Can Sex Trafficking Victims File Lawsuits Against Abusers?

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Human trafficking continues to be a major problem in the United States and across the globe. Estimates suggest that more than 20 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, an industry that generates approximately $150 billion every year.

While law enforcement is constantly looking for ways to prevent trafficking and arrest traffickers, the victims of this illegal trade are often left wondering what they can do to get justice for the violence and abuse they’ve been subjected to.

Sex trafficking victims have legal options available to hold abusers accountable and get compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. To better understand these legal options, it’s important to know the difference between criminal charges against traffickers and cases brought in civil courts.

Difference Between the Criminal Justice System and Civil Litigation

When the authorities arrest someone and charge them with crimes related to sex trafficking, the case goes through our criminal courts. In our criminal justice system, people are charged with crimes and, if convicted, they face punishments including imprisonment and fines. Charges are filed by the state against the person accused of the crime.

Conversely, civil cases involve lawsuits filed by one or more persons against another person, persons or, in some cases, organizations. Through civil litigation, a person can file a lawsuit to seek payment for the harm they’ve suffered.

Seeking Damages in a Civil Lawsuit

When someone files a lawsuit against another party, they seek “damages,” which simply means payment for the harm (economic and non-economic) suffered at the hands of the person being named in the lawsuit. Damages can include physical and emotional pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost income.

A sex trafficking victim can seek payment for any of these expenses by filing a lawsuit against their abusers. But other parties can also be named in a lawsuit.

Who Can Be Named in a Lawsuit?

Sex trafficking is a trade that typically involves a network of individuals coordinating their efforts to force people into the sex trade. Several individuals might be responsible for coercion, kidnapping or forcing victims into acts associated with sex trafficking. Additionally, several parties might also contribute to the trafficking of a victim, even if they weren’t directly involved in their exploitation or abuse.

A sex trafficking victim is within their rights to name multiple parties in a lawsuit. Determining who to name in a claim can seem complicated, but with the assistance of an attorney, a victim can choose the course of action that is most likely to result in justice.

There are often many people and businesses that contribute to sex trafficking, including handlers, customers, hotels where sex acts occur and websites that promote the trade. An attorney can help investigate the victim’s circumstances and determine who should be named in a civil action.

For victims of sex trafficking, it might seem like our legal system’s ability to help is limited, and it is certainly true that more should be done to address this terrible problem. However, the value of civil litigation is often overlooked as a tool available for victims to hold their abusers accountable.

If you or someone you love has been victimized by sex traffickers, it is important to understand your options. Alert the authorities immediately by calling 911. You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888.

If you are considering further legal action and want to learn more about civil litigation as a means for justice, then look for an attorney who handles human trafficking cases. They can help you through the process and help you seek justice through our civil courts.

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