Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a problem that exists globally and nationally. It is not uncommon to think of this as a problem that involves foreign national victims who are brought into the US, but it exists in our very backyard- especially in large coastal cities like Philadelphia.
Villanova aims to directly engage with survivors by providing legal representation in the form of criminal record clearing, including vacatur and expungement, and connects clients to pro bono representation in other legal matters.
Not only are legal services offered, but a handful of others as well as, Policy and Legislative Reform, technical assistance to courts, and training and education for law enforcement, prosecutors, defense counsel, judiciary, and victim services.
Real change begins with those in a place to help. Educating prosecutors, law enforcement and the justice system will make a huge impact for those affected by CSE. Every member on the Board of Advisors has a unique understanding and profound knowledge on the issue, and has personal experience combating commercial sexual exploitation.
It is important to give a voice to those who feel as if theirs has been silenced. The dedication of the teams at Villanova ensure that every voice is heard and that The Justice System is serving those well when help is needed.
The Villanova Law Institute draws inspiration and purpose from a young girl that fell victim to CSE when she was only a teen. Growing up in Philadelphia Jamielynn Cleary fell into drug use and prostitution and was quickly picked up by a pimp who supplied her drugs to endure the hard life of being a prostitute.
She was found dead from a heroin overdose at the young age of 26, where it was discovered that her pimp had wrapped her body up in a bedsheet and threw her into a dumpster with the trash.
Shortly before her death she expressed a want to escape the life that had fallen into and had hope for other girls in her situation.Villanova agrees with Jamielynne, that no matter how bad the circumstances there is always a way out.
During this grant term, CSE Institute will educate at least 75 criminal justice stakeholders across Pennsylvania about sex trafficking, criminalization, and vacatur. The Fellowship will expand outreach to survivors, ensuring they are aware of criminal record relief options and the CSE Institute’s ability to assist them in accessing vacatur. Most importantly, the Fellows will continue to provide survivors of sex trafficking with competent legal representation to remove convictions from their criminal records, enabling them to pursue career and education opportunities. The CSE Institute will submit vacatur petitions for at least twenty clients during the project period. They will expand their practice and submit vacatur petitions in at least five new counties.
They will expand their legal practice to include representing survivors as they seek clemency or pardons. In Pennsylvania, only convictions for six distinct crimes are eligible for vacatur. Nonetheless, survivors face convictions for a vast array of criminal conduct. Over the past two years, the CSE Institute has worked on behalf of one client seeking clemency for a crime committed as a result of her victimization. With the support of The Jensen Project, this will become a regular part of their legal practice.
A yearly grant program, funding up to $2 Million to advance economic empowerment and housing opportunities for agencies who serve adult female survivors of human trafficking.