VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (July 20, 2023) – Regent University School of Law’s Center for Global Justice has launched a clinic to help human trafficking survivors get a fresh start.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people are bought and sold for the purpose of forced sex, labor, and other atrocities. Homeland Security characterizes trafficking as the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. And thanks in part to the advocacy of the Center for Global Justice, Virginia now has a law in place that allows trafficking survivors convicted of prostitution-related misdemeanors to have those crimes removed from their records.
Meg Kelsey, a former Virginia prosecutor and now assistant director of the Center for Global Justice, recently filed what may be the first petition in Virginia on behalf of a sex trafficking survivor to erase specific criminal convictions from their record. The Virginia vacatur law, which went into effect in July 2021, provides one key step in helping victims reclaim their lives.
“Victims of human trafficking can suffer consequences and trauma long after emerging from their circumstances of being trafficked, and many of them have criminal records as a direct result of their being trafficked,” said Kelsey. “This can keep them from finding work, a place to live, or having a real future. We desire to protect the vulnerable and to empower survivors by restoring a path to being what they dreamed of—free.”
To accomplish this work, the Center for Global Justice is partnering with Troutman Pepper, one of the nation’s premier law firms, and Survivor Ventures, a non-profit organization operating in Virginia and Delaware that assists survivors of human trafficking.
“I could not be more excited about this initiative,” said Jason Manning, partner at Troutman Pepper. “Human Trafficking is an unspeakable evil, and we at Troutman Pepper are honored to use our legal expertise to help restore the lives of survivors across Virginia.”
“We are honored to partner with the Center for Global Justice,” said Tiffany McGee, CEO and Founder of Survivor Ventures. “Securing criminal record relief legislation in Virginia was a significant win, but it is only the first step for many survivors we assist. Overcoming uncertainty and hesitation about the vacatur process posed a challenge. Fortunately, Meg and the Troutman Pepper team’s trauma-informed approach has been instrumental in guiding survivors through this journey to success. Our partnership marks a critical milestone in addressing the deep-rooted injustices suffered by trafficking survivors in Virginia.“
“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,” said Brad Lingo, Dean of Regent University School of Law.
Along with filing petitions under the current law, the Center is advocating to expand the vacatur law to cover more offenses. Currently, the law only allows trafficking survivors to vacate prostitution offenses. But many trafficking survivors are forced by their traffickers to take drugs, commit fraud and larceny, and even engage in violence. Therefore, trafficking survivors have criminal records beyond prostitution charges that result from their trafficking.
“To fully rescue a survivor and restore their lives, Virginia law needs to allow trafficking survivors to obtain a true fresh start,” said S. Ernie Walton, Director of the Center for Global Justice.
The Center for Global Justice is working on making that a reality.
About Regent Law
Regent Law’s more than 3,300 graduates practice law in 49 states and over 20 countries and include 38 currently sitting judges. The School of Law is currently ranked 28th in the nation for obtaining judicial clerkships and 21st in the nation for Ultimate Bar Passage. The school offers the Juris Doctor (J.D.) in three-year and part-time formats, an online M.A. in Law, an online M.A. in Financial Planning & Law, an on-campus and online LL.M. in Human Rights, an on-campus and online LL.M. in American Legal Studies, and an online B.A. in Law.
About Regent University
Founded in 1977, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university, with more than 13,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 150 areas of study including business, communication and the arts, counseling, cybersecurity, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing, healthcare, and psychology. Regent University has been ranked the #1 Best Accredited Online College in the United States (Study.com, 2020), the #1 Safest College Campus in Virginia (YourLocalSecurity, 2021), and the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia for 11 years in a row (U.S. News & World Report, 2023).
This article first appeared on the Regent University News page. View the original publication here.