New legislation aims at wiping the slate clean of criminal charges for sex trafficking victims
8:43 PM, Jan 29, 2014
4:45 AM, Jan 30, 2014
TAMPA - Telisia Espinosa isn't afraid to share her story. Now it's her job to tell it across the country. "I am a survivor of sex trafficking," said the 37-year-old. "He was that finesse pimp where he just came in and smooth-talked, manipulated," she explained.
Her four and a half year horror started in a Miami strip club and led to Espinosa being coerced into selling her body to as many as 40 men every night in cities like Miami, Cleveland and Phoenix.
"As soon as he had me change my clothes in the van, he put me outside the van and said, 'This is what you're going to do,'" she recounted. Now, Espinosa is a sex trafficking advocate and is also fighting to clear her name to reach more in need.
"I have a very extensive criminal record all over the United States," said Espinosa.
New Florida legislation, signed by the governor in May and enacted this month, may help her and thousands more petition courts to wipe clean criminal charges like prostitution and drugs if they can prove they were coerced.
"It's like a brick wall," said attorney Brent Woody, who calls the new legislation a no-brainer. "This will enable them to fill out a job application and they don't have to say they were arrested," he said.
The Tampa Bay attorney isn't sure yet how judges will handle the first vacate petitions including Espinosa's.
Her prostitution charges hold her back from working with underage victims and from sharing her story to help many others get out. "My passion and my desire is to be able to help young girls under 18 to be able to really see that they can do more with their life and that, to hopefully open up their eyes that they are victims," she said.