VCAHT 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.
We need to raise awareness for this movement. Write an op-ed, post on social media, and more using our toolkit.
Write to your General Assembly member and sign the petition. We can’t make progress without pressuring lawmakers to change the status quo.
We can’t do this alone. We need help recruiting advocates. You can start by signing up, and sharing the link with your community.
Send a check to Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking, P.O. Box 1295, Chesapeake, VA 22327 Or PayPal.
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Is There Human Trafficking in Virginia?
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act. In Virginia, human trafficking is a crime and those who are trafficked are treated as criminals. Trafficking is a “hidden crime” because victims do not come forward due to a variety of barriers, including fear of their traffickers and law enforcement, Stockholm syndrome, and lack of self-identification
As reported by the Polaris Project in 2019 sourced from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 370 victims of human trafficking identified in Virginia. The caviat of that number is the hidden nature of the crime and its relations to other criminal activities, including drug related charges.
Threats to Victims
Traffickers use harsh physical and psychological tactics including severe emotional and sexual abuse, threats against victims and loved ones, isolation from support networks, withholding immigration documents or threatening to expose immigration status, financial control, and physical harm to maintain control over their victims. These tactics can cause not only short-term pain and emotional trauma, but they can also leave victims with lasting conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic disorder, major depression, substance abuse, and more.
Many of these victims are forced to break the law, and instead of relieving victims, Virginia punishes them as criminals. This makes it harder to find places to live, get decent jobs, and have access to education.
Survivors should not be criminalized for committing crimes that are due to their status as victims. Their victimization was not identified while they were moving through the system.
- Vacatur is when the court overturns a conviction and dismisses the underlying charge. Victims carry criminal records with them for the rest of their lives. Vacatur is a form of relief a court may grant to victims (both minors and adults).
- Expungement is the complete destruction or redaction of criminal records.
If survivors are not at fault for crimes they were forced to commit, then they should never have been arrested and charged. Vacatur and expungement would set the record straight and right past wrongs, allowing survivors to move on with their lives.
VCAHT 2023 Legislative Priorities
- Amending the current Writ of Vacatur and Affirmative Defense bills to expand eligibility to certain criminal offenses and to clean up “victim of trafficking” definitions so that juveniles engaging in survival sex are clearly covered under both statutes.
- The noncriminalization of minors engaging in sex work.
- Mandatory training for law enforcement, judges, hotel/hospitality industries, primary and secondary teachers, school faculty, and hospital staff.
- Amending the sex trafficking personal injury statute.
- Expanding access to justice for survivors through increased civil legal services (particularly for custody and family law cases).
- Expanding funding for housing options, including housing that is not just shelter placement and exploring programs to encourage home ownership among survivors.
VCAHT 2022 Legislation Recap
The green text in the above pdf indicates bills that passed, the red text indicates bills that did not pass, and the blue text indicates a bill that we no longer wished to support due to wording but did pass.
VCAHT 2021 Legislation Recap
The 2021 Summary of Bills Supported By VCAHT
VCAHT In Action
What to Know About VCAHT
We Fight For Survivors of Human Trafficking in Virginia
The Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking envisions a world where:
- A. Survivors of human trafficking are treated like victims and not criminals;
- B. Survivors are completely supported in their healing journey toward a full and healthy life; and
- C. Virginia’s policies and legislative framework are wholly consistent with these objectives at every level of federal, state, and local government.
Board of Directors
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?
If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org