Rescued ‘Sex Slave’ Sues Helpers

DALLAS (CN) – A 14-year-old sex trafficking victim claims in court that a nonprofit’s volunteer sexually assaulted her after police rescued her and delivered her to them.
     The girl’s mother, Jane Doe, sued Traffick911 on May 15 in Dallas County Court. Traffick911 is the only defendant.
     Fort Worth-based Traffick911 claims its purpose is “to help former victims of the domestic sex slave trade,” Doe I and II say in the complaint.
     Traffick911 told Courthouse News that the alleged assailant was not its volunteer, but an attorney for the Doe family.
     The daughter, Jane Doe II, says she was kidnapped in early 2012 and was enslaved for three weeks before being freed by law enforcement in Collin County.
     County officials agreed to allow Traffick911 to arrange for inpatient counseling for her and she was released from Collin County Detention Center to the care of Michael Harssema and Melissa Sharpe, the defendant’s representatives, the girl says.
     “Harssema was a licensed Texas attorney, employed and/or volunteering for Traffick911, who had been suspended (partially or completely due to a mental disability) from the practice of law in Texas from 2006 through 2011,” the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     It adds: “Traffick911 failed to inform Jane Doe I about Harssema’s mental disability and/or his prior suspension. Sharpe was a relatively new volunteer for Traffick911, and she had received no training in the care of a former victim of sexual exploitation.”
     The Does say that Sharpe noticed Harssema’s “peculiar, inappropriate and threatening behavior” to the child and told their board members. But no action was taken and Sharpe was assured of his “competency and character,” the family says.
     Harssema offered to get a hotel room in Dallas for Sharpe and the girl when they were called back to North Texas from a trip to a residential facility, so the girl could be interviewed by law enforcement, the Does say.
     “Sometime during the night, Harssema entered the hotel room with a key he had retained,” the complaint states. “Harssema proceeded to wake victim and then sexually assault her. Harssema represented to victim that her endurance of the assault was part of the payment for his services, which had been arranged by defendant.”
     The mother claims Traffick911 failed to investigate complaints and concerns about Harssema and failed to ensure he was mentally stable, sober and “not a child predator.”
     Traffick911 told Courthouse News that “at no time did a Traffick911 volunteer or employee assault” the girl and “certainly not while she was in” the group’s care.
     “The real defendant is the misguided attorney who is under indictment and was acting on his own,” the company said in an email Thursday.
     “He was not a Traffick911 volunteer or employee at any time, but retained by the family as the victim’s attorney. He has falsely represented himself as being a volunteer of Traffick911. The ministry carefully vets our volunteers and in no case does it ever hire an attorney for a victim. That is personal hire decision made by the client.”
     Traffick911 expressed its sympathies to the “families and victims involved” in the dispute.
     The Does seek damages for negligence. They are represented by Arthur K. Smith in Allen, Texas.

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