We work to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes. The Human Trafficking Legal Center, together with our pro bono attorney partners, fights for justice for trafficking survivors. With pro bono attorneys by their sides, trafficking survivors can reclaim their lives.

 Women Survivors

Women survivors of sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and domestic servitude make up 90% percent of the Human Trafficking Legal Center’s client population. They range in age from their early twenties to their late sixties. These survivors come from the Philippines, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, and the United States.

Criminal Restitution

Criminal restitution for trafficking victims is mandatory under U.S. federal law. Yet, courts order restitution in only 27% of cases.

Most labor trafficking cases are never prosecuted. HT Legal is leading innovative national efforts to use civil litigation to hold vicious traffickers accountable.

Child Sex Trafficking

The least likely trafficking victims in the U.S. to receive restitution are child sex trafficking victims.

Our Success

Since 2012, we have trained more than 3,600 attorneys at leading U.S. law firms and placed 280+ cases for free legal representation.

The Human Trafficking Legal Center and our pro bono partners have a 95% civil case success rate. Entire families can start life anew. Each victory emboldens more survivors. And traffickers face a powerful deterrent.


Faith* was trapped in the home of a prominent diplomat in an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb. She was forced to cook, clean, and care for the family around the clock. For the first few months, Faith was paid nothing. Later, she earned merely 50 cents per hour. Three years into her servitude Faith escaped with only the clothes on her back.

Faith went to the authorities to report the crimes. But, the U.S. government did not bring criminal charges against her vicious trafficker.

But she still wanted justice. Courageously, she decided to sue her trafficker in civil court. HT Legal introduced Faith to a team of talented pro bono lawyers. Our in-house attorneys provided step-by-step technical assistance to Faith’s pro bono lawyers throughout her complex legal process. 

“I have my peace, justice, freedom and now… I can raise my voice even higher than before with no fear.”

*Name changed to protect confidentiality

Ensure survivors have access to pro bono legal counsel.

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Press Release: U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Nestlé & Cargill v. Doe: No Accountability for Aiding and Abetting Child Slavery

The Human Trafficking Legal Center expressed concern after the Supreme Court ruled against victims of child slavery in the consolidated cases of Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe I & Cargill, Inc. v. Doe I. The plaintiffs, now adults, alleged that they were trafficked as children into forced labor on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire. They brought their claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) in 2005.

Press Release: The Human Trafficking Legal Center Applauds US Enforcement Action Targeting Rubber Gloves Made With Forced Labor in Malaysia

On March 29, US Customs issued a Finding against Top Glove based on conclusive evidence of forced labor in the manufacture of disposable rubber gloves. This is a significant and welcome development.

Joint Statement on the Unprecedented Detention Order Against Cotton from XPCC

Signed by Corporate Accountability Lab, Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, the Human Trafficking Legal Center, and Verité. Statement on the implications of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s issuance of a Withhold Release Order against Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC).

A Survivor’s Perspective – The Double Pandemic: COVID-19 and Racism

An active member of the National Survivor Network since 2013, Ms. Fainess Lipenga is a Survivor Leader and Consultant for the Human Trafficking Legal Center. As a survivor of labor trafficking, she uses her voice and experience to educate the community and raise awareness. In this essay, Ms. Lipenga shares her reflections on the raised risks and challenges for trafficking survivors brought by two pandemics: COVID-19 and systemic racism.

TheWorld: PODCAST – Advocates worry about Trump administration’s human trafficking report

The United States has released its annual report on human trafficking. This year’s report highlights significant progress around the world. But that alarms advocates, who say they’re seeing exactly the opposite. Listen to this podcast featuring Martina Vandenberg, founder and president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, and our partners from Freedom Network USA and Solidarity Center.

Thomson Reuters Foundation News: OPINION – Underused and overlooked, trade remedies may stop forced labour

Forced labor remains a feature, not a bug, in international supply chains. It is time to demand accountability for forced labor. It is time to explore new, creative remedies that have the potential to halt forced labor in supply chains. Written by Martina Vandenberg, president and founder, and Anasuya Syam, human rights and trade policy advisor.

NEW RELEASE: Launch of “Importing Freedom: Using the U.S. Tariff Act to Combat Forced Labor in Global Supply Chains

The U.S. Tariff Act has tremendous potential as a tool to eradicate forced labor in supply chains. Written by Anasuya Syam, human rights and trade policy advisor at the Human Trafficking Legal Center, and Meg Roggensack, consultant, this practice guide shows advocates and workers how to petition the U.S. government to halt imports tainted by forced labor abroad.

