Overcoming Barriers to Long-Term Stability for Human Trafficking Survivors

/ Blog Post

Verjine Adanalian and Courtney Kinter are Equal Justice Works Fellows in the Crime Victims Justice Corps. Verjine is hosted by the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, and Courtney is hosted by the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.

Verjine Adanalian and Courtney Kinter

Despite its comparatively small population, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation—only behind California, Texas, and Florida—for human trafficking cases in 2017. At the same time, the state’s opioid crisis has escalated dramatically, leaving Ohio with the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths by opioids in the country. Put simply, Ohio has a critical need for legal aid.

While a number of organizations in Ohio provide comprehensive case management and other services for human trafficking survivors, legal aid is often limited.  Most clients have multiple legal needs that can intersect with their human trafficking victimization, such as family law, immigration, housing, and employment. Sometimes, it’s hard to see where one legal issue ends and the next begins.

Equal Justice Works Crime Victims Justice Corps Fellow Verjine Adanalian, hosted by the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, provides education for the community and works with the organization’s Second Chance Program, an opportunity for survivors to expunge criminal records that occurred as a result of trafficking.

Criminal records, which are not uncommon for trafficking victims, can prevent survivors from truly moving forward. Housing applications, employment opportunities, and school inquiries are all instances in which criminal records might arise, which can re-traumatize survivors—it’s as if they will never be free from their traffickers. Verjine gives these survivors a second chance to move forward.

Knowing they can apply to a job and no one is ever going to be able to see [their record] again—that’s true freedom.

Verjine Adanalian /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

Courtney Kinter, another Fellow in the Crime Victims Justice Corps who is hosted by Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, works on family and immigration legal issues that arise as a result of trafficking victimization.

I’ve never had a client come in with just one legal issue.

Courtney Kinter /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

For example, many trafficking victims know the physical location of their child, but do not know what the court has said about their visitation rights or child support. Another example is foreign-national clients who have had their traffickers take away their documentation, like a passport. Courtney works with embassies and consulates to help them regain their identification documents.

Verjine and Courtney, who work at different host organizations within the same building, have collaborated regularly to create holistic legal solutions to barriers human trafficking victims face. A client came to Verjine needing help getting her record expunged. After she received her expungement, she became a strong advocate for the survivor community—even speaking to legislators at a state level. She worked extremely hard to regain her life back but being married to her husband, the man that trafficked her, was holding her back and she didn’t know where to start to get a divorce. Verjine was able to refer her to Courtney, who assisted her in getting a divorce. Thanks to their work, the client no longer has to be reminded of her victimization when she signs her own name.

Addressing the needs of trafficking survivors can be complex, but the Fellows in the Crime Victim Justice Corps are working hard to provide holistic, trauma-informed legal services. To learn more about this program, click here.

CVJC is supported by an award from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Award Number 2017-MU-MU-K131, and private funding. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow