“What we have is a massive system failure,” public defender, Kate Mogulescu with the New York Legal Aid Society’s Trafficking Victims Legal Defense and Advocacy Project said. “All these trafficking victims hear is, `You are bad. You are a criminal. You belong in jail.’ For many of them, it just reinforces what they are hearing from their exploiters and society at large.”
In the United States more than 100,000 citizens are estimated to be trafficking victims. Trafficking victims frequently find themselves confronted by a criminal justice system that fails to recognize them for who they really are: victims.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has dedicated itself to changing the way that America’s legal system deals with this horrifying crime, including conducting training sessions across the country for first responders to help them use resources wisely and punish traffickers while assisting and protecting victims. In addition, more lawyers are providing much-needed pro bono representation to trafficking victims. Mogulescu and others are using innovative laws that allow trafficking victims to wipe their criminal records clean of prostitution charges or asserting an affirmative defense that they engaged in prostitution because of force, fraud or coercion.
The ABA is working with the Uniform Law Commission to examine the possibility of using these types of remedies as part of a uniform law applicable in every state.
Laurel Bellows, ABA President, says, “We must ensure that these victims of unimaginable atrocities are not further victimized by the very system meant to help them. As president of the ABA, I will continue to do everything I can to marshal the considerable energy and resources of our nation’s lawyers to accord human trafficking victims the American promise of justice for all.”
Learn more at Laurel Bellows’ Stamford Advocate article: Op-Ed: Victims of human trafficking need our help.