Courageous Trafficking Survivor
Makes Legal History

November 9, 2023 0 comments
Photo of Olivia, a Trafficking survivor, holding a framed document with her lawyer: Learn more about Regent's center for global justice clinic.

Landmark Court Victory Helps Human-Trafficking
Victims Begin Reclaiming Their Lives

The Department of Homeland Security says human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. According to U.S. government statistics, an estimated 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking and forced labor. 

Fighting this modern-day slavery has been at the heart of Regent University School of Law’s Center for Global Justice (CGJ) since its founding in 2010. Thanks to your support, the Center is training the next generation of advocates focused on combatting human trafficking, providing justice for the oppressed and restoring lives.

“We started the Center to train the next generation of advocates to uphold and rescue, in concrete ways, those who are oppressed,” says Regent Law Professor Jeffrey Brauch, who helped launch the CGJ. 

“Our students, faculty and partners have long done amazing work around the world to fight human trafficking. But the need is also great in our own community, and we’re uniquely equipped to help,” says Brad Lingo, Dean of Regent University School of Law. 

This summer, donors helped the CGJ launch a legal clinic that empowers trafficking survivors to have specific criminal convictions expunged or “vacated.” The Center for Global Justice Clinic has already secured a landmark victory for Olivia, a young woman who was trafficked for 10 years.

“Trafficking victims are treated as things, not people, so their humanity is denied. They suffer immense psychological and physical abuse,” insists Dean S. Ernie Walton, Director of the CGJ. “Scripture makes clear that God hates injustice. It is arguable that the greatest injustice facing our world today is human trafficking.” 

Olivia’s trafficker used physical and psychological abuse to coerce her into criminal acts, including drug smuggling, theft and prostitution. “ [I did] a lot of things that I knew were wrong,” she explains. “But I didn’t really have much of a choice. … I used to pray, literally, every day for the police to arrest me so that I could just finally stop doing what I was doing.”

Through the donor-supported advocacy of the CGJ, Virginia enacted legislation allowing human-trafficking survivors convicted of prostitution-related misdemeanors to have those crimes removed from their records. This “vacatur law” went into effect in July 2021 and empowers victims—forced to commit crimes by their trafficker—to reclaim their lives.

“Our first vacatur petition was granted on July 25. We believe it was the first in the entire state,” says  Meg Kelsey, a former Virginia prosecutor and assistant director of the CGJ. “Many trafficking survivors lack the financial resources to pay for an attorney to do this work. Thus, the only viable option is free legal representation, which we now offer.” 

Olivia’s expunged convictions involve two misdemeanors: prostitution and being in a place of prostitution. Thanks to donors like you, the CGJ Clinic is working to expand the Virginia vacatur law to provide relief from other crimes committed as human-trafficking victims, including larceny, fraud and drug charges.

“The Center for Global Justice walked Olivia through the vacatur process,” explains Regent University Chancellor Gordon Robertson. “She now has hope. She now has a future. And it was all made possible through the efforts of the School of Law and the faithful support of our donors.” 

“I’m grateful for the donors of the Center for Global Justice because they allowed me to have a lawyer and advocates in the fight to expunge my record,” Olivia says. “It’s so very important, now more than ever, to work side by side to get even more convictions expunged from trafficking-survivors’ records.”

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