Lisa Kristine’s Shine a Light Poster and Campaign

I was so honored to be included in Lisa Kristine’s Shine a Light poster and campaign! Lisa’s photography is amazing and inspiring.

Shine a Light

From, about her campaign:

“As many of you know, Lisa’s recent focus has been on documenting modern day slavery – traveling into the heart of broiling brick kilns, down rickety mine shafts, and into the hidden lairs of sex slavery. A conservative estimate says that there are more than 27 million slaves in the world today – men, women and children who risk their lives and are forced into labor without pay, under threat of violence, and cannot walk away.

October 18th is International Anti-Slavery Day. In honor of this day, we have created a poster to help Shine a Light on this horrific condition, and to awaken a force in people to participate in the eradication of slavery. A percentage of proceeds from the purchase of the Shine a Light poster, Slavery book, or Slavery series prints go directly toward anti-slavery organizations.

Here’s what you can do:

Buy a poster:

Spread the word – send to your email lists, post on Facebook, tweet….

Learn more about Lisa’s work and watch her Ted Talk on Mondern Day Slavery. (note that some proceeds from all Slavery posters, books, and prints go toward anti-slavery organizations)

Thank you so much for your help!”

The Life: TV show reveals the brutal cost of sex trafficking of women and minors

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

WASHINGTON, October 24, 2012 – Very few images and videos regarding the topic of sex trafficking are able to stir my emotions.  They are often too violent, too overdramatized, too sensationalized, or just too innocent.  When I watched, Ballerina, a promotional clip for George Perez’s and Mohammad Maaty’s brainchild television series project, The Life, I was honestly moved.

It took me back in time to a middle school child who had been lured away from home by a man promising tales of Hollywood stardom.  This man, who turned out to be a top-ranking member of a sex trafficking ring, forced the 14-year-old girl into a life of prostitution.

That girl was me.

Within five minutes, actress Jessica Devlin transported me back to the summer of 1992, back to a moment on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in which the memory of my rock stardom goals seemed like distant pipedreams.

It is because the producers were able to capture this moment with such subtlety, compassion, and evocative power that I am writing to tell you about their mission to create a television series called The Life.

If producers George Perez and Mohammad Maaty are able to gain the attention of an able and willing network, their mission is stated as follows:

The Life will examine, in depth, the causes, experiences, and struggles taking place in the world of under-aged sexual exploitation in New York City; from the perspectives of the exploited (teenagers), the exploiters (pimps), and those involved in the fight against under-aged sex trafficking (law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, and private investigators, among others).

In addition, we will follow one pre-adolescent female character to the trigger incident, to running away, to recruitment into “the life,” to survival on the streets and under the slavery of pimps, to escaping “the life,” and then to the reclaiming of her own life and future.

This will give audiences the most thorough explanation and understanding of how victims of sexual exploitation come to be and what resources exist (and don’t exist) to help them. We will also examine how the legal and law enforcement systems are not yet fully organized and efficient nationwide. We will examine how male victims of child sex trafficking continue to fall through the cracks because most awareness and funding is geared toward helping female victims. Thus, this series also hopes to reshape government policy toward the expansion of resources and protection offered to all child victims of domestic sexual exploitation, regardless of class, race, or gender.

We also aim to spread awareness of this epidemic issue and to help enact positive change through safe, active participation from our viewers by providing contact information at each episode’s conclusion to organizations that can help. Viewer activism is what we’re striving for. Despite the gritty tone of this compelling, scripted drama, there lies a hopeful message at its core about people who fight this fight 24/7 and strive to provide a successful future for rescued youth.

Perez and Maaty’s advocacy caught the attention of actress and activist, Q’orianka Kilcher, who, at the age of 14, emerged into the front ranks of young actors with her portrayal of Pocahontas opposite Colin Farrell and Christian Bale in The New World. Her performance won her the National Board of Reviews’ best breakthrough performance (2006) and the Alma Award for best Latin American actress in a feature (2006).

Q’orianka is also a committed human rights and environmental activist. Traveling frequently to speak at youth events, colleges, and universities; she has been a featured keynote speaker and workshop facilitator at international conferences and events for organizations such as Amnesty International, the International Forum on Globalization, and the United Nations.

With Q’orianka’s support, Perez and Maaty have created a crowd-sourcing funding campaign for their pilot episode.  In order to make this television series project a reality, the producers are asking for donations to help them film the pilot episode.

“We think of it as more than a television show,” stated Perez, “The Life represents a movement, a call for action; the drive propelling us to create this series is one of justice and human rights. Join us in the movement.”

Will you join the movement?

Follow The Life on FacebookTwitter, or YouTube, and donate to their cause today.

NSN Praises President’s Announcement to Better Protect and Assist Human Trafficking Survivors

September 26, 2012



Sheila and ImaMembers of the National Survivor Network (NSN) are thrilled that President Obama openly declared a U.S. initiative to address the global issue of human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, and were especially pleased that President Obama listened to the priorities of survivors and reflected those priorities in his speech and his action plan.

After the speech Keisha Head, survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, stated, “Today feels like a new Independence Day for me! I will always remember today. Thank you, President Obama, for caring [about] those affected by Human Trafficking / Modern Day Slavery. And a special thanks to those survivor sisters who represented us so beautifully. Our voices have been heard!”

