LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A woman claims staff at a Little Rock hotel were negligent for ignoring signs of a human trafficking ring happening at their business, according to a lawsuit filed last week.
The case could be a landmark in the state, since it’s the first time someone in Arkansas filed a civil suit against a hotel over alleged human trafficking.
The suit names the woman as Jane Doe and was filed by attorneys Meredith Moore and Lauren Manatt at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.
According to the lawsuit, in 2014 Doe was brought to the former Quality Inn on Mitchell Drive and was held there for three months. In that time, the suit claims traffickers rented out the entire top floor and Doe was, “forced to have sex with and perform sexual acts on ten to twelve individuals per day.”
Doe also claims in the suit that, “while she was being beaten, she screamed for her life with no response.” The suit goes on to claim front staff at the hotel would put their heads down when Doe walked by and ignored visibly injuries and bruising she had from abuse.
“It is happening and if we see something, we need to say something,” said Casonia Vinson, Community Awareness Director at Partners Against Trafficking Humans or PATH.
Vinson calls this a story she’s heard before working with other sex trafficking victims, but she calls this case a first since it argues the owners and management of the Quality Inn were negligent.
“Typically who you see get arrested are the victims or the traffickers. Nobody looks at the bigger picture or even the middle man,” Vinson said.
Vinson says often times the abuse goes unreported, and the traffickers keep moving to other places.
“That’s the thing about trafficking they don’t stay in one place for a long time. You think it’s over with but it actually picked up and moved somewhere else,” Vinson added.
The suit names the owners of the hotel at the time as Shri Jinasha LLC and Seven Star Hotels Group Inc. Both are no longer in business.
Calls to former managers were not answered.
The hotel was sold in 2015 and is currently closed.
In 2016 state law set up a way for human trafficking survivors to file civil against anyone or any business who causes, is responsible for, or profits from human trafficking.
Advocates like Vinson say they hope this case will bring about policy change or at the least prevent another victim from being trafficked.
“Hopefully it will scare some of the other ones that are doing it to stop doing it, because they know someone’s going to come after them and shut them down,” she said.