“Life is a gift of our Creator and it should never be for sale”- Rescuing Hope
The future for victims of sex trafficking in the United States looks a little more grim today. In July 2019, the current administration mandated that funds allocated to helping trafficking victims clear their records, be used elsewhere.
These funds previously supported victims seeking vacaturs—or clearing of records including expungement of previous convictions— enabling them to secure adequate housing, apply for and obtain gainful employment, and continue or begin schooling.
Like with most politics, there are people on both sides of the aisle. Some agree the funding should be used elsewhere as all other funding will remain in place except funds directed towards expungement and legal fees, while others are not so sure.
According to the Washington Post, “Four top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr this week asking why his department made changes that ‘fly in the face of the spirit and plain language of laws passed to help trafficking victims.’”
The letter addressed key issues of the funding cut that will directly impact victims immediately:
“The keystone of the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017, Congress’s most recent effort to remediate the impact of human trafficking is the support provided to survivors of human trafficking. Providing victims of human trafficking a fresh start through vacate and expungement is an essential element of restorative justice and important to reducing future barriers to employment, housing, and education.”
According to the letter, while Congress moved to financially support victims, the Department of Justice moved in the opposite direction and adopted policies that prohibit the use of grant funding for survivors of human trafficking to “access critical legal representation that enables them to achieve safety and self-sufficiency by clearing their criminal records.”
Having a criminal record after being coerced or tricked into human trafficking suggests that these women and children committed severe crimes. They will have arrests, possible felonies, and/or misdemeanors on their records that will make recovery much more difficult without outside intervention. Remember, these men, women and children do not get to keep their earned wages for their bodies being sold. All monies go to their pimps, preventing them from ever saving towards freedom or clearance of a criminal record.
Read our previous blog post here: Bills to Decriminalize Prostitution in NY: Danger For Victims, Protection For Pimps
A study by the National Survivor Network found that more than 90 percent of survivors of human trafficking had been arrested. Of those surveyed, half of the victims reported they had been arrested at least 10 times.
The chance at restoration once a victim has escaped the sex trade is not possible if allocated funds to help victims clear their records is no longer available. Experts say that navigating paperwork, hearings and other legal bumps would be impossible without legal representation.
Part of our mission at Catalyst Ministries is to provide restoration to these women. We know the pain and struggle they face after escaping their pimps and captors. Our residential program, Catalyst Farms, is a safe haven for these women as they heal and rebuild their lives.
Catalyst seeks to be a bright light that shines in the darkness and shines a light on policies and procedures that need to change to help end this evil practice of selling men, women and children. You can be a light too.
It is not an easy road to freedom. Government funding and support is absolutely needed to help survivors start a new beginning.