sex trafficked woman looking at phone

Attorneys working with Top Class Actions are in the fight to end sex trafficking. 

The Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was amended in 2008 to allow for survivors of severe forms of human trafficking to bring civil claims against third parties for their damages.

Some of those third parties may run legitimate businesses, but nonetheless, either have known or should have known that they were benefiting by overlooking or ignoring the repeated and ongoing trafficking of individuals.

Over a decade after the law was written, survivors of sex trafficking and labor trafficking can now reach out to experienced attorneys for the representation they have always deserved.

If you believe companies and third parties should be held accountable for overlooking or ignoring your trafficking, then please reach out today!

Your Case Starts With a Civil Investigation

If you were sex trafficked, held against your will in hotels/motels, sent to nightclubs and industry events, or forced to engage in commercial sex acts at other hospitality/entertainment venues, then you may be able to hold those businesses accountable through legal action. 

Top Class Actions is working with experienced attorneys, who will be informed and have instituted steps to provide sensitivity and offer you a dignified way to bring your claims before a court and possibly a jury to hear. 

Join the fight by filling out the short form on this page. 

NOTE: This investigation involves a civil case against businesses or third parties that have benefited from trafficking. This is NOT a criminal case against the trafficker.

Attorneys working with Top Class Actions do not bring criminal cases against traffickers. If you need to report a crime or need help to escape call your local law enforcement or 9-1-1. 

For support, we suggest you reach out online or in-person to crisis counselors, as well as domestic violence and human trafficking advocates in your area. Some of these services are available online.

You can find some resources through the Top Class Actions Sexual Misconduct Resource Guide. 

If you are in an unsafe place, look for help from local and trusted individuals. Connect with local service providers, who can offer assistance to escape from trafficking or forced prostitution. 

We want to help you recover on your journey — but only when it is safe for you to reach out.

Sex Trafficking vs. Sex Work: An Overview

Sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery in which victims — in many cases minors — are lured, manipulated, and/or forced into commercial sex acts. Sex trafficking is often referred to as “prostitution” or “sex work,” but these terms are misnomers in the context of trafficking — as torture and coerced acts are far from what we know as work. Actual sex work, by contrast, is labor that is not forced or otherwise coerced, and should not be confused with sex trafficking.

Sex Trafficking Involves Forced and Manipulated Acts

The average age that a child gets manipulated or forced into prostitution is 15 years old, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A majority of the victims are vulnerable and marginalized children, who may have been living in foster care, group homes, or in communities that have historically experienced oppression and violence. Indeed, 1 in 6 of the more than 26,500 cases of children reported missing to NCMEC in 2020 who had run away were likely victims of child sex trafficking, the organization says.

Many are manipulated and coerced when they have run away in search of protection or love outside of their homes. Vulnerable adults are also trafficked, and can be forced or coerced, using tactics like false promises, debt bondage, and more.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), as amended (22 U.S.C. § 7102), includes the following definition for one “severe form of trafficking in persons”:

  • Sex trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is 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 a victim of sex trafficking is under 18 years old, no force, fraud, or coercion needs to be involved in order to define that person as a victim of a “severe form” of human trafficking.

The cases currently being prosecuted involve third-party beneficiary claims that victims of severe forms of human trafficking can lawfully bring against businesses that benefited either by looking away from or actually participating in the trafficking of that victim.  

Congress enacted and amended TVPRA with the intention of stopping businesses from allowing sex trafficking to occur on their premises or with their services. 

The aim is to take away any incentive businesses have to look the other way from or ignore traffickers utilizing legitimate business services that knew (or should have known) of the illicit activities that result in such tremendous lifelong harm to victims.

Businesses and Sex Trafficking: What You Need to Know

Did a business owner or operator know, or should they have known, that you were a victim of trafficking? Did a business conveniently look away or avoid what was obvious suffering and the harms being done to you? 

  • A number of hotels and motels have been under fire in the last few years for allegedly ignoring clear signs of sex trafficking.
  • Social media and other internet platforms, as well as websites, have also been recognized as either participating in or ignoring sex trafficking crimes.
  • It is also important to note that individuals — not just large brands and Fortune 500 companies — can also be accountable for benefiting while they looked away from what they knew or should have known was sex trafficking. 
  • Celebrities, politicians, and business executives that participated or looked away from sex trafficking in order to benefit themselves or their companies can be held to be liable under the TVPRA. 

Sex trafficking — particularly of young and vulnerable persons — is a global epidemic representing one of the largest and most extensive criminal enterprises in the world.

In the United States alone, forced prostitution generates hundreds of millions of dollars for the perpetrators, while billions flow to the multiple businesses that get away with supporting them.

If you believe a business knew or should have known that you were a victim of a severe form of human trafficking contact Top Class Actions today by filling out the form on this page.

Where Does Human Trafficking Occur?

According to law enforcement investigations, there are ongoing trends that involve traffickers frequently using: hotels, motels, vacation rentals, ride-share services, apps, and websites to provide high levels of anonymity and privacy that sex traffickers require.

Managers and staff at hotels, motels, truck stops, and similar facilities are often aware that vulnerable and marginalized individuals are being forced into prostitution, yet they are willfully ignorant of these activities. 

