Pro Bono News

Trafficking Survivors Shed an Unjust Label: 'Criminal'

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Trafficking Survivors Shed an Unjust Label: 'Criminal'

"Barbara Amaya was a few months into a new job when her boss called her over and showed her a stack of papers, asking, “What’s this?”

It was her criminal record – but she didn’t know how to explain that all those prostitution arrests happened because she had been forced by a trafficker. The single mother of a 3-year-old at that time, she had to start the job hunt all over again.

Those criminal records “followed me in every way, shape, and form throughout my life,” Ms. Amaya says. “Even if they didn’t affect every application I filled out, they affected me mentally – carrying the stigma of being called a criminal.”

It would take Amaya many years to fully understand her own innocence. She had been labeled a prostitute and a criminal by a system that hadn’t recognized how young she was and how she was being manipulated. While she had been enduring years of rape, her trafficker had been profiting, and had convinced her everything was her fault.

Many people who have escaped trafficking have struggled to put their lives back on track while constantly running up against the barrier of criminal background checks. They get an education, but then can’t get work or promotions. They apply for housing and get solicited for sex by an unscrupulous landlord. They aren’t allowed to chaperone their child’s class trip..."

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