The Human Trafficking Legal Center’s Statement of Solidarity

We stand in solidarity with the millions of voices condemning the heinous murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and so many others. As a human rights organization, we acknowledge the inequality so deeply entrenched in this country. We stand with members of the Black community to demand that our country, our institutions, our police, and our leaders dismantle structural racism. Please click link above for full statement.

Human Trafficking Search: Domestic Workers, Forced Labor, and the Locked Doors of Covid-19

With COVID-19, work has moved indoors, into homes, and behind locked doors. For domestic workers, this means living in an unregulated workplace 24 hours each day, seven days a week. Read this guest blog for Human Trafficking Search by Daisy Nabasitu, Humphrey Fellow and legal fellow at the Human Trafficking Legal Center.

Congratulations! Sarah L. Bessell named Deputy Director

The Human Trafficking Legal Center is thrilled to announce the promotion of Senior Staff Attorney Sarah L. Bessell to the role of Deputy Director.

Press Release: Launch of “Prosecution at Any Cost? The Impact of Material Witness Warrants in Federal Human Trafficking Cases”

Should victims of human trafficking be arrested in order to compel testimony against their traffickers? Co-authored by Henry Wu, a fellow at the Human Trafficking Legal Center, and Senior Staff Attorney Alexandra Yelderman, this report examines the practice of material witness warrants in the government’s pursuit of “justice.”

Business & Human Rights Resource Center: Withold Release Orders, in Three Acts: Heralding A New Enforcement Era

The Tariff Act allows the US government to block shipments of goods made with forced labor from entering the US. The Human Trafficking Legal Center’s Human Rights & Trade Policy Advisor Anasuya Syam and Business & Human Rights Expert Meg Roggensack argue that trade sanctions have the potential to compel respect for workers’ rights in global supply chains. Read their article in Business & Human Rights Resource Center, which analyzes enforcement & the impact of COVID-19 on workers

The Freedom Fund: Combating Forced Labor – Strategic Litigation and Trade Sanctions

In February 2020, the Human Trafficking Legal Center convened the top legal minds behind cutting-edge forced labor and human trafficking litigation in U.S. federal courts. Read Senior Staff Attorney Sarah Bessell’s guest blog for Freedom Fund discussing the creative measures these experts are taking to hold corporations and governments accountable for forced labor.

Fazenda Brasil Verde vs. Brazil: Unofficial English Translation Released

In October 2016, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) issued a groundbreaking decision in Fazenda Brasil Verde vs. Brazilfinding Brazil responsible for violating Article 6 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which protects against slavery, servitude, and trafficking. Previously available only in Portuguese and Spanish, read the unofficial English translation here.

New York Times Opinion: Trump Uses Kids Sold Into Sex Slavery to Score Political Points

“Using human trafficking for pernicious political purposes is…a Trump administration invention,” says Martina Vandenberg in this opinion piece by Nick Kristof in the New York Times. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Center: Reading the Stevia Leaves – Early Clues to Federal Enforcement of the Ban on Imports Made with Forced Labor

Business and Human Rights Expert Meg Roggensack and Anasuya Syam, Trade Advisor for the Human Trafficking Legal Center, discuss the Tariff Act of 1930 and analyze U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s recent trade enforcement actions to understand trends and lessons for future enforcement on forced labor.

The Washington Post: Anti-human-trafficking groups refuse to attend Ivanka Trump’s White House Summit

On January 31, the White House hosted a summit on human trafficking. Read Founder & CEO Martina Vandenberg’s quote in this Washington Post article explaining why the country’s most prominent anti-trafficking organizations and advocates decided not to attend.

VOA Our Voices: Modern Slavery

Evelyn Chumbow, survivor-leader and advisor for the Human Trafficking Legal Center, was interviewed by Voice of America for Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Evelyn was joined by Senior Staff Attorney Sarah Bessell for the #OurVoices episode examining international efforts to combat human trafficking.

Press Release: Joint Publication of “An Advocate’s Guide to Tax Issues Affecting Victims of Human Trafficking”

The Human Trafficking Legal Center, Ropes & Gray LLP, the University of Baltimore School of Law Human Trafficking Prevention Project, and the University of Baltimore Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic

Amicus Brief Filed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals

The Human Trafficking Legal Center

Press Release: Amicus Brief Filed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

The Human Trafficking Legal Center and Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP


Third Annual On My Side Awards

Thank you to all who joined us for the Third Annual On My Side Awards on October 17! Please read the recap here and enjoy the full gallery of photos from the evening!