U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Robert Portman (R-OH) introduced the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, a bill that would that would support victims and survivors of human trafficking and help them rebuild their lives.
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. Survivors of human trafficking are unfortunately commonly charged with crimes like conspiracy, prostitution, and drug trafficking that they are forced to commit as a direct result of being trafficked.
These charges hurt a survivor’s ability to start a new life and find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation. Under the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, survivors of human trafficking would have non-violent criminal convictions that resulted from having been a trafficking victim vacated and expunged.
“All too often, victims of human trafficking are forced by their captors to commit crimes. These victims cannot refuse and then face criminal charges,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Congress has a responsibility to end this injustice. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would clear the non-violent criminal convictions of trafficking survivors and help them rebuild their lives with a fresh start.”
“During my time in the Senate I have met with many brave trafficking survivors in Ohio who have told me about how they were forced into commercial sex and then charged with a crime,” said Senator Robert Portman. “We must understand the coercive nature of trafficking and find a way to offer relief to a victims as they recover from the unimaginable trauma of being trafficked and sexually abused. This legislation is aimed at helping survivors get a fresh start as they build a life and overcome obstacles after being in the criminal justice system.”
The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would also:
- Allow for an individual’s status as a victim of trafficking to be a mitigating factor for courts to consider when imposing a prison sentence for violent crimes.
- Require U.S. Attorneys to submit a report one year after enactment the number of motions filed under the law.
- Require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a report 3 years after the date of enactment of the law to assess how many human trafficking survivors have filed petitions and how many have been granted vacatur and/or expungement.
- Ensure that grant funding provided by the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women can be used for legal representation for post-conviction relief activities.
The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act is endorsed by FAIR Girls, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), Freedom Network USA, and the National Survivor Network.