By Deana Alegi
Victoria Sexton, a 2019-21 Equal Justice Works Fellow funded by the Foundation, provides civil legal aid and advocates for the rights of human trafficking survivors in Broward County.
Sexton’s goals are to assist as many survivors as possible and raise awareness of her fellowship and the effect that civil legal aid can have on their lives.
“My project is focused on providing comprehensive and trauma-informed civil legal services to survivors of human trafficking,” said Sexton. “The legal services provided vary depending on the survivor and their needs.”
Hosted by Coast to Coast Legal Aid (CCLA) of South Florida, Sexton, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, helps survivors obtain civil injunctions, expunge their records, obtain U-Visas or T-Visas and represents them in divorce proceedings.
Prior to her work with the domestic violence unit at CCLA, Sexton was unaware of the undeniable presence of human trafficking in South Florida. There was a lack of direct legal services targeted toward survivors in the community, which sparked her passion to advocate for the future of survivors.
Establishing the fellowship as a household name in the anti-human trafficking community has been an unexpected challenge for Sexton. It’s essential for her to be known as a reliable partner in the community so that providers can refer survivors in need of legal assistance to her, reducing the times they recount their traumatic experiences to other lawyers. Sexton has undergone extensive trauma training to provide appropriate and productive legal assistance to survivors.
“I’ve learned to practice law through a trauma-informed lens and how important that really is to a survivor,” said Sexton. “They can come to me and explain their issues and we can work together in a trauma-informed manner.”
A few of Sexton’s most memorable cases have included name changes and expungements. Both have provided survivors with the opportunity to pursue a new life, away from their trafficker, and to open countless doors to pursue their academic and professional goals.
“Working with survivors has awoken me to how strong and resilient humans can really be,” said Sexton. “It makes me so proud to work directly with a survivor and see them persevere and move forward in their life.”
Sexton will continue working to begin new chapters in the lives of human trafficking survivors and raise awareness of the necessity of civil legal aid in Florida through 2021, when her fellowship ends.