Victim’s Consent Not Defense Under PA Human Trafficking Statute 4th Article by Ian S. Abovitz Stark & Stark  Wednesday, April 26, 2017 This is the fourth in a series of posts summarizing the civil causes of action available under the PA Human Trafficking Statute. Thus far, I have addressed who can sue under the statute and who can be sued. This post will address the powerful list of “nondefenses” provided within the statute.


The PA Human Trafficking Statute provides a very specific and comprehensive list of 14 factual scenarios that cannot be relied upon as a defense to a civil action brought pursuant to the statute. 

This list of “nondefenses” is as follows:

  1. The victim of the sex trade and the defendant had a consensual sexual relationship;
  2. The defendant is related to the victim of the sex trade by blood or marriage;
  3. The defendant has lived with the victim of the sex trade in any formal or informal household arrangement;
  4. The victim of the sex trade was paid or otherwise compensated for sex trade activity;
  5. The victim of the sex trade engaged in sex trade activity prior to any involvement with the defendant;
  6. The victim of the sex trade continued to engage in sex trade activity following any involvement with the defendant;
  7. The victim of the sex trade made no attempt to escape, flee or otherwise terminate the contact with the defendant;
  8. The victim of the sex trade consented to engage in sex trade activity;
  9. The victim of the sex trade engaged in only a single incident of sex trade activity;
  10. There was no physical contact involved in the sex trade activity;
  11. As a condition of employment, the defendant required the victim of the sex trade to agree not to engage in prostitution;
  12. The defendant’s place of business was posted with signs prohibiting prostitution or prostitution-related activities;
  13. The victim of the sex trade has been convicted or charged with prostitution or prostitution-related offenses;
  14. The victim of labor trafficking made no attempt to escape, flee or otherwise terminate the contact with defendant.

This exhaustive list underscores the broad reach and applicability of the statute, making it easier for victims to pursue civil damages from a wide array of parties that are knowingly involved in the sex trade.

Specifically, the nondefenses reinforce the intent of law makers to make it clear that no evidence of force, coercion, or abuse is required for a victim to bring a civil claim.

Nondefenses (1) and (8) explicitly permit victims to bring claims even if they consent to involvement in the sex trade while many of the other nondefenses are intended to limit a defendant’s ability to present circumstantial evidence of implied consent.

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