In a precedent-setting win for survivors of human trafficking, a two-year lawsuit brought against Virginia Giuffre, a client of Laffey, Bucci & Kent and an identified victim of sex trafficking by Jeffrey Epstein, has been dismissed. The suit involved claims and counterclaims in which Giuffre and Rina Oh alleged the other had sexually assaulted them. Judge Arthur Engoron of the New York Supreme Court applied the START Act, a new law designed to protect sex trafficking victims from being sued for acts they were forced to perform by their abusers. The sexual assault elements of the case have been thrown out.
Sex crimes lawyer Jill Roth recently spoke to Newsweek about the impact the case has had on her client and the important role the START Act plays in protecting survivors. “It’s been beyond difficult,” she said of the legal process. “No one’s harder at work than Virginia, because when you are a party in a lawsuit, you are really being thrust into multiple situations where you have to revisit your trauma and discuss your trauma, discuss the harrowing, brutal experiences that you’ve had.”
In addition to struggling to find peace, Roth said, “[Virginia] also has to constantly take this decision about, ‘do I speak out? When do I speak out? ‘I want to have a voice, I want to fight these people who harmed not only me, but numerous other people, but when I do that I am reopening my wounds and I’m reopening myself to criticism, to attack, to potential lawsuits,’ like you see here.”
Because this case has now opened the door for the START Act to be used in civil cases, it could ease the decision-making process somewhat for victims who are pondering whether to come forward. As Roth notes, “I think that decision is something almost all survivors face from the early times, from the moment they are being assaulted to the moments after it happens. ‘Who do I speak to? Will I be believed? Will I be attacked? Will I be retaliated against? And that’s why so many survivors are silent.”
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