Righting a Wrong: Impact of the Criminalization of Survivors of the Sex Trade and Sex Trafficking

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75 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 12, 2023

Madeleine Behr
Madeleine Behr, MPP
Policy Manager
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Maggie Miller
Maggie Miller, JD
Staff Attorney and Criminal Records Relief Coordinator, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Survivors of the sex trade and sex trafficking face many barriers, including housing issues, substance abuse, difficulty obtaining employment, and long-lasting trauma. What is discussed less often but is enormously impactful in their ability to overcome these barriers is the fact that 91% of survivors accumulated criminal records themselves as a direct result of their victimization, usually in the form of arrests and convictions for prostitution and related offenses. Concerningly though, despite the availability of expungement, sealing, or vacatur in most states, only 25% of survivors reported having been able to obtain even partial relief from their record. 

Join us to discuss current law enforcement practices that criminalize survivors and the impact of criminalization with a particular look at the onerous process of pursuing relief from a criminal record. From the perspectives of public policy and direct legal representation, we will analyze options available to mitigate that impact moving forward – both for survivors who already have a record and for those law enforcement professionals have yet to encounter – by identifying trends in how various states approach this issue.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Explain the impact of criminalizing survivors.
  • Identify common questions and policy positions regarding records relief for survivors.
  • Assess options and opportunities for improvement for criminalized survivors in their jurisdictions.
  • Identify strategies to approach those in the sex trade intentionally, being conscious of the impact law enforcement interaction may have on their ability to obtain housing or employment.

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