Post by: Katrina Sumner
My name is Katrina Sumner and I am a 2L at Regent University School of Law. This semester, I have the privilege of working on a project for Shared Hope International, an organization that works to combat human trafficking in the United States by encouraging states to enact legislation targeting specific outcomes.
Human trafficking is a horrific problem. A victim of labor or sex trafficking may be standing right next to us and yet remain unseen. Victims often spend years in abusive situations while their trauma and their status as victims goes unrecognized by others around them. Sometimes, victims of trafficking go unidentified as victims even after they are arrested.
Victims of sex trafficking are forced to commit the crime of prostitution against their will. Yet, many states still criminalize these victims through arrests and prosecutions for prostitution.
In states without adequate legislation, victims are arrested, jailed, and have criminal records that can follow them for the rest of their lives. Shared Hope International is working to shine a light on this injustice and to encourage policies that penalize traffickers without criminalizing victims.
I am working on a project assessing whether state laws mandate training in human trafficking for law enforcement, judges, doctors, child protection agencies, foster parents, and various professional license holders. Children are often forced into sex trafficking as young as age 11. Training initiatives can help people identify victims who are in plain sight, yet not recognized.
I have seen the difference it makes when law enforcement is trained to recognize a person who has been forced into prostitution against his or her will. I did an internship at a law firm that works with victims of trafficking from other countries. There was a case in which a person was forced into prostitution while visiting America. The victim was arrested, but law enforcement recognized that the person was a victim and immediately took the person to an emergency shelter rather than to jail. The victim was later able to aid law enforcement in the prosecution of the traffickers and move forward with life.
In my research into current state laws, I am finding that many states or organizations are referencing Shared Hope International’s assessment of their progress and taking recommendations for additional legislation to heart. It is humbling to know that as a law student, I have the opportunity to work on a project that may impact state human trafficking legislation all over the country. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve on the student staff at the Center for Global Justice.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.