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Legal Needs

Trafficking victims may have a variety of legal needs and issues. Therefore, it is critical that task force members identify partners to meet all of these needs.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking offers free support to attorneys and social service providers assisting trafficking survivors with a range of legal needs. See the program flier here.

It is unlikely that one legal service provider will be able to meet all of the legal needs of all types of trafficking victims. Thus, task forces may need to identify a primary partner as well as several specialists to ensure that all legal needs can be met. Legal providers will likely need additional training and support to meet the unique needs of trafficking victims. Legal service providers also can be critical partners in the outreach and education initiatives of a task force, as well as provide assistance in accessing new sources of support for task force sustainability.

The U.S. legal system is highly complex and fractured. Victims may face concurrent cases in the federal criminal court, local criminal court, immigration court, and local civil court, all related to the trafficking scheme, all at the same time (or stretched out over the course of several years), and the victim will likely have a different attorney for each case. Victims may be frustrated by the slow pace of the legal system.

Smart Tip: Partnering With Law Firms

Attorneys need to know what is expected of them when representing victims of trafficking, such as unique sensitivities, case details, and victim needs. Law schools and clinics have high staff turnover and this can be harmful to the case. Setting clear expectations and parameters when working with law firms will help to avoid later misunderstandings.

It is important to keep the victim informed of the status of any and all legal proceedings, and equally important for other providers working with the victim to understand the complexities of the legal process.

In addition to the legal needs detailed in this subsection, the legal needs below may be indirectly related to trafficking:

  • Minors: Minors may require legal representation in guardianship proceedings and education/school issues (placement, suspension, tuition).
  • Housing: Many trafficking survivors face housing problems such as needing emergency or long-term placement, eviction from a place of residence due to lack of income, or the consequences of breaking a lease early to leave a trafficking situation. Trafficking survivors with disabilities may need help enforcing disability discrimination housing laws.
  • Medical: Some survivors may need help maintaining the privacy of their medical records or applying for fee waivers for medical care.
  • Name and Gender Change: Some trafficking survivors request name changes for safety reasons, and some transgender trafficking survivors may request name and gender changes. 

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 4.4 Legal Services.