Duane Morris Pro Bono Program Helps Survivors of Human Trafficking Make a New Start

To help meet the staggering need for legal services to survivors of human trafficking, Duane Morris attorneys through the firm’s pro bono program have teamed up with several amazing nonprofit organizations to assist sexually exploited women and girls in vacating and expunging criminal convictions related to their status as trafficked persons.

In 1998, Rachel Lloyd founded Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) to provide services for commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls. Sixteen years later, GEMS is now the largest service provider of its kind which provides intensive services and support to over 350 girls and young women. With Lloyd’s advocacy, New York State passed the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Act in 2008. This was the first law in the nation that was passed to protect, not punish, trafficked and exploited youth. Before this law was passed, New York sought to prosecute sexually exploited youth as hardened criminals. Now, young children arrested for prostitution are given protection and social services. These children are placed under state protection and sent to safe houses for services such as counseling and medical help.

GEMS also provides preventive outreach and education to 1,500 youth and trains over 1,300 professionals each year. Duane Morris attorneys are involved in every aspect of GEMS, from serving on the board, providing legal representation to vacate convictions, to participating in GEMS’ educational programs.

In 2006, Rachel Durchslag founded the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, (CAASE). This organization works toward eliminating sexual exploitation by prevention, policy reform, community engagement and legal services. CAASE advocates for legislative and policy reforms that will increase legal and social accountability for the perpetrators, helps the public understand the harms and dangers in the sex trade and engages in civil litigation against perpetrators and facilitators of sexual harm. Working with CAASE and its clients, Duane Morris attorneys in the firm’s Chicago office have done groundbreaking legal work on behalf of trafficking survivors under the Illinois Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act. This law allows victims of sex trafficking to have their criminal convictions for prostitution and related convictions vacated.

Duane Morris supports the work of those who are working against human trafficking and those who are helping victims of trafficking find their way back to healing and normalcy.