On March 16, 2020, a thirty-six year old Philadelphia man was charged with trafficking and raping a woman in Bensalem. The accused, Kevin Gardner, allegedly forced a homeless woman into prostitution before raping her.
According to the media, Gardner first met the victim while she was homeless in Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, Gardner allegedly made the victim pose naked for ads he later posted online. He then used the online advertisements to arrange the victim eight different “dates.” During these encounters, the victim was allegedly forced by Gardner to offer sexual services to sex buyers in exchange for compensation. Gardner kept half of the money the victim received. Gardner also allegedly raped the victim while they were in Philadelphia.
Authorities then alleged that Gardner transported the victim to Bensalem, Bucks County. While in Bensalem, the victim was forced by Gardner to offer sexual services at least twelve times. During this time, Gardner allegedly promised the victim heroin and protection. The victim also reported Gardner raped her while they were in Bensalem. When the victim made an effort to leave and tried calling the police, Gardner attacked her and threatened to have her killed.
Gardner and the victim were found by the police in a hotel room at the Extended Stay of America in Bensalem, Bucks County. Police allegedly found drugs, condoms and three cellphones in the room. Gardner is charged with rape, trafficking individuals, drug possession with intent to deliver, promoting prostitution, criminal use of a communications facility, as well as simple assault, reckless endangerment and various drug offenses. He is currently incarcerated while awaiting his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for April 22nd in front of District Judge Joseph Falcone.
The CSE Institute applauds the Bensalem Police Department for leading this investigation and pursuing criminal activity to identify human trafficking offenders. The CSE Institute believes it is imperative for all law enforcement to diligently charge and prosecute sex traffickers and provide relief and support to victims. It is vital that law enforcement continues to hold the people who victimize others accountable, rather than criminalizing victims of sex trafficking. The CSE Institute also urges the hospitality industry to confront the issue of trafficking taking place on hotel grounds. Some potential solutions involve mandatory trainings for all management and employees on how to recognize the signs of sex trafficking in hotels and what to do if they suspect it. Further, the CSE Institute also urges the industry to stop their practice of turning a blind eye to the commercial sexual exploitation happening within their hotels and, instead practice vigilant awareness and reporting strategies. The CSE Institute is hopeful that with these combined efforts from law enforcement and private actors, such as those in the hospitality industry, sex trafficking can be eradicated once and for all.