Director: Maureen (Kenny) Guirguis
MISSION STATEMENT: To represent survivors of human trafficking and empower them to lead happy and fulfilled lives. To advocate for legislative reform so state and federal laws assist human-trafficking victims, penalize traffickers, and reduce the demand for sexual exploitation. To provide education and awareness to lawyers, legislators, service providers, medical providers, law enforcement, and the general public regarding human trafficking issues.
Representing Child Sex-Trafficking Victims:
The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic advocates for children whom society often treats as “throwaways” or criminals. Its lawyers focus on giving these children a fresh start, finding suitable, loving placements for them, and charting them healthy, achievable life goals. The HT Clinic partners with Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court and serves on the Safe Harbor Advisory Board. Children who are subjected to sexual exploitation, violence, and rape because of their involvement in commercial sex are identified as sex-trafficking victims and the HT Clinic provides these children free legal representation. The HT Clinic also consults with the Court and government entities regarding best practices for residential services for sex-trafficking survivors. Finally, the Clinic represents other children sex-trafficking victims on the basis of referrals from advocacy centers, law enforcement, and other entities.
Representing Adult Sex-Trafficking Victims
The NEO HT Law Clinic works to empower adult victims of sex trafficking who are often forgotten, mistreated, and abused on the streets or in jails. Adults who are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation through coercion, fraud, or force are identified as sex-trafficking victims and the HT Clinic provides these individuals with free legal representation and advocacy with their criminal, employment, housing, divorce, custody, creditor, and other issues. The HT Clinic lawyers work closely with other Center service providers to provide a “team approach” for each client. This ensures that the Center focuses on the clients’ many needs and coordinates the clients’ legal, emotional, financial, and social well-being.
Advocating for Legislative Reform
Many of our state and federal laws are drafted such that they punish sex-trafficking victims or they fail to give victims the protection that they desperately need. The NEO Law Clinic’s Director, Maureen Guirguis, is an expert on state and federal laws regarding human trafficking. She serves on the Legislative Subcommittee of the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic provides expert testimony to legislative committees on pending bills to ensure that the final laws will best assist human trafficking victims and penalize traffickers. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic also raises awareness on legislative issues and seeks to enable change by garnering support from advocates and the community for legislative reform.
Many sex-trafficking victims are currently incarcerated in adult prison or juvenile detentions centers. In addition, many adults or children are recruited into sex-trafficking by pimps or traffickers who take advantage of the potential victims’ vulnerabilities, including lack of financial resources, education, and employment. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic actively engages in outreach programs in adult and juvenile prisons to raise awareness on human trafficking issues and to inform victims that there is help available for them. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic also trains corrections officers and prison staff on human-trafficking laws and ways to identify human-trafficking victims.
Foster-care youth are particularly susceptible to becoming sex-trafficking victims. Because of the youth’s troubled family situations and pasts, they are often vulnerable to pimps and traffickers who offer acceptance and financial support. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic engages in outreach programs with foster-care providers and residential programs to train these professionals on the warning signs and indicators of human trafficking. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic also trains foster-care parents and foster-care youth on human trafficking and way to avoid this insidious crime.
Survivors are the best individuals to educate and inform the public on the realities of human trafficking. Through sharing their personal experiences, they are able to convey the true magnitude of the crime and the long, difficult road of victims’ recovery. Survivors, however, should not be placed in situations where they can be re-traumatized by sharing their story. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic created a Survivor-Educator Certification program for eligible survivors who are interested in educating others on human trafficking. The Survivor-Educator Certification program is a 20-hour trauma-informed educational course that prepares survivors to tell their story.
The single biggest reason for the growth of sex-trafficking is the internet and social media. Traffickers use the internet and related technology to exploit children and women in many ways. Pimps will use social platforms such as “Facebook” or “Instagram” to recruit victims and lure them away from their homes and family. Traffickers will then use platforms such as “Backpage,” and apps such as “Grinder” to advertise children and women for sex. Often these internet providers, including “Backpage,” are complicit in peddling sex and in sharing the profits from these transactions, but they attempt to shield themselves from civil or criminal liability. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Project focuses on cyber-exploitation and the ways that human trafficking intersects with other types of exploitation, including pornography and pedophilia. It fights for laws that will hold traffickers, internet providers, and johns accountable for the illegal sexual exploitation of women and children. The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic also focus on ways that the internet and technology can offer solutions –rather than perpetuating problems –related to sex trafficking.
Human Trafficking Symposia
The NEO Human Trafficking Law Clinic presents yearly symposia that are attended by hundreds of attendees. The symposia focus on the latest legal, social, and community developments regarding human trafficking. The HT Clinic’s attorney/experts present on cutting-edge topics and law enforcement personnel and victim-advocates present on the best practices in recovering and caring for human-trafficking survivors. Finally, human-trafficking survivors provide insight on the harsh realities of human trafficking and the long road to recovery.
“Restoring the Lives of Human Trafficking Victims
Through Holistic Services and Advocacy”
The Renee Jones Empowerment Center and the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Law Clinic is a wholly unique model of well-integrated, combined services designed to provide human-trafficking survivors with holistic healing and restoration. Studies show that trafficking survivors are often re-traumatized by having to retell their story to multiple service providers. Also, most trafficking survivors have little, if any, access to transportation so it is difficult for them to travel to access therapy, legal services, mentoring, employment assistance, and other services. RJEC tries to eliminate these issues by providing the many services that survivors need in one, warm, accepting environment.
Survivors grow and flourish in this atmosphere of stability, trust, and love.
Some of our services include:
- Individual Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Horse Therapy
- Spa Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Yoga Therapy
- Survivor-Educator Certification
- Legal Needs Clinic
- Court Advocacy
- Amicus Curiae Briefs
- Public Benefits Assistance
- Employment Assistance
- Business/Vocational Skills
- Housing Assistance/Referrals
- Education Assistance/Advocacy
- Creditor Issues
- Tax Clinics
- Criminal Law/Expungement
- Prison Outreach
- Resume/Interview Clinics
- Strip Club and Street Outreach
- Foster-Care Outreach
- Legislative Updates/Analysis
- Medical/Wellness Partnerships
- Nutrition Clinics
- Cooking Clinics
- Mind & Body Wellness Clinics
- Healthy Relationship Clinics
- Youth Ambassadors Program
- Human-Trafficking Symposia
- Teen Summits