- July 28, 2021
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Sexual Assault & Trafficking
As part of the “Operation Not Forgotten” series of sex trafficking investigations now in progress, no fewer than 20 missing minors, ranging in age from 17 years down to just six weeks, were located across Georgia this past May. Most were found in Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton and DeKalb counties. Currently, authorities suspect that sex trafficking played a role in 16 of the 20 missing minor cases.
The search was a collaborative effort between the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service’s Missing Child Unit, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), among other agencies.
Although no human trafficking charges have been publicly announced in connection with these cases yet, one suspect has been charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor, and investigators have predicted more criminal prosecutions yet to come. Previous Operation Not Forgotten busts have indeed resulted in multiple arrests and sex trafficking indictments.
Hopefully, continued investigations will identify more of the guilty parties and prevent them from doing more harm in the future. In the meantime, however, there’s no need for the survivors to wait any longer before pursuing legal action in civil court.
Civil Law Can Provide Sex Trafficking Survivors with Healing Resources That Criminal Law Can’t
Finding the missing minors and beginning criminal proceedings against their traffickers is only the beginning of addressing the staggering injustice that’s taken place here. These missing person cases were given particular attention because the minors were classified as “endangered” due to a range of personal factors. They were and still are at elevated risk of exploitation, and many likely have limited social support systems. Even in the most supportive environment imaginable, healing from the trauma of sex trafficking is still a long and costly process.
Prosecuting the most obvious perpetrators of sex trafficking is important work, but it won’t do much to improve the circumstances of this group of minors. That’s where civil suits can do a great deal of good.
Anyone who could be convicted of sex trafficking can also be sued for it and forced to compensate the victims. This includes not just the people who committed direct violence against the victims, but also anyone who knowingly profited off their sexual exploitation. For example, hotels chains, apartment management companies, salons, and even social media platforms that knowingly provided services to enable sex trafficking could be held liable for the harm done to these minors. These kinds of businesses are also much more likely to be able to afford significant payouts — enough to help rebuild a survivor’s life — than individual perpetrators are.
The Stoddard Firm Offers Comprehensive Support to Survivors of Sex Trafficking
We at the Stoddard Firm know that the help sex trafficking survivors need goes far beyond simply identifying and successfully suing their exploiters. Necessities like food, shelter, and medical care can’t wait until after a civil suit is over. Many survivors who get out while they are still underage also face guardianship disputes or the threat of being sent back to abusive home situations.
In addition to representing our clients in their suits against sex traffickers, we also help them apply for government assistance to cover immediate expenses, find quality treatment programs or shelters that meet their needs, and fight for their interests in all related legal conflicts.
If you are a survivor of underage sex trafficking in Georgia, whether as one of the 20 or not, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn more about how we can help.