Red Roof Inn ignored trafficking signs for profits - FreedomUnited.org

Red Roof Inn ignored trafficking signs for profits

  • Published on
    July 3, 2024
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  • Category:
    Human Trafficking
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According to an investigation by The Independent, sex trafficking survivors are poised to file hundreds of lawsuits against Red Roof Inn, one of the largest budget hotel chains in America. Survivors say that for years the chain knowingly turned a blind eye to the trafficking going on at multiple locations and profited millions from their exploitation across the U.S.

Prioritizing profit over protection

At least 42 federal lawsuits against Red Roof Inn are currently underway and hundreds more victims are filing legal actions, according to the attorneys handling the cases. Survivors say “red flags” were purposely ignored by the staff. Signs like women needing “permission” to speak, for example, should have been a clue for concern. But Red Roof Inn management took no action.

An attorney representing close to 1,000 sex trafficking victims in cases involving Red Roof Inn said:

“Red Roof Inn intentionally ignored the problem of human sex trafficking in its hotels and completely failed to put any meaningful policies and procedures in place. Instead, their focus was on one thing: money,”

The investigation found that at Red Roof locations across the U.S., sex trafficking had reached an “epidemic level”, with the true number of victims estimated to be in the thousands. Attorneys for the survivors say forced prostitution at multiple Red Roof locations was so rampant and obvious that by turning a blind eye, the company fostered the ideal conditions for sex trafficking.

What Red Roof did and didn’t do

It is estimated that 80 percent of sex trafficking today takes place at hotels. For this reason, anti-trafficking training for hotel employees and accompanying support like anti-trafficking signs listing the phone numbers for the local or national hotline so guests and staff can report suspected trafficking is so important.

Based on various testimonies in the current cases, the use of the Red Roof Inn hotel chain for the purpose of soliciting sex was well known by employees and even management higher up the corporate chain.

That knowledge and the responsibility it brings is what the cases center on. Emma Hetherington, director of the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic, says that in the Red Roof cases she has seen, the chain failed to respond “reasonably or appropriately” to the many reports of sex trafficking that were reported.

Hetherington said:

“A lot of people don’t have the power to stop trafficking, but when you’re a multimillion-dollar corporation with control or at least significant influence over the place where people are being trafficked, you can, and should, be held liable if you consciously disregard the safety of others,”

“Everybody knew about it”

By Red Roof Inn’s own admission, as a low-cost hotel chain, it sits on the “frontline” for combating sex trafficking. But, according to the investigation, the chain didn’t introduce training for years after the problem was widespread and the “entire company” knew trafficking was taking place. Attorneys for the case accuse Red Roof of creating the perfect conditions for sex trafficking. Despite being alerted to red flags by housekeeping and front desk staff at multiple locations, “everybody knew about it” but did nothing, they say.

It is clear that Red Roof Inn had “significant knowledge” of sex trafficking at many of its properties. Still, the key question is what they did or didn’t do with that knowledge and whether they should be held accountable for not acting on it.

Freedom United stands firmly against trafficking for sexual exploitation. However, in order to truly build resilience against trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the sex work industry must be decriminalized. Decriminalization allows for clear legal distinctions between consensual sex work and crimes like human trafficking and sexual exploitation. This approach gives agency to sex workers, in turn making them less vulnerable to exploitation, and allows sex trafficking victims, or a hotel staff, to feel confident in coming forward to authorities without fear of being criminalized themselves.

Learn more about the issue of trafficking for sexual exploitation and Freedom United’s stance here.

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