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Human Trafficking Clinic Awarded $500,000 Grant from Justice Department

Human Trafficking Clinic Awarded $500,000 Grant from Justice Department

Money will fund partnership between clinic at Michigan Law School and domestic violence, sexual assault services

By Katie Vloet
Nov. 18, 2013

The Human Trafficking Clinic (HTC) at the University of Michigan Law School has been awarded a $500,000, three-year grant from the Department of Justice to fund a partnership between the clinic and domestic violence and sexual assault services.

The award from the DOJ's Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program funds a partnership with the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) and the U-M Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC). Both partnerships are designed to improve services to victims of human trafficking in Michigan.

"One thing we've been realizing more and more with our cases is how much overlap there is between the two. It doesn't have to be that someone was either a victim of human trafficking, or of domestic violence or sexual assault; it's often both," says Elizabeth Campbell, '11, clinical assistant professor of law in the HTC and the main author of the grant proposal.

"The gap in services and coordination between agencies serving victims of human trafficking and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking means that clients can be re-victimized as a result of being represented or served based on only a subset of their experiences," says Campbell. "We have to resist the urge to silo these things."

The goals of the project are to:

1) Expand the holistic legal services that the HTC provides to the underrepresented population of people who are both victims of human trafficking and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking;

2) Develop a formal collaboration between the HTC, MCEDSV, and SAPAC;

3) Increase awareness of and ability to represent sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking victims amongst Michigan lawyers;

4) Train and support sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking agencies in serving this underrepresented population;

5) Ensure that eligible victims of human trafficking are made aware of and referred to sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking agencies; and

6) Ensure client safety and confidentiality.

About 40 percent of clients represented by the HTC have been survivors of sexual assault, 10 percent are survivors of domestic violence, and 14 percent are survivors of stalking. The clinic tries to help clients with the breadth of their legal issues; even so, the HTC focuses its representation on the clients' trafficking and attention to their experiences as survivors of these other conditions "has been ad hoc and deficient," the grant proposal says.

Human trafficking occurs when a person is compelled to engage in labor, services, or commercial sex, and it is a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers exploit victims by the abuse of the legal process (such as threatening deportation, arrest, removal of children), by physical force, psychological coercion, financial coercion, and fraudulent promises.

The grant is designed to help people like HTC clients "Roxanne" and "Bryanna." Roxanne's trafficker told her family he would bring her to the United States for an education. Instead, he forced her to use a false identity to come to the United States, and he made her work up to 14 hours a day and to turn over her wages. She lived in a home with several other victims as well as one of the male traffickers, who sexually assaulted Roxanne on a regular basis. Bryanna’s romantic partner in metro Detroit coerced her into prostitution, while he kept all the profits. His injuries to her neck from hair-pulling and choking required surgery. And he was forcing her to have sex with him.

In both instances, the clinic was able to help the clients meet the legal needs that related to their trafficking and to the sexual abuse or domestic violence they suffered. In most cases, though, victims of one type of crime are not represented based on their entire set of circumstances, Campbell says—something the grant will help to rectify, she says.

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