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Justice with Jessica: Human trafficking survivors have few places to turn to for legal help

sex trafficking
Posted at 4:01 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 17:05:41-04

Nearly 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking at any given time, according to the U.S. Department of State.

The devastation caused by human trafficking isn’t something that just goes away.

If a person does escape from traffickers, they can face a lifetime of emotional trauma, along with years of legal problems that can be expensive to resolve.

Between 2014 and 2019, about 200 human trafficking cases were filed in Colorado, but advocates fear there are many more victims.

Often, survivors of human trafficking struggle to get access to the legal resources they need. Jasmine Brior was in a similar position until she learned about a program called ALIGHT (Alliance to Lead Impact in Global Human Trafficking).

“Everything that I have been through including, and I'm gonna say this cryptically, including the things that were designed to kill me, I came through, you know, I came out stronger,” Brior said. “I came out with more determination to never let things like that happen again.”

Justice with Jessica: Human trafficking survivors have few places to turn to for legal help

It’s almost as though Brior has lived two lives. In the first life, she was repeatedly victimized by human traffickers. In the second, she’s rebuilding her life and helping others do the same.

“God took me to all of these things because He knew I was strong enough and wise enough to get through them,” Brior said.

At the tender age of 5, Brior says she was exploited by a family member.

“She sold me to guys, to whoever that she felt like she needed to to get her fix,” Brior said. “It went on for five years.”

From there, she was removed from her home by social services.

Brior became a teenage runaway. During her time on the streets, she went on to experience sex trafficking over and over again.

“I didn't have that person or that support or that family there to tell me that, "Hey, sweetheart, this, this isn't normal,"” she said.

After Brior broke free from the people who trafficked her, she struggled to rebuild her life.

Legal problems that stemmed from the human trafficking were holding her back. She couldn’t afford an attorney to help her.

She would hear the same thing over and over again from attorneys and legal aid organizations.

“I'm sorry, we don't handle that. I'm sorry, we can't help you with that. I'm sorry,” Brior recalled. “You need $25,000 for us to even look at the case.”

Brior reached out to Covered Colorado for support in her journey to start a new life.

Covered Colorado helps survivors of trafficking through mentorship, life skills and financial education and employment. That organization told Brior about ALIGHT.

“ALIGHT’s mission is to unlock a fresh start for victims and survivors of human trafficking,” said executive director Marianna Kosharovsky.

She says survivors face more legal problems than most people could imagine.

“Sometimes the traffickers marry their victims, debt. Survivors have their identity stolen from them by the traffickers,” Kosharovsky said. “They're left pursued by, you know, creditors, and sometimes by the IRS for false tax filings.”

The Avery Center found that as few as 16 organizations across the U.S. provide direct legal services to human trafficking survivors. Access is so difficult to attain that it could be considered a legal desert.

ALIGHT paired Brior with attorneys who were able to guide her through the legal landscape, including working out a custody agreement for her child.

Rob Gunning is one of the attorneys assigned to Brior — for free — through ALIGHT.

“I could just tell it was a real burden off her shoulders,” Gunning said. “This was the last thing she needed, and just helping her not to worry about that anymore and be relieved, that was a great feeling.”

Brior says she tried for years to gain custody of her daughter. ALIGHT attorneys helped her finally gain access to her little girl.

“I tried everything that I could to figure out how to get her back without help. It's impossible,” she said. “ALIGHT gave me that fighting chance. And they gave me and my daughter back our relationship.”

As Brior rebuilds her relationship with her daughter, she lets other human trafficking survivors know they can get help rebuilding their lives as well — even though it may be difficult to find.

“You're having a custody problem, I'll sit here and talk to you all night about it. I’ll help you find all the resources possible that I can help you find,” she said. “If I can use my pain and my struggles to change even one person's life, then for me personally, it makes everything that I went through worth it.”

ALIGHT is always looking for attorneys who are willing to take on cases pro bono.

If you’re a lawyer who wants to volunteer for ALIGHT, click here.

If you are a survivor of human trafficking and you need legal help, click here.