We would like to warmly welcome a post by Suzannah Phillips, International Women’s Human Rights Clinic Fellow at CUNY School of Law. Suzannah supervises students in the anti-trafficking project at CUNY School of Law’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR Clinic) to assist trafficking survivors to clear criminal convictions from their record. She is also a primary author of a new report published by the IWHR Clinic entitled Clearing the Slate: Seeking Effective Remedies for Criminalized Trafficking Victims.
All too often, individuals who are trafficked into or within the sex trade come into contact with the criminal justice system following arrest for offenses that they are compelled to engage in as a result of the trafficking situation. Rather than being recognized as victims, many are prosecuted and convicted and are then haunted by these criminal records long after they have escaped from the trafficking situation.
Because sex work is a crime throughout the majority of the U.S., individuals trafficked into or within the sex trade are at risk of arrest for prostitution and loitering for prostitution. Trafficking victims also may be compelled to engage in—or may be arrested for or convicted of—other illicit behavior as a result of the trafficking, particularly where an arresting officer is unable to document sufficient facts for a prostitution charge. Trafficking victims involved in the sex trade are vulnerable to arrest for vagrancy, trespass, disorderly conduct, crimes against nature, larceny, and drug and immigration offenses. (more…)
Lisa Fedina is a PhD student in the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Her research interests include family and gender-based violence, sex trafficking, trauma, and violence prevention. She has worked with adult and child sex trafficking victims and also managed a statewide anti-trafficking initiative led by the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is a member of the National Research Consortium on Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
Nearly 15 years have passed since human trafficking was first legally recognized and criminalized under the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2000) and the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000). To date, the U.S. federal government has allocated over 500 million dollars to combat human trafficking domestically and internationally; yet, only 2,515 domestic human trafficking incidents were investigated by law enforcement between the years of 2008 and 2010; and only 46,000 human trafficking victims were identified worldwide in 2012 (note: this is the most recent data available). Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted only 125 human trafficking cases in 2011, though this was a 19% increase from 2010 and the highest number of cases prosecuted in one year. Human trafficking has certainly received a great deal of attention over the past decade and the number of trafficking prosecutions seems to be improving, but our understanding of the overall scale of the problem and the number of victims in the U.S. and globally remains unknown. Attempts have been made to measure the problem, but these estimates are unreliable, based on flawed or unscientific methodologies, and are vastly disproportionate from one another. (more…)