Jan. 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In recognition of this vital topic and the victims of human trafficking around the country (and the world), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is asking the public to wear blue clothing on that day.
The issue of human trafficking for sexual purposes has special significance in Toledo. We are at the crossroads of two interstates and several highways. The ease of movement in and out, and the number of hotels in Toledo, make it a popular place for traffickers to bring their victims through. Combating this terrible crime is the responsibility of the police and prosecutors. But victims can also take action against their abusers.
Two forms of justice
Like every other state, Ohio’s legal system has two tracks: criminal and civil. In the criminal court system, law enforcement officers arrest people on suspicion of crimes, and prosecutors bring charges in court. If convicted, defendants can be sent to prison or sentenced to other punishments. Victims might testify in court or provide testimony in another way to help prosecute the offender.
Civil court serves a different purpose: compensating victims for their losses (often referred to as damages.) For example, a victim of human trafficking can sue their trafficker for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, reduced quality of life and so on. Because the burden of proof is lower than in criminal court, a civil lawsuit can be a way of exposing human traffickers and receiving compensation, even if prosecutors cannot bring charges. Besides the traffickers, victims may also be able to sue the hotels or motels that housed them.
Another possible source of compensation
Also, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has a fund that compensates victims of human trafficking and other crimes for economic damages. These damages include the cost of medical treatment, counseling, and the cost of transportation to and from the courthouse.
Experiencing sex trafficking is horrific, but recovering from the trauma is possible. Financial compensation can help make that recovery a reality.