She was only 14 when she began to be sexually trafficked at this motel.
Many hotel and motel employees are willing to look the other way when it comes to the people that come in to stay for the night — or even just an hour. Employees are trained in a number of things, but dealing with people that may be in dangerous situations and are afraid to ask for help is not one of them.
That’s what happened to a 14-year-old girl, now 17, who is only being identified as “M.B.” in legal documents and is suing the Roosevelt Inn in northeast Philadelphia. The motel is known notoriously as being the “local epicenter of human trafficking” and has a reputation as the meeting place for drug deals, violent crime, and prostitution.
Unfortunately, they easily turn the other cheek when it comes to reporting these crimes, which means that women that are being trafficked in their motel fall into the category of those they ignore in order to ‘keep the peace.’ The way it typically works in these establishments is that a teenager often accompanies a man to a motel front desk and he pays for the room several days or even weeks in advance — in cash, of course — while men parade in and out of the room, sometimes every 30 minutes.
The girl in this case has reported that the Roosevelt Inn is where she was held by her traffickers, who wouldn’t let her leave for weeks or months at a time, and where she was forced to have sex with as many as 1,000 men over a period of 2 years.
In cases like these, or even with prostitutes voluntarily selling themselves, the traffickers, pimps, and prostitutes are often prosecuted but it’s rare to hear of motels and hotels that profit off of this horrible business being pursued legally.
The Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Law of 2014 allows for compensation for victims from those who profit directly or indirectly from human trafficking and this is the first known civil suit to utilize the law to go after a motel, according to Nadeem Bezar, a lawyer at the Kline & Specter law firm, which is representing the girl. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
“People are policing the hallways, men and other johns are coming in and out of the hotel, and young girls walking up and down the hallways are scantily dressed,” Bezar told The Washington Post. “It’s open and obvious, it’s about as obvious as it gets.”
M.B. fell into sex trafficking the way that many girls her age do. She had a falling out with her parents, which caused her to turn to the “wrong group of people,” where she was then sold into sex slavery. The sexual acts she was forced to perform often involved men that were two or three times her age.
One hotel clerk involved in the lawsuit, named “Abdul,” admitted that he and other employees were fully aware of what occurred in the hotel rooms. The men seeking M.B. would come to the front desk and an employee would escort them to her room, where condom wrappers were strewn all over the floor and the room often smelled of marijuana.
According to the suit, Abdul said, “underage children were compelled to perform sex for money.” The girl in question was always dressed in sexually explicit clothing and “visibly treated in an aggressive manner” by traffickers. If M.B. ever tried to leave, men at the bottom of the staircase would be there to stop her.
The hotel’s manager, Yagna Patel, attempted to tell the Philadelphia Inquirer that he wasn’t made aware of any minors being victimized in his hotel, but the Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews make it apparent that it would be impossible to miss. Some reviewers say that it made them uncomfortable how many “‘girls’ were coming in and out all the time.”
Whether this girl will receive the compensation she deserves remains to be seen, but for the time being she has reconnected with her family and is receiving therapy and additional services from the city and other private agencies.
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