Material with Sex Trafficking Victim on a Porn Site

Overview

Sex trafficking is a tragic and dehumanizing crime. 

In our modern context, the crime of sex trafficking is magnified when images and videos of sex trafficking victims are disseminated online using “tube” pornography websites. 

When this occurs, the abuse and exploitation of the trafficking victim are enshrined on the Internet where it can be incredibly difficult to remove and to find justice for the continued crimes. In many cases, the “tube” pornography websites resist removal of the material at all until they are faced with legal action. 

Defining Terms and Issues Related to Sex Trafficking

Trafficking in persons (TIP) is the illegal commerce in human beings. It can be helpful to conceptualize TIP (also known as human trafficking) as a process through which a person loses his or her freedom and is reduced to the status of someone else’s “property.” People who live through the trafficking process ultimately experience slavery, because they become people over whom others assume the powers and rights of ownership.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Protection Act (TVPA) which is the cornerstone U.S. federal law criminalizing TIP (most states also now have their own anti-trafficking laws). As defined by the TVPA, the foundational elements — commonly referred to as “acts” — that make up the trafficking process include recruiting, harboring, transporting, provisioning, or obtaining of a person. 

Upon experiencing one or more of these acts a victim of human trafficking finds him or herself in a context of exploitation—being exploited either for their labor or services in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, or for the commercial sexual exploitation of their bodies. Accordingly, human trafficking can be divided into two broad categories: labor trafficking and sex trafficking.

Severe Forms of Trafficking

Whether in instances of labor trafficking or sex trafficking, cases involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion to carry out acts of trafficking trigger federal criminal penalties and are referred to as severe forms of trafficking in persons. 

An exception to this is made in cases of sex trafficking in which the person induced to perform commercial sex acts has not yet reached 18 years of age. While such cases are also considered severe forms of human trafficking because the victims are minors, it is not necessary for authorities to prove that the elements of force, fraud, or coercion occurred in order for those who sexually traffic minors to be convicted.

Additionally, sex trafficking cases lacking evidence of the elements of force, fraud, and coercion can be prosecuted under the provisions of the Mann Act. Passed in 1910, the Mann Act is a federal law which created a felony offense for engaging in interstate (i.e., across state lines) or foreign commerce the transporting of any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution. 

In either instance, victims may also have civil remedies. This means that they can attempt to pursue justice in civil court by holding their perpetrators, or even corporate actors who knowingly benefitted from their trafficking, accountable in the form of monetary damages. This is also an effective measure to shut down these enterprises and thereby prevent future victims, raise awareness, and change society for the better. 

Important Legal Changes Addressing Other Bad Actors in Sex Trafficking

The TVPA is periodically “reauthorized” and refined by the U.S. Congress. Of particular importance, the Congress clarified its inclusion of commercial sex buyers as participants in sex trafficking by expanding the list of trafficking acts to include patronizing or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. This means sex buyers can be criminally charged with sex trafficking. 

Another important change was made in the 2008 reauthorization which expanded civil liability to include those who knowingly benefit financially from participating in a sex trafficking venture.

Victim Impact in Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking involves the exploitation of the victim in the commercial sex industry (i.e. prostitution marketplaces) where the victim is expected to provide commercial sex acts on demand. Commercial sex acts are any sex acts on account of which anything of value (e.g. money, clothes, shelter, food, drugs, etc.) is given to or received by any person.

If a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion (such as threats of force, threats to loved ones, psychological manipulation or pressure, or threats of legal action), then it is sex trafficking. Because a person is given no meaningful right to refuse sex in the context of trafficking, the principle nature of their exploitation is that of rape and the abrogation of their individual autonomy. 

In cases where images or videos showing their rape is disseminated, especially when it is distributed online like in the case of the plaintiffs who won a sex trafficking civil case against GirlsDoPorn, the victim’s experience of rape is magnified exponentially by the serial nature of their sexual assaults being consumed by myriad individuals on pornography websites.

Could I Qualify for a Lawsuit?

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Did someone upload sexually explicit videos of you without your knowledge or consent?

Are you a victim of sexual abuse and/or assault?

Were you ever forced, coerced, pressured, or tricked into performing paid sex acts?

Have you been harmed physically, psychologically, professionally, or in your personal relationships due to exposure to hardcore pornography?

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