Housed within the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, the Justice for Victims Fellowship was created in September 2016 to provide direct legal services to survivors of sex trafficking. The Fellows provide trauma-informed legal services, ensuring survivors are supported and their needs are kept at the forefront of all the work we do. Legal representation, provided in a holistic manner, helps victims restore their lives and move forward.
The Fellows directly engage with survivors by providing legal representation in the form of criminal record clearing, including vacatur and expungement, and connecting clients to pro bono representation in other legal matters. Vacatur is a criminal record clearing remedy available only to survivors of sex trafficking. The remedy fully recognizes that a survivor’s criminal record only exists as a direct result of their trafficking victimization and should be nullified. While the Fellows legal work occurs only in Pennsylvania, our national partnerships ensure they can connect survivors with specialized attorneys across the country.
The Fellows work is community based and they regularly provide outreach through The Salvation Army’s New Day Drop-In Center, and other local safe houses, where they provide critical Know Your Rights information, conduct legal triage, and gather data about the challenges victims face. They also create and deliver trainings to attorneys, service providers and others in the Commonwealth and across the country to increase knowledge of the legal remedies available to survivors and how to access the legal system in a positive, trauma-informed manner.