Hotel: Civil Liability, Human Trafficking & Federal Law
The Damage of Trafficking Leaves Lasting and Expensive Wounds:
Given the tremendous physical, emotional, and economic damage incurred by victims of sex trafficking and their families, many federal and state legislators have recently amended laws to make it easier for victims to file civil lawsuits against those responsible for their harm. Victims of sex trafficking are generally young—often underage—and otherwise vulnerable people who have endured months and years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of traffickers and buyers. They may be raped on a daily basis, often in astonishingly cruel, dehumanizing, and sadistic ways. They may turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. They may also be forced by their traffickers to use drugs and alcohol in order to foster dependence and maintain a state of confusion, helplessness, and hopelessness.
Traffickers know their victims must feel hopeless and submissive, so they take away their victims’ belongings to prevent escape or identification. Victims’ sense of self-worth is degraded at every opportunity. They are moved from city to city to keep them feeling lost and to capitalize on new markets. Any sign that a victim is not properly submissive is met with acts of violence meant to induce great fear.
Usually, by the time law enforcement “rescues” a victim of sex trafficking, the victim has suffered so extensively that the damage is often irreparable. Victims almost always need immediate medical attention and long-term rehabilitation to remedy their physical injuries and weakened conditions. They also generally need years of counseling, and even then prospects for recovery may be limited. Victims enslaved while young face limited career prospects and educational opportunities, and their physical and mental scars may present further roadblocks.
In short, victims need a lot of help in attempting a return to normalcy if such a thing will ever be possible. Recent legislation seeks to provide the help they need at offenders’ expense. Federal and state laws have recently made it easier for victims to recover from human trafficking offenders through civil suits and expanded the forms of restitution available to victims.
What Federal Law Says About Human & Child Trafficking:
Federal law permits for victims of human trafficking to bring a civil suit against both traffickers and anyone who financially benefited from his or her victimization and knew or should have known the acts were in violation of the law. Most pertinent to hotel owners is the fact that the Federal law defines traffickers as not only those who directly traffic or “pimp” victims, but also those who buy sex. If a minor is purchased for sex, even if s/he is not under the control of a “pimp,” the minor is still viewed as a victim of sex trafficking – and the buyer as the trafficker. Likewise, if an adult victim is subjected to commercial sex by “means of force, threat of force, fraud, or coercion,” the buyer can be held to be a trafficker. Therefore, if a hotel – through an employee – knowingly rents a room to a trafficker (either a “pimp,” or buyer of sex) for the purpose of a commercial sex act, or should have known that it was renting a room to a trafficker for that purpose, the hotel can be held liable for civil damages to the victim. Under this legal framework, a hotel risks civil liability by not being aware of, or simply ignoring, clear indicators that their premises were being used for human trafficking.
- Victims of sex trafficking are generally young—often underage—and otherwise vulnerable people who have endured months and years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of traffickers and buyers.
- Usually, by the time law enforcement “rescues” a victim of sex trafficking, the victim has suffered so extensively that the damage is often irreparable.
- Federal and state laws have recently made it easier for victims to recover from human trafficking offenders through civil suits and expanded the forms of restitution available to victims.
- Hotels can and should be held criminally and civilly liable for allowing sex trafficking to continue on their premises.
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