Hotel Was Complicit in Sex Trafficking


Hotels (and other corporations) can be liable for sex trafficking.

That’s because any person, or business, that knowingly (knew or should have known) benefits from participating in a sex trafficking venture is liable under the TVPRA.

Hotels have a responsibility to take care of all their guests. Because of this responsibility and because hotels are increasingly aware of the fact that they are used in trafficking, many hotels now provide special training for their employees to look for the signs of trafficking. Even without specialized training, signs of sexual abuse or forced prostitution can be obvious.

Signs of sex trafficking and prostitution can include:

  • Bruises or other physical abuse injuries, poor hygiene, signs of fatigue or hunger;
  • A guest who seems nervous, afraid, or extremely self-conscious; this may include things like avoiding eye contact, not speaking, or having someone else check the person in and speak for them; a guest who seems drugged or out of it
  • A guest who seems extremely young, or who is with a much older man
  • The way the person is dressed and whether or not they have any luggage with them
  • The number of guests going in and out of the room
  • Refusing room service and avoiding staff
  • Other signs of illicit or suspicious behavior

But these are not the only indicators of trafficking and even if you think you weren’t “obvious” the hotel may still be liable.

Hotels financially benefit when a sex trafficker rents a hotel room in order to further the sexual exploitation of their victims. Accordingly, in that type of scenario, a hotel is financially benefiting from the exploitation of the trafficked victim(s) and can ultimately be held liable under federal law if it is found that the hotel staff and/or management ignored clear signs of human trafficking or assisted the trafficker in any way.

Some misconceptions about hotels and sex trafficking:

  • It doesn’t happen in nicer hotels: truth be told, all areas of the hospitality industry are affected, and trafficking is widespread
  • Prostitution is a choice: Many people believe that prostitution is just another transaction, and some victims initially believe that they were not exploited. In fact, prostitution is not a victimless crime. Money is used to coerce consent and all trafficking occurs in the prostitution market. If you were being prostituted  at hotels, the hotel may still be liable.
  • Trafficking victims are easy to spot: This is not necessarily the case. Just as trafficking can occur in all kinds of hotels, victims come from all walks of life. Hotels are uniquely situated to spot these victims, not only because of the specialized training some receive, but also because all of them are in the business of pleasing guests, which means learning how to read customer needs.
  • Trafficking victims are female: While females are predominantly exploited in sex trafficking, males of all ages may be exploited too and hotels are situated to identify all kinds of victims.
  • These are isolated incidents: In actuality, trafficking occurs in a variety of circumstances and large events, like business conventions, are often a cover for trafficking at hotels. Hotels must identify trafficking in all situations.

What Should Hotels Be Do to Help Identify and Stop Sex Trafficking?

Hotels can do quite a bit to identify trafficking victims and prevent abuses. They are uniquely situated to identify abuses as a lot of trafficking and the majority of escort services occur here. At both the management and associate level, training may be required and certain hotel safety measures can be put in place.

These include:

  • Checking IDs for all guests and visitors of guests and keeping a log of them
  • Requiring that guests meet visitors in the lobby and escort them back to their rooms
  • Updating wifi passwords regularly, blocking websites or channels that have ads for escorts or other sex services
  • Adding security cameras and regularly walking the halls and floors
  • Creating protocols for after-hours assistance
  • Track who pays in cash and report these transactions daily
  • Actively interacting with all guests and monitoring room activity
  • Watch for unusual behavior, like returning to the vehicle after checking in to retrieve items and persons, especially children
  • When unusual activity is noted, keep a closer eye on things and involve others like management or law enforcement
  • Keep a closer eye on guests when rooms near an exit are requested
  • Report any rooms where a large amount of certain items are found, like condoms, lingerie, towels, or used gift cards

Hotels can also be places that provide short-term shelter for those trying to escape systems of prostitution and may be able to connect survivors with the resources they need.

Could I Qualify for a Lawsuit?

Confidentiality: The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) may use or maintain the information provided here to contact you for further details regarding your experience. Information from this form is strictly confidential. Access to confidential information is permitted only on a need-to-know basis and limited to the minimum amount of confidential information necessary to accomplish the intended purpose of the use, disclosure, or request. By submitting this information, you authorize representatives of NCOSE to contact you for further information, and confirm your understanding that the provision of information on this form does not establish a client-attorney relationship between you and NCOSE.

Disclaimer: The Law Center cannot guarantee legal representation to every injured person with a potential legal claim and the submission of this questionnaire does not create an attorney-client relationship. Except in situations directly related to litigation the Law Center generally cannot assist with record expungement requests.

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