The sex trafficking of minors is an especially heinous crime.
Yet for far too long, the owners and managers of legitimate businesses, including apartment complexes, hotels, motels, truck stops, and even websites and social media platforms, have looked the other way, providing a venue for or otherwise facilitating criminal enterprises that profit from child exploitation for the purposes of commercial sex.
As a leading Child Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Killino has committed his life to fighting for the rights of abused, neglected, and exploited children. If you were trafficked as a minor or your son, daughter, or another child you care about was victimized by sex traffickers, please call our law firm toll-free at 877-875-2927 to learn how our attorneys can help you hold the responsible parties to account and get the justice you so sorely deserve.
Understanding Child Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking of minors involves recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting children and teenagers for a commercial sex act. Experts estimate at least 100,000 children in the United States are forced into prostitution every year. However, sex trafficking can take numerous forms, including pornography, performance in sexual venues, and online or electronic transmission of children engaged in sexual activities. In many cases, kids being trafficked are subject to multiple forms of sexual exploitation.
The perpetrators of this crime – commonly referred to as traffickers or pimps – target vulnerable children and gain control over them using a variety of manipulative methods, frequently luring them in with an offer of food, clothes, attention, friendship, love, or a seemingly safe place to sleep. They often approach their targets at bus stops, train stations, on the street, or through social media.
No child is immune to becoming a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of their race, age, gender, socioeconomic status, or where they live. In fact, the FBI estimates that at any given time, roughly 293,000 American youth are at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims. Every child being trafficked is a victim, no matter their age. Sadly, they are not always recognized as such and are instead frequently arrested and charged with criminal solicitation or prostitution.
Children being trafficked experience long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, and they’re at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, substance use disorders, unplanned pregnancies, and severe mental health problems, such as depression and suicidal ideation. The psychological effects of trafficking can follow survivors throughout their entire lives, putting them at risk of further abuse and even becoming abusers themselves.
How Legitimate Businesses Enable Sex Trafficking of Minors
The rise of the internet and mobile devices has allowed sex trafficking of minors to flourish in the 21st century, providing exploiters with a convenient worldwide marketing channel to not only identify and groom their targets but also advertise and schedule criminal encounters with kids.
These illicit enterprises often operate out of legitimate venues, including hotels, motels, truck stops, and apartment buildings.
Far from being covert, there are typically numerous tell-tale signs and red flags indicating that a business is being used to facilitate child sex trafficking.
- Guests check into a hotel or motel for only a few hours instead of an overnight stay.
- Guests frequently pay for rooms with cash or a preloaded credit card.
- Guests check in with few or no personal possessions.
- An adult entertains a minor at the hotel bar or restaurant, despite having not checked in with them.
- A guest refuses cleaning services for multiple days but frequently asks to have towels replenished or bedding changed.
- The “Do Not Disturb” sign is always on a hotel/motel room door.
- A child or teenager asks staff or other guests for food or money.
- Kids are left alone in a room or apartment for a long time.
- There’s an abnormal amount of traffic to and from an apartment unit or hotel/motel room.
- A minor appears fearful or anxious and goes out of their way to avoid eye contact and interactions with others.
- A child or teen exhibits signs of physical abuse, neglect, or malnourishment.
- A minor is inappropriately dressed for the weather or in an overtly sexual manner.
- A child or teen frequently waits to be picked up in the parking lot, especially if they look uncomfortable or out of place or can’t remember who is coming to get them.
- An adult appears to restrict or control a child’s communication and won’t allow them to speak for themselves.
- A van or RV seems out of place in an area where commercial trucks are parked.
- A vehicle is often seen dropping a child or teen off at a commercial truck and picking them up 15-20 minutes later.
- There’s frequent CB chatter about “commercial company” or flashing lights signaling “buyer” location.
- Too many people are living in one apartment unit.
- There are locks on doors and windows to keep people inside an apartment unit rather than outside.
By identifying and reporting these signs, businesses where child sex trafficking occurs could help put an end to these crimes. But all too often, owners, managers, and staff willingly look the other way because they don’t want to get involved or are profiting – directly or indirectly – from the activity taking place.
Legal Remedies for Child Sex Trafficking Survivors
While law enforcement agencies in the United States and elsewhere expend considerable time and resources pursuing child traffickers, the criminal justice system is not the only avenue of recourse available to victims. In recent years more and more child trafficking survivors have successfully leveraged the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA) to pursue civil lawsuits in federal court against individuals and businesses that either participated directly in their abuse or allowed their exploitation to continue unchecked, including;
- Hotels, motels, apartment buildings, and truck stops where sexual transactions or solicitation were allowed to take place.
- Websites and social media platforms that allowed child sex traffickers to promote sex with minors.
When a TVPA lawsuit is successful, survivors can be awarded:
- Economic damages for any financial losses caused by the trafficking situation.
- Non-economic damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, physical and psychological injuries, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
While no amount of compensation can make up for the horror inflicted by child sex traffickers, filing a TVPA lawsuit also empowers survivors to expose those who participated in and enabled their exploitation and serves as a deterrent to any business that would otherwise willing ignore such crimes for their own financial gain
Contact an Experienced Child Injury Lawyer
Child Injury Lawyer Jeff Killino has earned national recognition for his aggressive pursuit of justice on behalf of injured and exploited kids. If you survived sex trafficking as a minor or care for a child who was trafficked, our child injury attorneys are ready to help you find some semblance of justice. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-877-875- 2927.