We fight for survivors of human trafficking in Virginia.
The Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking is an alliance of service providers, attorneys, survivor-advocates, and community members on a mission to remove barriers preventing survivors from achieving a full and healthy life through public awareness campaigns, policy reform and enacting survivor-centered human trafficking legislation.
The Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking envisions a world where survivors of human trafficking are treated like victims and not criminals; survivors are completely supported in their healing journey toward a full and healthy life; and Virginia’s policies and legislative framework are wholly consistent with these objectives at every level of federal, state, and local government.
Comprised of government, non-government, and state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking (VCAHT) had its first meeting in May of 2011 in an effort to unite and address the issue of human trafficking in Virginia from a policy and legislative standpoint. Our work led to Virginia going from being graded as one of the worst states regarding the inadequacy of its response to human trafficking, to the highest level grade in Polaris’ annual report in 2013.
Member organizations participated in the “Kids Are Not for Sale” movement in 2015, which led to the first stand alone sex trafficking statute in Virginia. These efforts helped move Virginia from the grade of “F” to “C” in Shared Hope International‘s State Report Card which annually evaluates the effectiveness of each state’s response to minors victimized by human trafficking.
In 2018, VCAHT’s resurrection of the expungement effort and the enlistment of new organizations led to significant legislation being enacted in 2019 following a Virginia Crime Commission study. These improvements included requiring the Department of Social Services to take action when a minor victim of trafficking was identified and the appointment of a state coordinator to increase the effectiveness of Virginia’s overall response to human trafficking and unify its efforts.
In 2021 we achieved an historic victory with the passing of HB2133 and HB2234, which enshrined vacatur/expungement and affirmative defense into law. If you joined us in pushing for this legislation to be passed, please accept our most sincere thanks. Our next set of goals include expanding this legislation to include juveniles who have had to engage in survival sex, and the non-violent felony/misdemeanor charges (such as theft, drug possession, and fraud) that over 60% of survivors have as a result of their trafficking.
We also need both government and non-government organizations to expand critical legal services and housing options, knowing that survivors with stable housing situations are less vulnerable to being re-trafficked. Survivors need legal aid to face the myriad of issues that being trafficked created for them, such as losing custody of their children or a lack of job opportunities due to the non-violent criminal charges still on their record.
We firmly believe that expanding HB2133 and HB2234 to include survival sex and felony/misdemeanor charges in combination with providing the crucial services listed above will create a solid foundation for survivors to heal and move forward with the next chapter of their lives. Our progress in the ten years since our founding illustrates how much we can achieve when we work together towards a common goal. We recognize that no one can do everything, but if everyone does something we can ensure that survivors receive the help they need. Will you join us?