.
Learn more by filling out the form on this page for a free case evaluation by an experienced sex trafficking attorney.
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Help for Human Trafficking Survivors
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