I read an interesting and encouraging American Bar Association (ABA) Journal article written earlier this year, regarding recently established federal and state civil remedies and redress for survivors of human trafficking. See State laws provide for civil actions and other creative remedies for trafficking survivors, by Amanda Robert, ABA Journal (online version), February 2, 2020. When people think of human trafficking, they usually have visions of people in chains or in cages, which are traditional images of human slavery from the past, but modern human trafficking often does not take that form at all. In fact, it commonly involves the use of invisible barriers and control, such as mental coercion and emotional manipulation, and the abuse of trust in family relationships, like when parents ask their children to take part in exploitative activities as a required part of initiation for membership in larger organizations, as sometimes seen in cult-like religious movements. Human trafficking can take the form of sexual prostitution and exploitation, or involuntary labor and servitude, like in businesses or ventures connected with cults or similar organizations. The exploitation often begins when the victims are very young, and can continue into adulthood. Past laws often concentrated on imposition of criminal penalties for offenders who engage in human trafficking, but recently, there has also been a focus on remedial options for survivors and victims in the civil context as well. As a result, the number of both federal and state civil claims for human trafficking victims has steadily increased in the last several years or so, as have the different types of civil remedies available. For example, survivors are allowed in some states to obtain the equivalent of a projected or estimated annual wage for up to two of the years that they were used or exploited by someone, or by an organization. Statutes of limitations in many states have also been extended or lengthened for civil actions by trafficking survivors, and civil remedies can also take the form of traditional civil damages as well, like large monetary awards. Indeed, one victim received eight million dollars in federal court as part of verdict in her favor. Yet, besides the various forms of monetary compensation, there are resources and programs to help combat and foil human trafficking, like training by government agencies and nonprofit groups for employees of hotels and motels, where human trafficking often takes place, so the employees can identify and spot evidence of trafficking. All of the aforementioned developments in the fight against human trafficking are certainly a positive and decisive step towards the eventual eradication of the age-old scourge of human trafficking and slavery.
-Attorney Matthew Ludwinski
See State laws provide for civil actions and other creative remedies for trafficking survivors, by Amanda Robert, ABA Journal (online version), February 2, 2020.