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Unpublished Paper
Reconsidering Federal and State Obstacles to Human Trafficking Victim Status and Entitlements
ExpressO (2015)
  • Amanda J Peters, South Texas College of Law

Federal and state anti-trafficking laws describe the victim in the process of criminalizing the act of human trafficking. Nearly half of all states adopt the federal definition of victim, which requires proof of forced, defrauded or coerced labor, whereas the other half narrows this definition thereby limiting the number of victims qualifying for state victims services. Using this definition, victims must prove their status before they can access victim entitlements. Even when victims prove their status, they may be denied traditional crime victim benefits like restitution and Crime Victim Compensation funds. In this way, their victim status may be rendered meaningless.

This article explores the obstacles placed before human trafficking victim status and its entitlements. It examines the justifications for these barriers. For example, governments have voiced concerns about the number of victims who have committed criminal acts in the course of their victimization and the challenges that come with offering extraordinary protections to this population, like criminal immunity and pathways to citizenship. The article suggests governments assess the differences between traditional crime victims and human trafficking victims, to parse benefits into categories of those traditionally offered and those specifically granted to trafficked persons, and to re-examine proof requirements, given the fact that actual victims do not resemble those imagined when the federal definition was drafted fifteen years ago. In the end, the article asks legislators to create victim-centered human trafficking legislation which thoughtfully re-considers the justifications of the proof requirement and the obstacles placed before human trafficking victim entitlements.

  • criminal law,
  • human trafficking
Publication Date
April 10, 2015
Citation Information
Amanda J Peters. "Reconsidering Federal and State Obstacles to Human Trafficking Victim Status and Entitlements" ExpressO (2015)
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