Back in 2002, I met a man who I thought was my friend, but who turned out to be a violent sex trafficker. For nearly two years of my life, this person forced me into prostitution in cities across the country. During that time, I suffered horrific abuse at the hands of my trafficker AND by the criminal justice system where I was arrested, convicted, and incarcerated many times. Unfortunately, even after I escaped my trafficker, I was not able to escape the criminal history that he had forced on me. I worked with a lawyer to clear my criminal history in New York using a special law that was passed specifically to help people like me. However, because I have convictions in many states that do not have laws to help victims of human trafficking clear their criminal records, my criminal history continues to plague me.
Ten years after escaping my trafficker, I have furthered my education, obtained specialized job training, and done everything in my power to make myself competitive in today’s job market. Despite my greatest efforts, I am still denied employment based upon my criminal convictions. This happened most recently in April of 2014 and I am now searching for a job again. Every time I apply for a job, I do so with the fear that disclosing my many convictions for prostitution will keep an employer from giving my application a second glance. I will never know how many times I might have gotten a job offer if I had been given an interview where I could explain my criminal history in person, rather than simply checking a box on a form that leaves no room for explanation. The Fair Chance Act would give me just that – a fair chance to show employers my skills and dedication BEFORE they see my criminal history. It would even give me a chance to tell employers the context of my criminal history in person and on my own terms.
I don’t want special treatment. All I want to do is get a job and support my family. Being a survivor of trafficking should not bar me from a fair chance to compete for jobs.