Businesses that knew (or should have known) of the trafficking are in the position to end services to traffickers and make trafficking more difficult for the criminals that profit from it, instead of easier.

They have the ability to implement standards, training, and monitoring to ensure that their businesses take appropriate measures to prevent, and especially to not profit, from sex traffickers utilizing their businesses.

This not only includes mainstream businesses such as hotels/motels, truck stops, and taxi cab companies, but also specialty businesses often catering to sex buyers, such as casinos, sporting venues, conference centers, private 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 trafficking, especially sex trafficking, a number of lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts.

There is an increased and growing number of cases on behalf of hundreds to thousands of victims being filed throughout the country against hotels, motels, and technology companies.

These are claims by victims and survivors, who in some cases may have a right to seek relief under the TVPRA Section 1595 for injuries dating back to 2008!

Victims and their families are absorbing the costs of their injuries due to their inability to work and thrive in their lives, while the same businesses continue to benefit while ignoring the trafficking they know (or should know) is happening.

Some victims and families may be able to recover from injuries that date back over a decade! No matter how much time you have, please do NOT wait to contact an attorney.

Quotes from an attorney as told to WOSU Public Media:

The sex trafficking lawsuits claim that the defendants have violated “The Trafficking Victim Protection [Reauthorization] Act,” known as the TVPRA which in 2008 “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.” 

If you’re ready to take legal action, fill out the form on this page. The attorneys working with Top Class Actions will help you understand your rights and next steps. 

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. In 2006, California’s criminal and civil codes to fight human trafficking became law.

In Cal. Civ. Code 52.5 a victim of a severe form of human trafficking is given the right to bring a civil action for any “appropriate relief” for damages resulting from their being trafficked.

California Civil Code Section 52.5. CA Civ Code § 52.5 (a) A victim of human trafficking, as defined in Section 236.1 of the Penal Code, may bring a civil action for actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, any combination of those, or any other appropriate relief.  

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 in prison. 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 legal protections against businesses that 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.

Craigslist Sex Trafficking Litigation

Lawsuits in California, Washington, and Texas have been filed against a number of websites, including Craigslist, for their part in facilitating sex trafficking operations.

In December 2019, a Washington woman filed a lawsuit against Craigslist — as well as three motel chains 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 Craigslist knew or should have known that its adult advertisements aided in drawing in predators that sought out vulnerable and young children on its website.

“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 Craigslist and Facebook are only a few tools used to perpetrate sex-trafficking crimes.

Increasingly, attention is being focused on online web platforms such as ModelHub (MindGeek) and OnlyFans (BBC recent story), where amidst mostly legal sex work, sex trafficking and the facilitation of sex trafficking now takes place streaming live anywhere in the world. (Beginning in October, OnlyFans is planning to ban sexually explicit content—the backbone of its site—because of issues with credit card companies and investors cautious of being exposed to legal repercussions if they’re accused of facilitating sex trafficking.)

Websites with alleged sex trafficking ads have been well known for over a decade and some have been shut down by federal law enforcement, while others continue to defy the law as clarified in FOSTA-SESTA, which clearly outlines a path to taking trafficking offline.

These sites make trafficking and trafficking victims readily available to traffickers and to predators. Read a 2013 article from Fair Observer about the ongoing and very well-documented concern.

Pornhub Sex Trafficking Exploits Exposed by Columnist Nicholas Kristoff

In December 2020, The New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote an article about how Pornhub allows videos of children to be uploaded onto its highly-trafficked website.

“Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are,” Kristoff wrote.

He tells a story of a 15-year-old Florida girl who went missing, and subsequently, her mother found sex videos of her uploaded onto Pornhub. He recounts similar stories about other girls.

Similar to YouTube, Pornhub allows users to upload their own videos. Kristoff says that while most of the content is of adults, “many depict child abuse and nonconsensual violence.”

Pornhub, owned by MindGeek, also allows users to download videos from its site, which means that even if a video is removed, it may still be shared by users across the internet, Kristoff explains.

Two former sex trafficking victims filed a class action lawsuit against Pornhub in February alleging that it promotes the sexual abuse of minors and victims of child sex trafficking.

One of the female plaintiffs claims that videos of her being raped when she was a minor were uploaded and viewed on the pornography website.

The lawsuit explains that while Pornhub enlists a small team of moderators, they are allegedly given an incentive not to scrutinize too closely.

“MindGeek’s policies, or lack thereof, incentivize its employees not to remove child pornography and other inappropriate content,” the lawsuit explains. “There is a yearly bonus system, based on the number of videos approved. This results in individuals fast-forwarding to the end of videos (or not reviewing them at all) and approving them, even if they depict sexual trafficking of children.”

This is not the only lawsuit that Pornhub has been hit with. Pornhub has claimed that it does not bear responsibility for the fact that videos of sexual abuse are uploaded to its website.

Porn website XVideos was hit with a similar class action lawsuit in March.

Help Human Trafficking Survivors

If you or a loved one is a survivor or victim 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 attorney experienced in filing cases on behalf of sex trafficking survivors and their families. 

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