On Wednesday, December 23rd President Trump granted a full pardon to sex trafficking survivor and victim advocate Rebekah Charleston. At the age of 17, Charleston was trafficked through Nevada’s legal brothels and was continuously subject to sexual exploitation and violence as part of her victimization. Charleston was trafficked for more than 10 years, a cycle of abuse that only ended when the federal authorities uncovered details about an undercover prostitution ring in Denton, where Charleston was kept and forced to have sex against her will. The President pardoned Charles for her charge of federal tax evasion in 2006 after her trafficker used her identity to commit the crime.
As Director of Strategic Initiatives at The Jensen Project, honors graduate student and consultant with the National Criminal Justice Training Center, Charleston has spearheaded a social media campaign along with other survivors to project the message “Nevada is Not Safe for Women” in association with the National Center for Sexual Exploitation, Valiant Hearts, Awaken, Exodus Cry and World Without Exploitation. She continues to be a champion for survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, and advocates for an end to the legalization of prostitution in Nevada and beyond.
The CSE Institute congratulates Rebekah Charleston on her pardon and her continued fight to end commercial sexual exploitation throughout the United States. We acknowledge and admire her contributions to the abolitionist movement and her championship of survivors nationwide. Rebekah Charleston’s story is unfortunately similar to that of other sex-trafficking survivors who face criminal charges as part of their victimization. Victims of sex-trafficking are often brain-washed, forced, or threatened to commit crimes for their trafficker in order to avoid physical injury, drug withdrawal or other severe punishments. Traffickers use a victim’s social and economic vulnerabilities to maintain control and strip victims of choice and personal agency. The CSE Institute supports a criminal justice response that acknowledges victims as victims and not offenders in the eyes of the law. When coming in contact with a victim of commercial sexual exploitation, justice stakeholders should adopt a trauma informed response at all stages of the criminal justice process and recognize that the coercion of trafficking victims may look different than coercion of other crime victims.