SEATTLE — A western Washington woman who says she was forced into a nightmarish world of sex trafficking at age 12 is now suing area hotels and Craigslist for being complicit in the crimes.
The lawsuit claims pimps would advertise her on Craigslist under “erotic” or “adult” services categories, drawing in two to 20 men a day to rape her.
“She was raped countless times, countless times, by adults for many years,” said the victim’s attorney Erik Bauer.
Bauer said she was continually trafficked from when she was 12 to 18 years old. In the lawsuit, he said, “The trafficker took sexually explicit photographs” of the minor to create advertisements, and then would pay a fee to Craigslist to post the advertisement.
“Corporations should not be allowed to help pimps sell children to be raped by perverts,” Bauer said. “They should not be able to profit off of that.”
Craigslist eventually removed the categories used to sell the victim a decade ago. Q13 has reached out to the company’s attorney for comment.
The lawsuit lists four Seattle-area hotels where the victim was repeatedly raped, three Motel 6 locations within miles of Sea-Tac Airport and one Howard Johnson Inn in Kent.
Court documents detail years of trafficking, where multiple men would come to rape the minor, staying for 30 minutes to an hour before being replaced by another buyer.
“Often buyers would wait outside the door to her hotel room or in their cars in the parking lot for their turn to commit multiple acts of abuse against [her],” the lawsuit claims.
Her attorney claims the hotels and the staff turned a blind eye to the criminal activity because of the money they received renting the rooms.
The lawsuit alleges the trafficking was obvious, and that signs included, “large numbers of condoms and condom wrappers in the garbage cans, unusual amount of body fluids on linens and towels, bottles of lubes and lotions as well as pornographic magazines.” All of this is in addition to the presence of a minor in that room.
“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising, but it’s devastating to hear about this victim’s experience,” said Mar Brettmann, CEO of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, or BEST.
BEST is a nonprofit that provides training programs for hotels to spot warning signs of trafficking.
“A whole lot of condoms or a whole bunch of towels being used in a hotel room, any time a child is in a hotel room in the middle of the day unaccompanied by a parent, that should be a red flag,” Brettmann said.
She said if a hotel’s staff sees these signs, they should immediately call 911. If they are afraid to report the activity themselves, they should report it to a manager to call authorities.
Brettmann said her organization closely follows lawsuits around the country against hotels where sex trafficking takes place but that this is the first such case they are aware of in Washington. She said this case is exactly why staff training is so important.
No one spoke up for this victim during her years of repeated abuse as a minor. Now, as an adult, she’s seeking justice.
Motel 6 and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the parent corporation for Howard Johnson Inn, responded to Q13’s requests for comment, both saying they condemn all forms of human trafficking.
A Motel 6 spokesperson said it “takes a proactive, zero-tolerance stance on human trafficking.”
Wyndham said, in part, “We have worked to enhance our policies condemning human trafficking while also providing training to help our team members, as well as the hotels we manage, identify and report trafficking activities.”
Neither commented on the specific, pending litigation.