The Corner

Law & the Courts

Bill to Let Sex-Traffic Victims Sue Their Tormenters

(Jinga80/Dreamstime)

In January, President Trump issued a proclamation opposing human trafficking and slavery, bringing needed attention to an evil that too often remains unseen in the darkest shadows of society.

More is needed, obviously. Here’s a good idea pending in Congress to aid this righteous cause. HR 1865 would add criminal penalties to the federal law for “facilitating the prostitution of another person” — with extra penalties if five or more persons are so facilitated — specifically and explicitly including those prostituted in online exploitation schemes. From the bill:

It is the sense of Congress that: … websites that promote and facilitate prostitution have been reckless in allowing the sale of sex trafficking victims and have done nothing to prevent the trafficking of children and victims of force, fraud, and coercion

Perhaps most notably, the bill would create an explicit right for sex-trafficked victims to sue their tormentors in federal court:

Civil Recovery.—Any person injured by reason of a violation of section 2421A(b) may recover damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees in an action before any appropriate United States district court.

Consistent with section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 230), a defendant may be held liable, under this subsection, where promotion or facilitation of prostitution activity includes responsibility for the creation or development of all or part of the information or content provided through any interactive computer service.

Eighty percent of human trafficking involves the sexual exploitation and coercion of women and children. HR 1865 could not only chill some of this criminal activity by expanding the law’s reach to online criminality, but allow victims redress of grievances against their tormentors. It deserves our support.

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