- February 10, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Sexual Assault & Trafficking
There’s no question that Georgia has a serious human trafficking problem. The vast majority of human trafficking, here and all over the country, involves sexual exploitation, and underage girls are especially vulnerable to this kind of predation.
The question of how to address the problem has, unfortunately, proven far more contentious and complex.
Historically, the legal response has far too often been to arrest the most conveniently available targets — the victims — for prostitution, while the real perpetrators remain anonymous and free to carry on harming others.
The laws have greatly improved over time, however, particularly for underage victims. As of July of 2019, Georgia has a new, dedicated Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, which so far seems committed to catching and prosecuting true human traffickers, while rescuing and protecting victims.
Though the unit was initially founded with only six members, and has since expanded to nine, it has already reportedly prosecuted 51 suspected human traffickers and, most encouragingly, assisted 107 victims in 2021 alone.
The unit obtained its first conviction in September of that year, against a pair of men who had trafficked at least two teenage girls for monetary gain.
A 14-Year-Old Girl Has Been Rescued, Four Suspects Charged
One of the new unit’s first cases started with the investigators following up on a missing person alert from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It took close to two months, but the unit was able to locate and rescue the missing 14-year-old girl from an apparent sex trafficking scenario.
Eventually, after further months of investigation into what happened to the girl, they were also able to charge four adults with child sex trafficking. Some of them also face additional charges, including rape and false imprisonment. If convicted, all four suspects could spend life in prison.
If the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit keeps up this kind of work, it could represent a major step forward in how effectively sex trafficking in Georgia is handled.
Sex Trafficking Survivors Also Deserve the Compensation Civil Law Can Provide
Of course, no matter what happens to the perpetrators in this or any other sex trafficking case, nothing can truly undo the harm that has already been done.
Survivors, like the ones recovered in the cases above, have already suffered severe trauma. Their best chances of recovery will involve years of costly therapy, and many will face lifelong challenges with their health, relationships, and careers that could easily have been avoided.
Aside from a possible sense of closure, criminal law has very little to offer survivors, to address these lingering wrongs. Civil lawsuits, on the other hand, can provide survivors with the resources they need to heal in peace and comfort, while attacking the financial roots of the sex trafficking industry.
Survivors of sex trafficking have the right to sue those who abused them and anyone who knowingly enabled or profited from that abuse. This includes but is not limited to:
- Hotels that harbored sex trafficking transactions
- Ride services that transported victims for exploitation
- Salons that helped alter victims’ appearances according to traffickers’ instructions
- Social media platforms that allowed users to advertise underage commercial sex
Complicit companies are typically much more capable of paying survivors appropriate compensation than incarcerated perpetrators are. Taking the profit out of enabling sex trafficking can also force company policy changes, which may prevent future sex trafficking even more effectively than removing individual traffickers from society.
If you are one of the sex trafficking survivors identified by the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, or if you have ever been coerced into commercial sex in Georgia, call The Stoddard Firm to learn more about your options.