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Sex Trafficking vs. Prostitution: What’s the Difference?

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Human Trafficking

How Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Differ Under the Law

While prostitution and sex trafficking both fall under the broad category of sex crimes, they refer to vastly different things under the law. While prostitution may, in fact, be a part of trafficking in some cases, it is not always. Trafficking often involves some sort of force or coercion and is generally not voluntary. 

At Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner & Davey, P.A., we represent sex trafficking victims and individuals who have been forced into prostitution or other sex crimes. Our office is dedicated to helping survivors hold those that committed atrocities against them accountable for their wrongdoing. If you were the victim of trafficking or another sex crime, contact our office at (410) 685-2022 to schedule a free consultation. 

What Is Prostitution?

It is unlawful for someone to engage in prostitution in Maryland. Prostitution involves the exchange of money for sexual activity. In some cases, a person engaging in prostitution is doing it of their own free will, but in others, it may be forced. It is a defense to the criminal act if the prostitution or sexual acts are done so under duress. In that case, the person engaging in prostitution may be a victim of human trafficking or another criminal act.

What Is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking or human trafficking occurs when a person knowingly takes or causes someone to go to a place for prostitution, engage in prostitution, or otherwise perform a sexually explicit act. Acts of sex trafficking often involve the use of force, threat, or coercion. They can affect individuals of all ages but most frequently involve women and children. 

The crime of sex trafficking may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the age of the victim and whether the perpetrator used or intended to use force, threats, fraud, or coercion.

How Is Sex Trafficking Different from Prostitution?

Sex trafficking generally involves prostitution in one way or another. Many times sex trafficking victims are taken to places where prostitution exists, or they are forced to engage in the sexual acts themselves. Prostitution, on the other hand, is not exclusive to sex trafficking. 

A person who is forced to engage in prostitution will not likely be criminally charged. A sex worker, however, who willingly engages in prostitution or assists in bringing someone to a place for prostitution may face prosecution.

How Can Sex Traffickers Be Held Accountable?

Sex traffickers can be held both criminally and civilly liable. In addition, any person who aids or conspires with a person to engage in sex trafficking may also be held accountable for their wrongdoing. While criminal charges may help to put a person behind bars, a civil lawsuit may be the best way to obtain compensation for your losses. 

Getting the Help You Need

If you were forced or defrauded into engaging in prostitution, you might be entitled to take legal action. It is important to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. Sex trafficking victims are protected under the law. Contact our office at (410) 685-2022 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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