The Civil Remedy
Civil remedies can be a powerful tool for survivors of sex trafficking seeking redress from their traffickers. (And that broad term incorporates not only handlers, but any individual and any institution involved, including those who pay for sex and the venues which facilitate it.) The problem is that while survivors may have access to victim compensation funds or restitution, often the amount authorized under these types of statutes is not enough to compensate the survivor for all the harm suffered. Depending on state law, survivors may be able to seek: compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees. Additionally, some statutes allow courts to award treble damages in aggravated cases.
A civil case is a way for a survivor to seek justice. It can assist in stopping abuse and compensating the survivor. If a criminal case is not brought then the civil case may be the only way a trafficker is held accountable for harm caused. Additionally, a civil case allows for the survivor to drive the case forward. This can be an effective way for the survivor to reclaim control from the trafficker. It also enhances public awareness of the sex slavery issue, as well as shining a powerful light on the people and places perpetuating the sex trafficking industry.
A victim may be able to bring both state and federal claims against the perpetrator. State claims may include intentional torts and civil causes of action for criminal activity. Federal claims may consist of civil actions for violations of the anti-sex trafficking statute and the Protect Act.
Georgia’s Hidden Predator Act
The Act changes the statute of limitations for civil claims arising from childhood sexual abuse. A plaintiff must file a cause of action by the age of 23, or within two years from the date he or she knew or had reason to know of the abuse and the injury caused from the abuse, which must be verified by medical or psychological evidence. The Act also provides a two-year retroactive civil suit window after July 1, 2015: A plaintiff who was barred from bringing a suit due to the expiration of the statute of limitations period that was previously in effect has two years to file a suit against an individual who allegedly committed the abuse. Unless the new statute of limitations period for childhood sexual abuse applies, a plaintiff who was under 18 when the cause of action accrues now has the same amount of time allowed by the statute of limitations to bring a suit after he or she turns 18. Additionally, the Act allows a plaintiff who is suing for childhood sexual abuse to access records and reports concerning the abuse that state or local governments possess.
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