Client Success Stories
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

The story of Lily

Like many survivors of sex trafficking who were born in the U.S., Lily had an unstable and abusive childhood. At the age of 15, she was abandoned by her family completely to live on the streets. Not long after she became homeless, a man approached her and offered a safe place to live and the opportunity to earn money. After she decided to trust him, this man began to sell her for sex multiple times a night against her will.

Years after escaping from her trafficker, Lily’s life was still shadowed by her past. She struggled to cope with the trauma and indignity of her experience, turning to drug use to ease the pain of her depression and anxiety. Lily was eventually arrested on low level drug charges and ordered to appear in court. As a result of being homeless and relying solely on unreliable public transportation, she missed her scheduled court appearance by just a few minutes. Because she failed to appear in court, Lily spent a year dodging warrants for her arrest, while her feelings of hopelessness and depression increased.

With the help of the Amara Legal Center, Lily found a new beginning. The public defender who had previously been assigned to her case advised her to plead guilty, maintaining she had no chance of winning the case due to her failure to appear in court. Nevertheless, we were resolved in our fight to help Lily. We met with her probation officer, who agreed to recommend to the judge that Lily’s probation be reinstated. We spoke with the judge about Lily’s complicated past, including the trauma she experienced as a survivor sex trafficking, and presented a letter from Lily’s case manager detailing how Lily was working to rebuild her life.

Our efforts paid off. The judge not only reinstated Lily’s probation, she also spoke directly to Lily with compassion and kindness, a rare event in criminal court. The judge stated that Lily’s experience was not her fault, that she had value and worth, and that she wanted to do anything in her power to help Lily succeed. Tears streamed down Lily’s face as the judge spoke to her. Lily is now regularly attending her probation visits and will have no criminal record once she successfully completes her probationary period. She is emboldened with a new sense of hope and is excited about what lies ahead. Lily dreams of finishing her high school education and continuing on to higher education, all things that are now within her reach without her past criminal record haunting her.

The story of Lisa

At 21 years old, “Lisa” was pregnant with her trafficker’s child when she was arrested for prostitution. Her assigned public defender reached out to Amara because he thought Lisa might be a sex trafficking survivor. Indeed, prosecutors had missed the red flags in the charging document: Lisa told police that her male “co-defendant” hit her and he “shared” her earnings; a gun was found under the bed of the hotel room where Lisa was arrested.

While four women were found in the hotel room that day, only the two black women were arrested and charged; unfortunately for Lisa, she was one of those women. Fortunately, Lisa’s assigned public defender had received training from an Amara attorney on identifying survivors of sex trafficking and referred Lisa to Amara. Amara was able to represent Lisa. With Lisa’s permission, we shared her trafficking experience with the prosecutor and pointed out the red flags. The prosecutor dropped the case, and we were able to assist Lisa in expunging the case from her record. While ultimately Lisa had a “successful” result, she should never have been charged.

The story of Sharon

Sharon contacted Amara seeking assistance with obtaining a custody and visitation order. At that time, she had not seen her three-year-old son in over two months. Sharon’s son’s father rarely communicated with her, and when he did, he was both disrespectful and abusive. He would not allow Sharon to see her son.

Our attorney met with Sharon, assessed the matter and promptly filed a petition seeking custody and visitation on Sharon’s behalf. Although her son’s father was preventing her from seeing her son and was verbally abusive, Sharon expressed that she wanted to co-parent. She told our attorney that she had no desire to penalize her son’s father because she did not believe that would be in her child’s best interest. Sharon also informed our attorney that she’d been experiencing housing issues and anxiety at the time. To address these concerns, our attorney connected her to two of our housing and mental health partners for assistance.

In alignment with Sharon’s desire to co-parent in her child’s best interest, our attorney contacted the father, after first confirming that he was unrepresented by an attorney, to determine whether he would consent to a settlement agreement. At that time, he adamantly expressed that he had no interest in working with Sharon and said that he could raise his son without her. He said that he did not trust Sharon and stated that he believed that she made poor decisions.

During the first status hearing, our attorney successfully obtained an order granting Sharon custody and visitation rights in line with her wishes. Since that time, our attorney has represented Sharon in two subsequent hearings, and Sharon and her son’s father have come to an agreement that
meets Sharon’s wishes. There is an upcoming fourth hearing in this matter during which our attorney will proffer a settlement agreement. Sharon has expressed that she is pleased with this result.

The story of Jasmine

Jasmine came to Amara after being assaulted by an ex who was trafficking her. Before coming to us, many others had not recognized or believed that she was a trafficking survivor. However, at Amara, Jasmine was able to find a team of individuals who not only believed her but who were eager to support her.

In addition to connecting Jasmine to numerous social services, Jasmine’s attorney provided victim-witness advocacy for Jasmine when assault charges were brought against her ex. When the state’s attorney’s office offered Jasmine’s ex a plea deal, Jasmine’s attorney advocated that a stay away order and payment of Jasmine’s hospital bills be conditions of the plea, which her ex agreed to. Jasmine now has her own expanding online business and is building her brand.

The story of Sharon

Brandy is a sex trafficking survivor who came to Amara seeking assistance for a custody battle with an abusive ex. She is a single mother of four; several of her kids have disabilities that affect their learning and behavior. In addition, Brandy has had her own mental health struggles arising from her trafficking. While working with our attorneys, Brandy and her family were evicted from her apartment and removed from a shelter because of some of her children’s behavior.
Brandy was preparing to live in her car until permanent housing was available.

An Amara Legal Center attorney was able to advocate for Brandy and work with her caseworker to enroll Brandy and her family in a program which provided them with temporary housing and additional material support.

The story of April

Last year, we helped “April,” a child sex trafficking survivor, regain custody of her one-year-old daughter. For April, leaving her daughter in an aunt’s care was necessary until she got herself clean and found suitable housing for her and her daughter. Unfortunately, when April returned a few months later to take her daughter home, her aunt refused to give her daughter back. Although April contacted the police, they were unresponsive due to her criminal record. Thankfully, April was working with a partner service provider who was providing her emotional
and case management support, and her case manager contacted Amara.

An Amara attorney met with April to assess her case. Because April’s aunt did not have legal custody of her daughter, we contacted the police who went to the aunt’s residence, retrieved the child, and that same night reunited April with her daughter. Our staff attended the reunification meeting, provided the client with a ride home, took April to purchase groceries, and coordinated donations of clothing, a stroller, and other items. We are happy to report April and her daughter are still together and moving forward with their lives.