Americans have had enough, and we are demanding a change. Just look at the headlines lately. Powerful men, entertainers, politicians, pastors, and newscasters are finally being held accountable for their abuses against women and children. For too many years these crimes have slid under the radar, but they are now coming into focus. The escort ads that have been free to include children as one of the “products” they sell have also recently been called to face justice. The landscape is a battlefield between those of us who want to do things right and those who want to exploit the vulnerable. The key terrain of this battlefield includes our hotels, motels, and other lodging opportunities where predators can hide.
Hotels are crossroads for millions of people; they play a crucial role in providing a place to relax. Sadly, this industry, built on the intention of providing comfortable accommodations, faces a growing problem. This problem is known as sex trafficking. Most people do not realize that hotels are a major target for sex traffickers. Society paints a picture of a girl on the street corner of Vegas, illuminated with dazzling neon lights, stilettos, and revealing dresses. This girl is living her dream in the center of America’s most spectacular night life. This is a major misconception; a girl wanting to be a prostitute cannot be further from the truth. In reality, these victims are being bought and sold like a commodity. They are brutalized, and in some cases tortured by predators, who do not see these girls as a human being, but rather as an investment. In their eyes, these girls are a product that profits them five hundred dollars a night.
Many victims come from broken homes and torn families, often from foster care and child welfare services. It is believed that eighty-five percent of girls involved in the sex industry have had some prior contact with the child welfare system. The child has often experienced some type or multiple types of abuse, whether physical, sexual, or emotional. These abusive environments cause children to search for some type of escape, and for many, the only way out, they believe, is to run away. Seventy-five percent of minors being trafficked are controlled by a pimp. Pimps are looking for any weakness they can exploit; their goal is to become the sole provider for these young girls. They manipulate them by making these girls believe that they love them, that they are the only person who understands, listens, and provides for them.
The hotel industry needs to be aware that sex trafficking is occurring in their place of business. The intelligent business decision would be to work with authorities and have employees receive the correct training so that the liability of the crime is not placed on the hotel industry, but can be deflected onto the shoulders of the perpetrator. Hotels might not be recruiting or running sex trafficking victims, but they are indirectly profiting from sex trafficking. The US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) outlines much of what the hospitality industry is liable for. Under the TVPA, a victim of sex trafficking can bring a claim against their trafficker or anyone who benefited financially from the victim’s exploitation. The hotel industry is not only liable for any minor being trafficked through their place of business, but also any adult. If a hotel employee has knowledge that a customer is a pimp or buyer of sex and this employee rents them a room to perform a commercial sex act, then the hotel can be held liable for any civil damage done to the victim. This is why training is so important for hotels. A criminal charge or civil suit can damage a hotel’s reputation and greatly hurt business.
Originally, hotels attempted to avoid joining the fight against sex trafficking. They have so many rules and regulations to follow, why would they want to deal or worry about sex trafficking? Looking at the situation from the hotel’s perspective, it is understandable that many of these hotels wouldn’t want to advertise or believe that they have a problem with sex trafficking. Hotels are a business; why would they want to deter potential income? Unfortunately for hotels, deterring sex trafficking is the right decision because it breaks the cycle and makes it more challenging for pimps to find venues to exploit their victims for profit. Training not only helps prevent sex trafficking, it also keeps the hotel industry free from liability. Training provides a deterrent to traffickers and is a beacon of light to the victims. It allows the hotel industry an avenue to act on their social responsibility as well as protect themselves from civil and criminal liability.
States across the United States are introducing legislation to require training for hoteliers and their staff to recognize and respond to indicators of sex trafficking. Too often this legislation is not getting passed because it needs to be built in conjunction with the hotel industry and with a real solution in mind. We do not want to pass the liability of these traffickers onto the hotels, but we want the hotels informed and armed to defend themselves.
Don’t let this movement of demanding accountability end in Hollywood. Demand change in your state and help the hospitality industry become a strong ally in the fight against sex trafficking.
Guardian Group is here to help https://theguardiangroup.org/. The Guardian Seal Training Program is the only 100% self-paced online training program designed to help hotels and their staff recognize the signs of human trafficking within their establishments. The Guardian Seal begins by helping staff at all levels understand how this criminal enterprise intersects their workplace and why it is imperative to be able to respond appropriately when they suspect it. The training will ensure hotel staffs understand how to identify sex trafficking, so they are equipped to recognize exploiters, buyers and victims of this fast-growing crime. Learn more at- https://theguardiangroup.org/seal/
Article by Jeff Tiegs and Logan Stevens