Quinnipiac University

How Trafficking Survivors Experience the Criminal Justice System

Starts February 19, 2021 on 12:00 PM (ET)

Ends February 19, 2021 on 2:00 PM (ET)

Child in shadows

Trafficking victims are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for a range of crimes resulting from their trafficking. Using force, fraud, and coercion, traffickers compel their victims to commit a range of illegal acts and then threaten to expose them to criminal prosecution.

Traffickers teach victims to fear the criminal justice system and everyone in it — including their own attorneys. The trauma that follows survivors, even after they escape their traffickers, causes many to blame themselves and stay silent as their cases wind through the system.

Afraid to speak out, many victims go unidentified. As a result, actors in the justice system — including police, prosecutors, judges, and even defense attorneys — remain unaware of information that should factor into decisions to press charges, prosecute or defend a case, and convict and sentence. In the absence of critical evidence about their victimization and its impact on their culpability in the crime, many trafficking victims are convicted. Years after they escape their traffickers, their criminal records haunt them, limiting access to employment, housing, education, and other aspects of civic life.

Our series, “Understanding Human Trafficking,” continues with a survivor-based discussion about how criminal justice reformers can move toward the goal of “decriminalizing” victims of human trafficking. The panel—which begins with the lived experiences of two survivors—will explore the obstacles that trafficking victims face as they interact with the criminal justice system, from arrest, to prosecution and conviction, and finally criminal record relief, including pardon and vacatur applications.

The panel, “Stories from the Underground: How Trafficking Survivors Experience the Criminal Justice System,” will take place on Friday, February 19, from 12-2 p.m. via Zoom, features:

  • Facilitator: Cynthia Lill, Executive Chairwoman, Quinnipiac Law’s Human Trafficking Prevention Project
  • Panelists:
    • Theresa Leonard Rozyn, The Underground Co-founder, Advocate, and Survivor Leader
    • Ann-Marie Boulay, Founder and CEO of the Underground
    • Sharifa Abdullah, Exploitation Intervention Project Advisory Board Member, & Survivor
    • Jillian Gilchrest, State Representative & Chair of Connecticut’s Trafficking in Persons Council

Zoom information will be sent to registrants prior to the event.

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