Harvey Weinstein Sex Trafficking?
Today’s media outlets are abuzz about a civil case of sex trafficking for monetary damages filed against Harvey Weinstein.
One legal media commentator praised the move as “creative lawyering” to claim “sex trafficking” to extend the opening of courthouse doors for one of Weinstein’s accusers to seek millions in damages. I’m not taking anything away from Weinstein’s sexual abuse victims, but I’m concerned about the impact the “creative lawyering” to use the “sex trafficking” statute to extend one of his’ accusers statute of limitations will have on those I’ve seen in “The Game.”
My work in human trafficking began more than a decade ago representing the first child to challenge being labeled a “prostitute” and the Texas Supreme Court agreed, declaring her – and all other children – victims, not offenders of child prostitution. My work continued as I returned to be a Chief Human Trafficking Prosecutor.
Today in private practice, I am aware there is an avenue for human trafficking victims to seek civil damages from their wrongdoers, but few victims are aware of this right of financial recovery.
The victims I’m referring to don’t look like the Weinstein’s accusers on television but they are often victims of child abuse who end up out on the streets running away from an already bad situation at the age of 12 or 13 and are recruited into sex trafficking by a “loving” pimp who will “take care of them” if they meet a daily quota by having sex with random men in exchange for money. Victims are run in and out of local hotels, promoted on various Internet sites and other assorted “brothels” with threats and manipulation or actual beatings from their exploiters. Many are still trapped in “The Game.” I envision these statutes were created to serve this population and the probable reason for an extended statute of limitations period is because it may take these children years to understand their victimization and seek recovery.
Let’s hope this media attention gets to those victims to let them know the doors of justice are open and lawyers are here to help them, not just get “creative” for others.
Ann Johnson is a founding partner at Johnson Martinez LLC working on behalf of victims of sexual exploitation and others accused in the criminal justice system.