Three local news stations picked up the story of the Clinic’s first case—that the very first vacatur petition in Virginia had been granted for a trafficking survivor.
As News13 Now reported, Olivia, a sex trafficking survivor who had been “trafficked for roughly a decade” since she was 18 years old, worked with Regent University School of Law’s Center for Global Justice to vacate her convictions that arose from traffickers forcing her to “buy and sell drugs, hold guns . . . [and] steal or sell herself for sex.”
As a result of being trafficked, Olivia ended up with misdemeanor and felony charges in 2016.
Through the help of “former Virginia prosecutor” and “assistant director of the Center for Global Justice” Meg Kelsey, Channel 3 reports, Olivia’s case “made history” as the first human trafficking victim’s successful petition for relief under Virginia’s 2021 vacatur law (Va. Code §§ 19.2-327.2 et seq. and 19.2-327.10 et seq.).
News13 Now explained that the Center for Global Justice has been advocating for trafficking survivors since the vacatur law’s early development, with its director Dean S. Ernie Walton, “advocat[ing] for the passage of the law in 2019 and 2020.” The law was passed in 2021 and signed into law by then-governor Ralph Northam.
Through the Center for Global Justice’s newly established trafficking survivor legal aid clinic, Olivia is “the first survivor to have her record expunged with the held of Regent University”, Wavy 10 described. “The program helps victims get housing, pass background checks when applying for jobs, and even helping victims get custody of their kids back – hoping to remove a physical and psychological barrier that could benefit victims for the rest of their lives.”
Dean S. Ernie Walton explained the motivation behind the clinic to Wavy 10. He stated, “to have these charges removed, we hope it will help bring healing to them [human trafficking survivors].”
This story was first covered by 13News Now.