Imagine a girl named Nita, who was 14 years old when she first met the man who forced her to sell sex.* She had just run away from her foster family to avoid sexual harassment from one of her foster relatives. So when she met a man who offered to take her back to her biological family in Florida, she accepted.
But when they arrived to Florida, he wouldn’t let her leave the hotel room he rented; instead, he forced her to earn money for him by engaging in commercial sex. After a few months, she was arrested for solicitation and selling drugs. After serving time in a juvenile detention center, she was sent back to her foster family, where she was sexually harassed again.
For the second time, she ran away from home. With no other safe options available to her, she called her trafficker, who took her back to Florida and forced her to resume selling sex and drugs. Again, she was arrested.
Nita, and others like her, are victims - not criminals. Although Nita was able to get help and now has an order of protection against her trafficker, the crimes he forced her to commit still remain on her criminal record. As she works to rebuild her life, these convictions will likely make it harder for her to access housing, school loans and employment.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Ann Wagner have introduced a bill in Congress that would allow courts to erase survivors’ nonviolent federal criminal convictions resulting from being trafficked. Please join us in calling on the Senate and House of Representatives to pass this critical legislation.
*Not an exact case, but similar to details heard on the hotline.