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Multiple Hotel Chains Sued for Allegedly Allowing Sex Trafficking in Their Facilities

By February 2, 2020 February 20th, 2020 No Comments
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Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-legislative and non-political movement. To get involved with the legislative side of this issue, check out our friends at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

One of the pillars of our focus in spreading awareness on porn’s harms is sharing the unhealthy and destructive impact that porn has on the world—in large part through its tight link to sex trafficking.

The porn industry, with its many billions’ worth of buying power, has the muscle to fuel sex trafficking through all kinds of direct and indirect pathways. The stories, reports, and research show us just how much:

  1. “Supply-and-demand” connections: porn, especially violent and fetish-based porn, increases the demand for purchasing sex from trafficked and exploited humans as more and more consumers want to act out in real life what they see in porn.
  2. “Training manual” connection: traffickers and sex buyers get ideas from porn and use porn to instruct their victims in how to meet their (often violent) fantasies.
  3.  “Risk factor” connection: because of desensitization to unequal power dynamics and behaviors, a child growing up in a home where porn is regularly consumed is far more likely to be trafficked at some point in his or her life.
  4.  Literal connection: often, the performers in porn are themselves current or future victims of sex trafficking because they have been forced, tricked, or coerced to film sex on tape.

Related: Hotels, Motels, And Transit: How Workers In These Industries Are Cracking Down On Sex Trafficking

The list goes on, but you get the point. With that overview in mind, check out some recent news in the world of anti-trafficking efforts.

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Hotels being held accountable for role in trafficking

In a historic legal case, New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg has filed a multidistrict litigation petition (think giant lawsuit) with the U.S. federal court against twelve national hotel chains, accusing them of “corporate malfeasance for failing to safeguard against constant sex trafficking occurring on their properties and profiting from the trafficking through untold thousands of nights of room rentals.”

Related: How This Tech Startup Caught 25 Sex Traffickers And Rescued 50 Victims Last Year

The petition accuses these hotel groups of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, unlawfully providing a marketplace for trafficking for the sake of profit. The hotel chains include Hilton, Red Roof Inn, Best Western, Wyndham, and Intercontinental.

According to the Insurance Journal, this case marks the first time that hotels have faced industry-wide legal action for hosting sex trafficking, though it has “long been accused of serving as a breeding ground for sexual exploitation of women and children” as well as men and boys.

Related: Florida Man Created A Fake Anti-Trafficking Nonprofit To Lure Teens Into Trafficking, FBI Says

Weitz & Luxenberg drew together the separate cases of 13 women, sex trafficking survivors, who have sought legal action against hotels for the roles the hotels played in their victimization. These women, many of whom were minors during the time their trafficking took place, explain hotel employees’ inaction in the face of clear signs: “trash cans full of condoms, payment for rooms in cash, and refusal of housekeeping services” as well as loud screams for help and physical signs of torture and abuse.

Related: How Airbnb’s Relaxed Policies Might Allow For Trafficking On Hosts’ Properties

“I felt invisible the whole entire time” one defendant told The Associated Press. “That was the worst part, knowing that people knew and nobody was willing to help.”

Lead attorney on the case Paul Pennock made this statement:

“It seems clear to us that these hotels knowingly put their profits over the protection of the children, teenagers and young women who were being sold for sex at their hotels. We believe that they neglected their duty to take action to stop these heinous crimes for decades…”

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The problem with reactive measures

While the hospitality industry does have some industry-wide anti-trafficking policies and procedures, the petition argues that hotels have refused to actually implement them and that human traffickers know this and use it to their advantage. Programs to train hotel staff in identifying signs of trafficking and taking appropriate action, the lawyers argue, have been insufficiently put in place—and the ones that do exist are decades late.

Sadly, the result of ten years of inaction is thousands and thousands of victims. Over 1,500 victims related to this case have already hired lawyers, and up to 7,000 are expected to file with this petition in 2020 and beyond. And these victims cannot un-live their horrifying exploitation.

Related: 7 Ways To Check For Hidden Cameras In Your Hotel Room

And while this legal petition deals with hotel chains at fault, we want to emphasize that the problem reaches far beyond the hospitality industry.

Remember the overview above about porn’s link to sex trafficking? While we can’t know exact numbers or ratios, nor the situation of every sex trafficking case, it’s safe to say that the porn industry is, at best, complicit in trafficking and, at worst, an active participant—possibly similarly to these hotel groups.

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What can each of us do?

So how can we be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to porn’s fueling of exploitation?

  1. Get educated: arm yourself and those you know with the facts about just how much the porn industry is complicit and active in trafficking. The data that is available is alarming, but so many people have no idea about the connections.
  2. Correct rumors: If you haven’t yet heard the argument already that “all those people in porn totally want to be there! They love it,” you will. Rumors like this keep society turning a blind eye to what really goes on. Speak fact into rumors—share the documented realities about the coercion, manipulation, and violence porn performers face every day. Not everyone experiences this, but many absolutely do.
  3. Stop the demand: it’s easy to think that one person’s decision to ditch porn has no effect on a global industry, but think again. One decision can inspire others, and that domino effect can lead to huge positive change.
  4. Destigmatize the anti-porn stance: Be the example and make the facts more accessible to others so they understand why it’s awesome to proactively fight for love and fight against porn. Rep the movement and live the message unashamedly, with confidence and style.

Related: A Guy At An Art Gallery Tried To Traffic Me Into The Commercial Sex Industry

Even against a system as massive as the porn industry, we can make a difference as individuals, friend groups, schools, and communities. Share this article and spread the word.

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