Several hotels in Houston, Texas, have been implicated in sex trafficking, after a young woman filed a new lawsuit accusing the venues of enabling her exploitation.
According to the sex trafficking lawsuit, the unidentified plaintiff was forced to engage in commercial sex from 2016 through 2017, when she was just 15 years old. Her sex traffickers allegedly conducted their heinous business at Candlewood Suites, Clarion Inn and Suites – Westchase, and Red Roof Inn, all located near Westheimer and the Beltway.
“Before everything happened, I was a normal teenager. I played sports and I got A’s and B’s in school,” the survivor told KHOU-11 in Houston.
She met her trafficker through a friend she knew at school. Her ordeal began when the pimp dropped her off at one of the hotels.
“They just left me there, a man came in the room and he put money on the table and I just put two and two together,” she remembered.
The young woman was finally rescued after her family saw her photo on BackPage.com – a favorite advertising outlet for sex traffickers — and called police.
“They actually broke down the door, took me to the hospital right after that and I saw my family there so it was like a really big relief,” she continued.
Her sex trafficking lawsuit claims that hotel employees knew what was going on, with some even befriended her and offering free meals. In one instance, a hotel employee actually solicited her for sex. The complaint asserts that the hotel personnel had a duty to inform law enforcement of the illegal activity taking place at those establishments and aims to change how the hotels conduct their business.
Houston and Texas are “hotspots” for sex trafficking. In the last five years, in fact, the number of Texas cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline have doubled, from 437 reports in 2013 to 1,000 in 2018.
“We’ve seen girls in Houston from all over the country and we’ve seen girls in Houston from our suburbs from Katy, Cypress, Clear Lake, The Woodlands,” an undercover Houston police officer told KHOU-11.
This isn’t the first sex trafficking lawsuit to target hotels. Earlier this year, several young women in Atlanta, Georgia, filed similar complaints against Red Roof Inn in Smyrna, a Suburban Extended Stay in Chamblee, a La Quinta Inn in Alpharetta, and an Extended Stay America.
According to the lawsuits, the women were trafficked in the Atlanta area between 2010 and 2016. During that time, they endured “violent beatings, controlled and forced drug use, manipulation, threats, fraud and coercion” at the hand of their pimps. Two of the women were just 15 and 16 when they were trafficked.
Like the Houston sex trafficking lawsuit, these plaintiffs also allege that hotel employees were not only aware that a commercial sex business was operating in the establishments, but actually assisted in their exploitation. In some cases, employees even received a cut of the profits.
Sex trafficking involves the use of threats, manipulation, debt bondage, or other coercive means to force someone to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under federal law, any minor younger than 18 who engages in commercial sex is considered a trafficking victim, even if their participation was consensual.
Hotels and motels are, unfortunately, a favorite venue for sex traffickers because they provide a high level of anonymity and privacy. But there are several telltale signs that these establishments are being used for commercial sex, including: