The Texas Bar Foundation’s award of $27,545 in funding will bolster research and advocacy nonprofit CHILDREN AT RISK’s efforts to help victims of sex trafficking. In particular, the organization will be able to gather research about the nondisclosure process created by the 86th Legislature and educate the legal community on how to use it to seal criminal records of victims who receive convictions resulting from being trafficked.
A Texas Slavery Mapping Project report estimated there are 79,000 minor and youth victims of sex trafficking in the state. Victims are forced in a life of prostitution and even after escape or rescue, they are often saddled with prostitution and other convictions. Those convictions inhibit victims from gainful employment, housing, and some government benefits and prevents them from being able to fully rehabilitate and reintegrate into communities. Without a way to seal convictions, traffickers continue to prey on victims’ vulnerability to housing and employment discrimination as well as the stigmas tied to prostitution.
But nondisclosures can allow victims to change how they are viewed and how they view themselves. In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed SB 20, which provides for the first time a streamlined process covering crimes sex trafficking victims are commonly convicted for. Those include prostitution, possession of marijuana, misdemeanor promotion of prostitution, and misdemeanor theft. The nondisclosure process permits a victim to consolidate numerous convictions for the above crimes into the same action in any jurisdiction in Texas.
CHILDREN AT RISK will recruit law students nationwide to serve as Summer Law Fellows. Theywill create and present a CLE that fully explains the Texas nondisclosure process and how to implement it, and provide an ethics component for representing human trafficking victims.
“We are excited to begin work on this new initiative,” Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of CHILDREN AT RISK, said in a press release. “Victims of trafficking have been through enough trauma. These funds from the Texas Bar Foundation will give us the support we need to educate Texas lawyers about Nondisclosure so they can effectively represent victims.”