Human trafficking is not just a growing global concern – it is a local problem, too. A recent New Channel 8 report revealed that Tampa has become a hub for human trafficking. This horrible epidemic often involves the trading of human beings for sex, drugs or other illegal goods and services. Tragically, it is on the rise throughout Florida, with more than 1,900 reported cases of human trafficking in 2016 (a 54 percent increase from the prior year), according to The Palm Beach Post. Many of these victims are young adults and teens.
As personal injury attorneys who are dedicated to helping injured people, our law firm supports laws that combat this ugly crime. We are also committed to fighting for justice for those who are victims of human trafficking.
What Is Human Trafficking?
Many types of activities fall under the umbrella term of “human trafficking.” Florida law defines it simply as “modern-day slavery.” It can include any act that contributes to obtaining a person for the purpose of exploitation, including soliciting, enticing, recruiting, harboring or maintaining trafficked individuals. “Exploitation” includes using people for things such as:
- Forced prostitution and work in the sexual entertainment industry
- Domestic servitude
- Restaurant work
- Janitorial or cleaning work
- Sweatshop factory work
- Migrant agricultural work.
Federal law provides different penalties for specific types of human trafficking activity such as:
- Debt servitude
- Forced labor
- Brokering and marketing
- Child sex trafficking
- Participating in acts of human trafficking
- Concealing or hiding acts of human trafficking.
Human trafficking comes in many other forms such as the removal or harvest of human organs for sale on the black market or recruitment of child brides or child drug mules. There seems to be no limit to the deplorable and inhumane types of conduct that traffickers will engaged in to make a profit.
How Big of a Problem Is Human Trafficking in Tampa and Other Florida Cities?
Human trafficking is a problem throughout the world. The Tampa Bay Times reports that an estimated 40 million people around the globe are trafficking victims, including 13 million children. Sadly, the Tampa/St. Petersburg region – with its easy access to ports – has become “a top destination for traffickers.” But Tampa is not the only city in Florida with this problem. In 2011, Miami needed to launch a human trafficking task force to deal with the growing problem there, CBS Miami reports.
In Tampa and other areas of Florida, human trafficking most commonly involves:
- Massage parlors – Traffickers often promise young women a new and better life in the U.S. if they agree to work for a short term of employment when they get here. The deal sounds fair until they arrive with no English language skills, no visa and no support. Traffickers quickly place them in so-called massage parlors, which often offer illegal sexual services. In other words, these women are forced into prostitution often out of fear of physical punishment, harm to their loved ones abroad or death.
- Sweatshops – Some traffickers quickly move victims from port to port and shuffle them around before they eventually place them in sweatshops where they work without basic human rights. Traffickers often beat these workers or expose them to harsh elements and long hours.
What Is Florida Doing About Human Trafficking?
Fortunately, many people have taken up the fight for the rights of human trafficking victims. For instance, with wide bipartisan support, Florida lawmakers almost passed legislation that would have given victims a right to sue hotels that knowingly permit trafficking to occur on their grounds. (Sadly, the tourism and hotel industry fought the bill, The Tampa Bay Times reports.) Hopefully, lawmakers will continue to push for similar legislation in the future.
Additionally, President Donald Trump recently signed a federal bill that targets websites that host sex-trafficking ads and allows victims (as well as attorneys general across the country) to sue those sites, The Washington Post reports. Backpage.com is an example of a website that has allowed this activity. (Read more about the site at The Hill.)
In addition to these legislative efforts to stop human trafficking, organizations such as the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Crisis Center of Tampa Bay work to increase awareness of the problem. They also offer support to victims.
What Are Legal Options for Human Trafficking Victims?
As they move forward with their lives, recovering victims of illegal trafficking should contact a Florida human trafficking lawyer to discuss all legal options available to them. The compensation that victims may recover through a lawsuit can play a key role as they rebuild their lives.
Victims may have the option to sue the following parties, depending on the circumstances:
- Criminal offenders and traffickers
- Drivers and shipping companies
- Businesses that knowingly host trafficking rings
- Advertising sites that market services which involve human trafficking
- Anyone else who knowingly or willingly participates in or facilitates trafficking.
By holding those who participate in or enable human trafficking accountable for the harm that they cause, the civil justice system can help to stop this problem. It is not enough to incarcerate the criminals who commit these atrocities. Real change happens when you make it financially painful for people to be involved in these activities.
To learn more about the legal options available to those who have suffered harm from human trafficking, contact Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC. With offices in Brooksville, Inverness and Lutz (North Tampa), we make it convenient for you to get the help and advice you need. We can provide a free consultation today.