The WAVE Foundation's Legal Hope program builds a community of legal support for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking in the criminal justice system. We partner with law firms to train their pro bono attorneys, connect survivors to the attorneys, and provide technical assistance and support throughout the case.
Fact: Most survivors of sex trafficking have also suffered domestic and sexual violence.
• 75 – 95% sexually abused as children
• 36% trafficked by an immediate family member
• 27% trafficked by an intimate partner
Fact: Most survivors of sex trafficking are never identified by the legal system.
Many survivors of sex trafficking are arrested and convicted of prostitution offenses while their trafficker remains free. These survivors are labeled by the criminal justice system as defendants, because the system has been unaware of the prevalence of sex trafficking in our community and that the people labeled as defendants are actually the victims of trafficking.
Then, when the survivor finally escapes their trafficker, they face societal stigma and barriers to housing, employment, and family stability because of the prostitution convictions. Without housing, employment, or family stability, the survivors are vulnerable to traffickers yet again and the cycle of victimization continues.
01 · Clearing Criminal Records
With our team of over 100 pro bono attorneys, we help survivors vacate their criminal convictions resulting from their victimization and seal court records.
We help survivors through every step of the process, including advocating for survivors in court.
Our priorities are being trauma-informed and always offering hope: hope for the future and that a survivor can live their fullest life because they are worth it.
02 · Spreading Awareness
We spread awareness throughout the legal community by building partnerships and educating judges and attorneys on:
Understanding sex trafficking, including vulnerabilities and barriers to escape and reentry
The legal process to clear criminal records for survivors of sex trafficking
"Getting my charge vacated will not only remove tangible barriers that are holding me back, but it will also validate that I was a child worthy of protection. It will say to me and the world that what happened to me wasn't my fault. It will say that I deserve to have compassion and that the authority figures I came into contact with as a child should have tried to help me instead of blaming me. It will validate that prostitution is not who I am, but something that happened to me.
I am now a new person, and I deserve a fresh start. My future is bright and all the experiences have made me a strong woman with a voice, for the lost girls like me."
– Legal Hope Program Client
Almost immediately after her criminal record was cleared through the Legal Hope program, that survivor passed her background check for a job and was hired at the new job.
Today, she feels hope for the future.