Survivors' Rights

Systems have failed trafficking survivors. The Human Trafficking Legal Center fights for the rights of survivors.

Things to Know

Courts fail to order criminal restitution for trafficking survivors, despite the fact that it is mandatory.

In 2018, Human Trafficking Legal Center research revealed that restitution was ordered in just 27% of trafficking cases that ended in conviction.

Prosecutors fail to collect restitution, even when it is ordered by a federal court.

The Human Trafficking Legal Center’s research shows that only a tiny percentage of restitution ordered by courts is provided to trafficking survivors. In some cases, the U.S. government seizes assets, which go to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, not to victims.

Victims are held as material witnesses to force them to testify.

The system imprisons victims to force them to serve as witnesses. Arrest, imprisonment, and forced participation in court proceedings are re-traumatizing for victims.


With pro bono lawyers by their side, trafficking survivors can pursue justice and rebuild their lives.

Bridge to Justice

With more than 5,000 trained pro bono attorneys, HT Legal works as a referral clearinghouse to representation for trafficking survivors. We match each new client with a highly skilled, dedicated pro bono lawyer. The pro bono requests run the gamut: criminal victim-witness representation, civil litigation, tax issues, immigration relief, and criminal conviction record relief.

Financial Independence for Trafficking Survivors

Criminal restitution and civil damage awards provide trafficking survivors with the opportunity to gain financial independence and rebuild their lives. The Human Trafficking Legal Center fought for—and won—an amendment to federal law to mandate that all assets forfeited from traffickers be used to pay restitution to victims. Sadly, years after the amendment became law, the U.S. government continues to fail to use forfeited assets to pay restitution to trafficking victims.


A Survivor’s Guide to Criminal Expungement and Vacatur in the U.S.
A Survivor’s Guide to Criminal and Civil Cases
Data Story

Analysis of our criminal database reveals a troubling trend: federal courts deferring, and ultimately failing, to make restitution decisions.

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