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Many people have likely heard the term “sex trafficking” at some point in their lives. Perhaps it was on a headline news report. Alternatively, it may have been depicted in a book, movie, or television show. However, despite this familiarity with the term, many misconceptions about real-world sex trafficking remain. For instance, people may be confused about the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution. This article may provide helpful information regarding sex trafficking, including what sex trafficking really is, potential warning signs that sex trafficking may exist, and what parties may be held accountable for sex trafficking.
What is Sex Trafficking?
One of the largest criminal businesses in the world, sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking done for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, violence, threats, or fraud to cause someone else (i.e., the victim) to commit a commercial sex act (e.g., prostitution, pornography, sex) in exchange for something of value (e.g., money, drugs, etc.).
Unfortunately, sex trafficking is a worldwide epidemic, reaching every corner of the globe, including the United States. Because this criminal enterprise occurs on such a large scale and often consists of a complex web of connections and relationships, tracking and preventing sex trafficking has proven to be a very difficult task for law enforcement and federal agents.
Victims of sex trafficking are often lured into the business either by force or through false promises of protection, affection, shelter, or companionship. Compounding the issue is the fact that many of these victims are often unidentified or misidentified due to the social stigma surrounding sex trafficking. As a result, many victims of sex trafficking may be treated for drug abuse, delinquency, or domestic violence rather than receiving help for the real underlying issue.
One common misconception regarding sex trafficking is that it must always involve smuggling victims across state or international borders. Although smuggling may exist in some sex trafficking cases, such smuggling is not a necessary component of sex trafficking. All that is required for an act to meet the definition of sex trafficking is the exploitation of an individual after that person has been coerced or deceived. Thus, sex trafficking does not always involve the illegal transportation of a person across state or national borders.
Sex Trafficking Examples
Because the definition of sex trafficking consists of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, it is important to realize that sex trafficking can take several forms. Listed below are several examples of instances that may constitute sex trafficking:
One of the most common forms of sex trafficking involves prostitution. In this form of sex trafficking, the victim is forced to engage in sexual activity, against his or her will, with another person for the financial benefit of the sex trafficker.
Sex trafficking may also involve sexual exploitation via forced participation in pornography. This form of sex trafficking may involve the victim engaging in sexual acts that are videotaped and recorded for illegal commercial exploitation.
Illegal massage parlors that offer sexual services may also fall under the umbrella of sex trafficking. In these cases, the victims may be forced into engaging in sexual acts by the person or organization that is operating the trafficking network.
Another possible way sex trafficking may take form is through adult bars or strip clubs. The victims in these cases may be forced by the criminal sex traffickers into engaging in sexual acts that are intended to reap financial benefits for those in charge.
Sex Trafficking Statistics
Exposure to important statistics regarding sex trafficking may be a useful way to learn more about this unfortunate phenomenon. Listed below are several notable sex trafficking statistics.
- In 2016, the International Labor Organization estimated that of the 25 million persons in forced labor, about 5 million were victims of sexual exploitation.
- According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 25% of the more than 50,000 people annually trafficked from foreign countries into the United States enter the country through Texas.
- At any given time, Texas contains approximately 25% of the trafficked persons in the United States.
- Global profits of illegal human trafficking can reach $150 billion, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
- In 2018, over one-half (51.6%) of the criminal human trafficking cases active in the United Stated involved child-only sex trafficking cases.
- The average age teenagers are forced into the sex trade in the United States is 12 to 14 years old.
- In 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received the most calls from California, Texas, and Florida.
Red Flags of Sex Trafficking
Understanding possible signs of human trafficking and sex trafficking may help prevent or stop this act from occurring. Additionally, knowing what to look for can possibly help save or change a victim’s life for the better. Possible red flags of sex trafficking may differ between children and adults. Described below are numerous potential red flags for both age groups.
When it comes to child sex trafficking, potential warning signs that a child may be a victim include:
- Sudden or significant changes in behavior, mood, or attitude;
- Sudden or significant changes in school attendance, grades, or friend groups;
- Sudden or significant changes in wardrobe (e.g., wearing provocative clothing);
- Lying about day-to-day activities or whereabouts;
- Inexplicable injuries or bruises;
- Isolation from family and friends;
- Overuse of social media accounts or lying about social media use; and
- Sharing sexual pictures via text message or social media
Important warning signs that may indicate that an adult may be subject to sexual exploitation include:
- Accumulation of hotel receipts or hotel keys;
- Rolls of money or sudden inexplicable income;
- Bodily injuries (e.g., bruises, scratches, or bite marks);
- Lying about day-to-day activities or whereabouts;
- Tattoos or branding;
- Accumulation of sex paraphernalia (e.g., condoms, lingerie, sex toys);
- Isolation from family and friends; and
- Unusual or inexplicable spending habits
What To Do If You Suspect Sex Trafficking
If you suspect that a sex trafficking operation may exist, or that a person is being subjected to unwanted sexual exploitation, there are options for you to help. For instance, you can perform an internet search to learn even more about sex trafficking, including how to spot red flags and how to reach out to people who may be victims of sex trafficking.
The best options primarily include contacting law enforcement or designated officials who have been trained in handling sex trafficking cases. Listed below are several contacts that may be available for you to report any tips of suspected sex trafficking.
If you experience an emergency of some sort, one option is simply to call 911 and report what you have seen or heard. Provide as many details as you possibly can in order to best help the authorities investigate the suspected sex trafficking case.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (1-800-843-5678)
This hotline can be contacted if you suspect that a child or teenager may be missing or being subjected to sexual exploitation.
National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888)
The National Human Trafficking Hotline service is a national resource center which aims to serve victims and survivors of human in the United States. The hotline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More information can also be found on the website www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
Who May Be Held Accountable for Sex Trafficking?
One general misconception about sex trafficking is that the only party that can be held liable is the person in charge of the sex trafficking operation. Although these traffickers can certainly face criminal consequences for their illegal actions, it is important to realize that other parties may also be held accountable.
For instance, there have been numerous lawsuits filed against different hotels throughout the country. In these cases, the party who filed the lawsuit claimed that the hotels failed to take necessary steps to prevent the horrible acts from occurring. Another lawsuit, filed in Harris County in October of 2018, alleged that Facebook allowed a predator to take advantage of a young girl by luring her into a sex trafficking operation via contact through the Instagram social media app.
These specific examples show that other parties may be held accountable for their acts or omissions. These parties can face civil liability for acting negligently or being complicit with a sex trafficking operation. Examples of parties that may be held accountable, or who have been involved in sex trafficking litigation in the past include:
- Hotels, motels, and inns;
- Labor recruiters;
- Religious cults;
- Online/Social media vendors;
- Truck stops;
- Restaurants and bars; and
What May Zinda Law Group Do?
Many victims of sex trafficking have little or no prior experience when it comes to filing a lawsuit or seeking legal assistance. However, this should not prevent or deter you from seeking help.
Civil laws may allow survivors and victims of sex trafficking to seek monetary damages from third parties that earned money from their participation in sex trafficking operations. This means that victims of sex trafficking may be able to pursue compensation for the harm they have been forced to experience.
At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys are here to help explain and protect your legal rights. If you would like to see if our attorneys may be able to offer assistance in a particular scenario, feel free to give us a call at (512) 246-2224.