Representing Child Sex-Trafficking Victims
The HT Project advocates for children whom society often treats as “throwaways” or criminals. Its lawyers focus on giving these children a fresh start, finding suitable, loving placements for them, and charting them healthy, achievable life goals. The HT Project partners with Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court and serves on the Safe Harbor Advisory Board. Children who are subjected to sexual exploitation, violence, and rape because of their involvement in commercial sex are identified as sex-trafficking victims and the HT Clinic (part of the HT Project) provides these children free legal representation. The HT Clinic also consults with the Court and government entities regarding best practices for residential services for sex-trafficking survivors. Finally, the Clinic represents other children sex-trafficking victims on the basis of referrals from advocacy centers, law enforcement, and other entities.
Representing Adult Sex-Trafficking Victims
The HT Project works to empower adult victims of sex trafficking who are often forgotten, mistreated, and abused on the streets or in jails. The HT Project partners with the Cuyahoga County Human Trafficking Court and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Human Trafficking Docket. Adults who are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation through coercion, fraud, or force are identified as sex-trafficking victims and the HT Clinic provides these individuals with free legal representation and advocacy with their criminal, employment, housing, custody, and other issues. The Clinic works with sex-trafficking victims to achieve their goals of leading meaningful, fulfilling lives.
Advocating for Legislative Reform
Many of our state and federal laws are drafted such that they punish sex-trafficking victims or they fail to give victims the protection that they desperately need. The HT Project’s Co-Director, Professor Guirguis, is an expert on state and federal laws regarding human trafficking. She serves on the Legislative Subcommittee of the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission. The HT Project provides expert testimony to legislative committees on pending bills to ensure that the final laws will best assist human trafficking victims and penalize traffickers. The HT Project also raises awareness on legislative issues and seeks to enable change by garnering support from advocates and the community for legislative reform.
Many sex-trafficking victims are currently incarcerated in adult prison or juvenile detentions centers. In addition, many adults or children are recruited into sex-trafficking by pimps or traffickers who take advantage of the potential victims’ vulnerabilities, including lack of financial resources, education, and employment. The HT Project actively engages in outreach programs in adult and juvenile prisons to raise awareness on human trafficking issues and to inform victims that there is help available for them. The HT Project also trains corrections officers and prison staff on human-trafficking laws and ways to identify human-trafficking victims.
Foster-care youth are particularly susceptible to becoming sex-trafficking victims. Because of the youth’s troubled family situations and pasts, they are often vulnerable to pimps and traffickers who offer acceptance and financial support. The HT Project engages in outreach programs with foster-care providers and residential programs to train these professionals on the warning signs and indicators of human trafficking. The HT Project also trains foster-care parents and foster-care youth on human trafficking and way to avoid this insidious crime.
Due to the increased nature of human trafficking rates within the lesbian gay bisexual transgender(LGBT) community, the HT Clinic has begun outreach and limited preventive services to members of the LGBT community most at risk for human trafficking: LGBT youth under the age of 24 and members of the transgender community. Ongoing outreach is conducted at LGBT-servicing groups and organizations including but not limited to TransFamily, Radiant Collective (the LGBT youth group at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland), and LGBT-specific health clinics at local area hospitals, including a developing collaboration with Cleveland Clinic's Pride Clinic. Further, the HT Clinic is working with transgender name and document change financial assistance programs to aid members of the transgender community in remedying their identification documents and supplemental legal needs.
Survivors are the best individuals to educate and inform the public on the realities of human trafficking. Through sharing their personal experiences, they are able to convey the true magnitude of the crime and the long, difficult road of victims’ recovery. Survivors, however, should not be placed in situations where they can be re-traumatized by sharing their story. The HT Project created a Survivor-Educator Certification program for eligible survivors who are interested in educating others on human trafficking. The Survivor-Educator Certification program is a 20-hour trauma-informed educational course that prepares survivors to tell their story.
The single biggest reason for the growth of sex-trafficking is the internet and social media. Traffickers use the internet and related technology to exploit children and women in many ways. Pimps will use social platforms such as “Facebook” or “Instagram” to recruit victims and lure them away from their homes and family. Traffickers will then use platforms such as “Backpage,” and apps such as “Grinder” to advertise children and women for sex. Often these internet providers, including “Backpage,” are complicit in peddling sex and in sharing the profits from these transactions, but they attempt to shield themselves from civil or criminal liability. The HT Project focuses on cyber-exploitation and the ways that human trafficking intersects with other types of exploitation, including pornography and pedophilia. It fights for laws that will hold traffickers, internet providers, and johns accountable for the illegal sexual exploitation of women and children. The HT Project also focus on ways that the internet and technology can offer solutions –rather than perpetuating problems –related to sex trafficking.
Each semester, Professor Guirguis teaches a human-trafficking lab course to second and third-year law students at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. These students learn the difference between labor trafficking and sex trafficking and explore the federal and state laws that laid the foundation for human-trafficking victims’ rights. Students analyze the special challenges involved with child sex-trafficking and have the opportunity to view and participate in juvenile-court proceedings. Each student then focuses on a specific issue in human-trafficking, including cyber-exploitation, child sex-trafficking, expungement law, pornography, legalization/decriminalization of prostitution, and others. Each student performs an in-depth analysis of this issue from a legal, practical, social, and victim-centered perspective. At the completion of the course, the students have a better understanding of human-trafficking law, issues, and possible solutions.
Human Trafficking Symposia
The Human Trafficking Project presents yearly symposia at Case Western Reserve University that are attended by hundreds of attendees. The symposia focus on the latest legal, social, and community developments regarding human trafficking. The HT Project’s attorney/experts present on cutting-edge topics and law enforcement personnel and victim-advocates present on the best practices in recovering and caring for human-trafficking survivors. Finally, human-trafficking survivors provide insight on the harsh realities of human trafficking and the long road to recovery.