"I'm a victim, but what happens to me if I report?"
Reporting the trafficker is a challenging and brave decision for any trafficking victim to make. Many victims have been conditioned to feel distrustful of law enforcement by their controllers. Here are some reasons why reporting is always a great option:
Law enforcement is there to bust traffickers, not criminalize victims. If, while they were trafficked, a person used illegal drugs or consumed alcohol while underage, they will not be prosecuted.
Your situation stays private. Any information about your case will not be reported to parents or guardians without your permission.
If you are undocumented, you will not be deported. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) allows trafficking victims Continued Presence in the United States. Continued Presence grants victims legal residence in the US for the duration of their trafficker's criminal case. Victims can also apply for a T Visa, which gives them immigration relief as long as they comply with the police investigation of their former trafficker. A U Visa can be granted to victims who have sustained severe mental or physical harm and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation process.
You have the opportunity to recover. Rescued trafficking victims are connected with safe living situations, medical resources, psychiatric counseling, and other kinds of support aimed at helping them begin a new life.
Lastly, your experience as a victim is never your fault. There is no reason to feel ashamed, and the law is definitely on your side!
If you do not feel ready to report or are not in a position to leave just yet, but still want help, consider finding a drop-in center near you! At a drop-in center, you can get a meal, take a shower, and--whenever you are ready--get legal assistance.