Human trafficking is a global problem with far-reaching consequences – including here in the United States, where abused and desperate people are frequently imported for the purposes of domestic and sexual slavery. Not only are people brought into the country by traffickers, but these traffickers also actively recruit at-risk and low-income individuals within U.S. borders, particularly under the age of 18.
According to some statistics, there were more than 9,000 cases of sex trafficking in the United States in 2017 alone, which represented a 13% increase from the previous year. Although public officials and police agents have been struggling to fight the rising tide of sex slavery, however, law enforcement agencies banded together in July with a nationwide sting known as “Operation Independence Day.” As the Denver Post reported in August, the operation liberated 12 sex trafficking victims in Denver, Colorado alone – and resulted in the arrest of a high-profile Colorado trafficker, too.
In July, over 400 law enforcement agencies worked in tandem with the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces to take down sexual enslavers across the country. It’s estimated that over 103 juvenile victims were identified in this sting operation, and over 60 new federal investigations were opened to hold the traffickers accountable in criminal proceedings. While the FBI has engaged in these kinds of nationwide sweeps before, Operation Independence Day represented one of the biggest and most successful stings in recent history.
While Operation Independence Day and similar law enforcement sweeps are a crucial component in the fight against human trafficking, it isn’t always enough for the victims of these horrible crimes. Left with post-traumatic stress disorder, sexually-transmitted diseases, physical wounds, and deep-seated emotional trauma, victims of sex trafficking may need decades of committed medical and mental health treatment before they feel safe again.
Unfortunately, criminal proceedings against traffickers do not allow victims – many of whom are in serious financial situations – to receive any monetary compensation for their extreme losses. Because many traffickers use debt and financial coercion to control their victims, these individuals are often left with few options once they are liberated from their captors.
Thankfully, the law allows victims of sexual abuse, rape, and trafficking to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers, and hold them financially accountable in a court of law. Aside from compensating victims for their stolen time and lost wages, a civil victory in Colorado can provide victims with up to three times the amount of their total damages, giving them financial security and peace of mind for the future.
At Klein Frank, P.C., our human trafficking attorneys have been striving to end this form of abuse and oppression for years. In 2010 and 2011, our firm members authored new anti-human trafficking laws for the entire state of Colorado, ensuring that victims would be allowed to seek heightened damages in cases of sex trafficking.
We fully support the incredible work done by law enforcement during Operation Independence Day, but we also know that liberation alone isn’t enough to restore a victim’s sense of autonomy, safety, and freedom. By continuing to represent trafficking victims in civil court, we hope to spread greater awareness of this epidemic, while providing practical relief for those who have been affected.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by human trafficking, don’t hesitate to contact our firm for a free consultation.