- December 3, 2020
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Sexual Assault & Trafficking
The short answer is yes, you can sue a human trafficker, or indeed anyone who has harmed you with their negligent or illegal behavior, while they are incarcerated. There is no law preventing you from doing so, and there’s plenty of precedent for it.
In fact, 80 survivors of Nxivm, the sex cult and alleged pyramid scheme that until recently was passing for an elite self-help group, are currently suing founder Keith Raniere for compensation. Their complaints range from sexual coercion to monetary fraud. Raniere has been sentenced to 120 years for a variety of charges relating to Nxivm, sex trafficking included. The suit was filed about six months after the conviction, and neither one cancels out the other. Civil and criminal law work separately and concurrently; there’s no need to choose one over the other for addressing a wrongdoing.
Similarly, three women who say they were raped or otherwise sexually abused by alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein sued for compensation last year. At that time, Epstein had not only been convicted and sentenced for soliciting a minor, but had already committed suicide in prison. Suing a deceased defendant’s estate poses its own challenges, but like suing a defendant in prison, it is often perfectly doable.
Unless Your Trafficker Is Extremely Wealthy, You Will Have a Better Chance of Winning Compensation from Other Complicit Parties
Although it’s far from unheard of for rich, powerful individuals like Raniere and Epstein to be involved in and even convicted for sex trafficking, most sex traffickers who go to prison don’t have much in the way of assets for their victims to claim. Once they’re serving a sentence, they also have no way of making a significant income, making it even harder to collect on any judgement against them.
If the incarcerated person who trafficked you doesn’t have a lot of money that can be easily linked with them, and doesn’t own a solvent company that played a role in the sex trafficking activities, you can still sue them, but it will usually be an expensive and purely symbolic endeavor.
That doesn’t mean you have no avenues of real financial recovery, however. Most acts of sex trafficking require the cooperation of wealthy third-party businesses, such as hotel chains. Anyone who knowingly harbors or profits off of sex trafficking is also guilty of sex trafficking, and is accordingly liable in civil court. Many hotels deliberately look the other way in exchange for bribes or simply to encourage repeat business from traffickers.
Options for Trafficking Survivors Have Expanded with SESTA/FOSTA
Recent changes to federal law have also made it possible to sue websites that facilitate sex trafficking by hosting traffickers’ advertisements. These sites, including Backpage.com, were big business before they were abruptly shut down by the closure of the legal loophole under which they operated. It’s not yet known whether many of these sites were officially solvent when they closed, or whether their profits will still be traceable, but they offer better odds than a broke and incarcerated individual.
The Stoddard Firm is ready and willing to do everything possible to help survivors pursue compensation from defunct adult ad companies, hotels, individual traffickers, and all others who profit from sexually victimizing others.