During National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Attorney General Bonta Shares Resources to Support Victims and Survivors

Monday, January 9, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Issues new guidance to help survivors secure relief for nonviolent offenses committed as a result of being a victim of trafficking

OAKLAND – During National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today reminded Californians of the support services available statewide and issued new guidance to help trafficking survivors secure relief for offenses committed as a result of being trafficked. Human trafficking is a heinous crime that can have numerous long-lasting, harmful impacts on victims, survivors, and their families. These harms may also include criminal records based on crimes the victim was forced to commit because of the brutal circumstances of being trafficked. Importantly, under California law, there is vacatur relief available to trafficking survivors. In addition, whether it is through state and local government or community organizations, California offers a wide array of resources to support survivors of human trafficking including housing, cash, and immediate assistance through direct service providers.

“For many survivors, the pain of human trafficking is felt long after they’re out of harm’s way,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Whether it’s struggling to heal from trauma or regain financial independence, survivors of trafficking deserve and are entitled to support. For those who committed nonviolent offenses as a result of being trafficked, there are also pathways to secure relief and start fresh. I urge all Californians to review the information being shared today by my office. Together, we can help put a stop to trafficking and support those who have been harmed.”

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of adults and children for sex or labor through force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking does not require movement across borders. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 1,300 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2021 — more than any other state in the nation. In California, human trafficking is prevalent in the hospitality, commercial sex, domestic work, and construction industries. Victims of human trafficking are also found among migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, providers of residential care, and in California’s garment sector.

While human trafficking can have myriad harms, the associated criminal justice consequences that may arise are often overlooked and can create significant challenges, including to employment, safe housing, education, financial assistance, and citizenship status. Accordingly, under state law, survivors of human trafficking, intimate partner violence, or sexual violence may have criminal records vacated, sealed, and destroyed if the underlying nonviolent offense — e.g., petty theft, drug possession, or prostitution — was committed as a result of being a victim of trafficking or other forms of abuse. This type of relief — known as vacatur relief — helps eliminate barriers to stability and independence, and spares survivors from having to explain their traumatic past to future employers, housing managers, or others.

If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave — whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work — there are resources available to help. It is also important to remember that California law prohibits law enforcement authorities from asking individuals, including those who are reporting or are victims of potential crimes, about their immigration status, unless the information is necessary to certify the victim for a U visa for victims of crime or T visa for victims of human trafficking. If you need help, you can reach out to local authorities and organizations, and the Attorney General also encourages victims of human trafficking to consider reaching out to:

The California Department of Justice's Victims' Services Unit

National Human Trafficking Hotline

The Victims of Crime Resource Center

Additional Resources:

Resources such as emergency food and shelter, legal services, and health services can often be found directly through cities or counties. For those in need of legal support, pro bono legal assistance can be found through the State Bar of California and, for those who have been the victim of a violent crime, the California Victim Compensation Board can help cover related bills and expenses.

In addition, the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act, which was authored by Attorney General Bonta when he was a member of the Legislature, requires public schools in California to offer education and training on human trafficking identification and prevention to help protect students in middle school and high school — and those around them — from exploitation for labor or sex. 

Separately, as a result of Senate Bill 1193 of 2012 and subsequent legislation, California law requires specified businesses and other establishments — including hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns — to post a notice informing the public and survivors of human trafficking of telephone hotline numbers to seek help or report unlawful activity. The notices are available for free on the California Department of Justice’s website in English, Spanish, and roughly two dozen other languages. 

Through collaboration with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners and community organizations, Attorney General Bonta is committed to disrupting and dismantling human trafficking in California. As part of those efforts, the California Department of Justice operates two regional Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams, serves as the lead agency on the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, and leads the prosecution of complex, multijurisdictional, and criminal human trafficking cases across the state. Attorney General Bonta continues to take action to support survivors and hold those who break the law accountable. In November, he announced that 30 individuals were arrested in San Diego County as part of Operation Century Week and, in Fresno, 19 individual were arrested for allegedly attempting to contact a minor for sex and other related offenses. Last year, the Attorney General announced the launch of California’s first-ever sexual assault evidence kit tracking portal to enable survivors of sexual assault to privately, securely, and electronically track information about their cases. Attorney General Bonta also joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s effort to help survivors of human trafficking restore their financial independence.

Additional information and resources regarding human trafficking are available on the California Department of Justice’s website here: https://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking. A copy of the vacatur guidance shared today is available here.

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