Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation by Christine Stark


While in Salt Lake City, Utah last week, I was fortunate to meet author Christine Stark, among many other empowered survivors of trafficking.  In the video above, Christine graciously interviews with me about her recently-published novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation.  After reading Christine’s novel, Robert J. Benz, Founder & Executive Vice President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, stated, “It’s a very powerful first person account of early childhood sexual abuse.”

As many of you know from my recent article in the Washington Times, early childhood sexual abuse is an important and personal topic to me.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. And, it’s long overdue that we draw greater attention to the critical link between childhood sexual abuse and child sex trafficking in the U.S. Prevention methods to reach out to vulnerable youth are critical in ending the sex trafficking of minors in the U.S.

Please join me in supporting Christine by sharing her novel with others.

To buy Christine’s book on Amazon, click here.

To buy Christine’s book on Barnes & Noble, click here.

To learn more about Christine and her new book, please read below some additional interview questions and answers taken from her website: Continue reading

The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. Continues to Address Human Trafficking


Next week I will be driving to New Jersey to speak and meet with members of the Junior League of Monmouth County of New Jersey. The Junior League of Monmouth County (JLMC) currently focuses on empowering homeless women and families through partnership with transitional housing facilities. Their life and parenting skills programs provide the young women with the tools necessary to transition to independent living with their children.

The JLMC is one of the eight Junior Leagues in NJ, each of which have delegates that make up the New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC).  SPAC is a statewide, non-partisan committee who join together to advocate on behalf of women and children and to take action in the areas of health, education, and the environment.

The Junior League was founded in 1901 by New Yorker activist, Mary Harriman.  It grew into charitable nonprofit organizations of women who aimed to impact the community.  Today, the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI) reports having more than 155,000 women members in 292 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

I am very proud to present to this organization as next month marks the one year anniversary in which AJLI was honored by the United Nations for their initiatives within the anti-human trafficking cause. Continue reading

A survivor explains the vulnerability of child sex trafficking victims

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Not for sale

RICHMOND, April 9, 2012 — Many people question why some sex trafficking victims stay with their traffickers. As a survivor, I know this simple question requires a rather complex explanation.

I am a survivor of sex trafficking and of child abuse by a family member. My story demonstrates that an untreated case of child sexual abuse can lead to the sex trafficking of that child victim.

My history of sexual abuse began when I was under the age of ten. To make this trauma worse, my parents instructed me to lie about it when confronted by a social worker at home. My parents seemed to believe that they needed to protect our family from the social stigma associated with child sexual abuse. But by squelching the truth, they in turn sentenced me to an adolescence of misunderstanding and distrust. My resilience and sense of self-worth further diminished.

Without proper counseling, I harbored a secret of past abuse, a secret which slowly ate away at my self-confidence. The day I met my trafficker, I was shuffling behind my friends in the mall.  I was feeling angry and depressed.  I hated my parents and teachers.  At the same time, I was losing my friends in the naturally changing social circles between middle and high school.

My self-esteem had spiraled downward throughout intermediate and middle school. I endured several exploitations by older high school boys and men who prowled the neighborhood and local skating rink for unsupervised girls.

By the time the trafficker spotted me in that New Jersey shopping mall, I had already been broken down.

As traffickers are skilled predators, they look  for girls that are withdrawn and quiet. They  prey upon minors with emotional brokenness  as my trafficker did in late June, 1992, soon  after my eighth grade middle school  graduation.

Child sexual abuse paralyzes many children  with the inability to differentiate a healthy  relationship from an exploitative one. I, too,  thought that exploitive relationships were the  norm. Prior to meeting my trafficker, I was  already used to relationships based on  deception.

Many victims do not understand their  fundamental right to say “No.”  They often  fail to understand ownership over their  bodies. I didn’t run away when my trafficker  demanded that I agree to prostitute.

This was  not because I wanted to stay but rather  because I didn’t understand that I had  another option.

Scholars agree on a strong correlation  between childhood sexual abuse and the sex  trafficking of minor victims. In her podcast, Ending Human Trafficking, Sandra Morgan, R.N., M.A., the director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice (GCWJ), discussed predisposing factors for homeless and runaway youth who fall victim to traffickers

“The reason kids are homeless often is because of preexisting abuse; Maybe there’s a history of domestic violence in the home,” Ms. Morgan says. “The child may have experienced sexual abuse.  And in fact some of the literature now shows us anywhere from 65 to 85 percent of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation have a history of child sexual abuse in their own community or home environment.  And so they may have run away to escape that and now then they’re in another situation where they’re being sexually exploited.”

Kate Price, M.A. lectured in a Wellesley Centers for Women seminar titled, Longing to Belong: Relational Risks and Resilience in U.S. Prostituted Children. Price stated a link between the prior history of sexual abuse and the prostitution of minor victims.  She stated it really is that history of betrayal that really is a risk, and oftentimes…the entryway, into how children even end up in prostitution.

Price reports that at least 60 percent of sexually exploited children, which includes prostituted children, have a prior history of sexual abuse. Studies also show that roughly one in four girls—and one in six boys—will be victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Gustavo Turecki, M.D., Ph.D. argues that a history of abuse is associated with the decreased function of a gene that is important in helping a person respond to stressful situations.  As a survivor, I believe that, without proper therapy, child sexual abuse often leads to further sexual exploitation because an abused child is unable to recognize the difference between a healthy relationship and exploitation.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. And, it’s long overdue that we draw greater attention to the critical link between childhood sexual abuse and child sex trafficking in the U.S. Prevention methods to reach out to vulnerable youth are critical in ending the sex trafficking of minors in the U.S.

Meet Anti-HT Activist and Advocate, Deanna McPherson

Meet Deanna McPherson

Pictured left to right: Deanna McPherson, Holly Austin Smith, and Shamere McKenzie

Deanna McPherson had heard about human trafficking, but it wasn’t until watching a movie about the issue that her eyes were fully opened.  As she heard about human trafficking cases in the news, she began to research the issue.  And, after moving to Washington D.C., Deanna joined a group called DC Stop Modern Slavery (DC SMS).

“I felt I was finally able to be part of a group of folks interested in learning about human trafficking and who wanted to do more [about it],” Deanna said.

Deanna became Chair of the Book Club for DC SMS and discussed books like The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter, The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam, and A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery by E. Benjamin Skinner.  Deanna traveled to Cambodia with World Hope International as part of their Hope Corps and has since given presentations on the experience.  Deanna has served as a grant reviewer for an anti-human trafficking program, and she presently volunteers with a faith-based anti-human trafficking organization in Washington D.C. Continue reading

Meet Rani Hong, Special Adviser to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (UN.GIFT)


Rani Hong is a survivor of human trafficking.

As a child living in India, Rani was sold into slavery at the age of seven by a man who promised her parents that she would receive an education.  Documents indicate that this trusted family friend instead sold her to a child broker in a neighboring state.  Witnesses said the broker was using children to make bricks for factories.  After one year in captivity, Rani was deemed destitute and dying.  Records show that she was sold into an international adoption agency and ultimately adopted by a single mother in Olympia, Washington.

“This is why I’m telling my story today,” Rani said, “because there are millions of other individuals, like that little girl I was- imprisoned, enslaved, and silenced- unable to tell their stories.  I speak for those without a voice.”

In the past five years, Rani has partnered with international corporations, dignitaries, and celebrities, including Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, and Mira Sorvino.  She has appeared numerous times on international media including the BBC, CNN, and the Oprah Winfrey show.  Rani has spoken internationally to government panels, and she has helped to pass several state laws in her home state of Washington.

Continue reading