PA sex trafficking case leads to discussion of remedies for victims

Victims of sexual abuse like child sex trafficking may find relief through a civil suit.

A Pennsylvania man recently pleaded guilty to charges of child sex trafficking. The man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, according to a recent article in Penn Live. The man was running a brothel that included at least one minor. Although the presiding judge reportedly took the man's "scant" criminal record into account when making the sentencing determination, the prosecution contends the crime is not just a single mistake, but that he poses a "risk to harm other children."

Child sex trafficking and the law

Sex trafficking of children is prohibited under federal law by 18 U.S.C. Section 1591. The United States Department of Justice states:

[I]t [is] a federal offense to knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain a minor (defined as someone under 18 years of age) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the victim is a minor and would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act. "Commercial sex act" is defined very broadly to include "any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person."

The law does not require proof that the child crossed any state or international borders to qualify as a "trafficking" crime. Also, the agency notes that there is no need to establish that force or coercion was used to "cause the minor to engage in a commercial sex act."

Criminal penalties for a child sex trafficking conviction include a minimum 15 years to life imprisonment if the child was under the age of 14 or if force was used and a minimum 10 years if the minor was 14 to 17 years of age. Additional penalties can apply depending on the details of the case.

Child sex trafficking and remedies for victims

Although criminal penalties are intended to punish the offender and deter similar acts, additional remedies may be available for the victims of these crimes through a civil suit. A publication by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) outlines some of these remedies. Including:

  • Tangible costs. Costs that can be calculated, like medical expenses, counseling, rehabilitation and lost productivity.
  • Intangible costs. Reduced quality of life, pain and suffering costs that are more difficult to calculate.

Civil litigation can provide additional relief for victims. Victims can take control, choosing to pursue a civil suit and choosing to hold abusers accountable for their actions. Contact an attorney for victims of sexual abuse to discuss your options.