Antonia “Neet” Childs, survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking and founder of Neet’s Sweets, stated, “[I am] so proud to be a part of this fight and movement, and [to be] a part of history yesterday! We are motivated and determined to keep pushing forward!”

NSN members have prioritized passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2011 (TVPA), the seminal federal legislation that provides protection and funding for survivors of human trafficking, and they applaud the President for requesting its passage in his speech.

Ima Matul and NSN member, Holly Austin Smith, presented joint testimony to the U.S. Congress to support the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act last year. This was the first time a U.S. citizen and foreign national survivor of labor and sex trafficking provided joint testimony to Congress, demonstrating a united front among individuals with diverse backgrounds. The NSN is proud that President Obama has now lent his support to this essential piece of legislation.

“I was so happy to hear the President push for reauthorization of the TVPA,” stated Holly Austin Smith, survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking. “This month marks a year since Ima Matul and I spoke on Capitol Hill in support of this legislation, and I do hope that Congress acts quickly!”

NSN members have also prioritized increased training of first responders, public awareness, and funding for services for trafficking survivors, all priorities highlighted in President Obama’s speech. NSN members strongly support President Obama’s call for a national action plan to better address human trafficking in the United States and to collect better data to understand this problem.

Margaret Howard, domestic sex trafficking survivor and Master Social Worker, stated that “lack of services for human trafficking survivors in the United States is a huge problem. When I was 13 and had just escaped from sex trafficking, I was too scared to tell anyone what happened to me and, as a result, I tried to take my own life and then suffered years of medical issues. I hope the President’s initiative will ensure that other girls like me receive the help they need immediately! I am so excited, and I’m so proud to be part of this movement. Together we can do great work.”

Alice Nyiro, foreign national labor trafficking survivor, stated, “The services I received after the FBI rescued me from my trafficking situation were life changing. We need to ensure that all first responders have proper training to identify human trafficking survivors like myself as well as have the right programs to provide the support survivors need. I had not seen a doctor in over two years, did not have food or a place to go. Hopefully the President’s initiative will ensure that survivors escaping from years of abuse finally have a safe place to go.”

NSN members were especially proud that in his speech President Obama honored Ima Matul, a founding member of the NSN, survivor of child labor trafficking from Indonesia, and Survivor Organizer at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), and Shelia White, Survivor Leadership Coordinator at GEMS in New York.

Additional quotes from NSN members:

Margeaux Gray, survivor of child sex trafficking, stated, “Ima and Sheila are leaders and movers. My day had been made. Thank you, Ima, for sharing! Slavery still exists, it’s time to abolish it for good. Join the movement!”

Stella Marr, survivor of sex trafficking and founder of Survivors Connect, stated, “I know Ima Matul and Sheila White will accomplish great things. And the more we join our voices and work together – the more empowered we become — and the more we are able to help those still going through those terrible things we once knew. In our voices, hearts and unity — we have the power.”

Stacy Jewell Lewis, survivor of sex trafficking, stated “I am speechless and overjoyed by the President Obama’s address concerning Human Trafficking. To watch him span the camera and highlight fellow members of the National Survivor Network brought tears to my eyes. We work so hard on the ground level just hoping someone will acknowledge our cause and fight for trafficking victims with us, and to have it brought to light on the national stage through the most powerful man in the nation is more than anyone could ask for.”

If you are a survivor and would like to join the National Survivor Network, please contact Ima Matul at


About NSN: The National Survivor Network is a network of trafficking survivors created in February 2011 by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST). The NSN’s mission statement is to bring together a community of survivors of human trafficking, by creating a platform for survivor- led advocacy, peer-to-peer mentorship, and empowerment that embraces all survivors, regardless of gender, age, nationality or type of trafficking experience. Members include men and women survivors of human trafficking from 15 different states and 22 different countries.

How YOU can help prevent child trafficking

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

 How YOU Can Help

WASHINGTON, October 4, 2012  Raising awareness for the prevalence of child sex trafficking in America is critical in the global war against human trafficking.  However, audience members at community awareness events are often left feeling overwhelmed by the issue.

“What can I possibly do?”  I’m often asked by those still reeling from survival stories and statistics, “How can I get involved?”

And I always answer in the same way: Become a mentor!

Mentoring is an easily accessible and effective way to prevent human trafficking in your own community.  Child predators, specifically child sex traffickers, target those youth who are most vulnerable, those who lack the support and guidance needed to overcome and avoid the many challenges associated with adolescence.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children stated the following on their website:

Each year thousands of children run away from home, are forced out of their homes, or are simply abducted by their parents or guardians. The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children 2 (NISMART-2), conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), estimates that in 1999 more than 1,680,000 children had [such] episodes.

Some of these children leave home to escape physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many end up on the streets. Without legitimate means of support and a safe place to stay, they are often victimized again through pornography, sexual exploitation, and drugs.

Connecting with troubled or at-risk youth before they run away is a key factor in the prevention of child sexual exploitation.  You can make this happen by volunteering with a mentoring organization or by supporting youth-based organizations in your area.  As a mentor, you will help children build self-confidence and coping skills as you explore their different interests and expose them to new ideas.  You will also accomplish this simply by being there for them.  As a volunteer or financial supporter of youth-based organizations, you will enable the children in your community to realize their full potential.

Born and raised in New Jersey, I often travel to the Garden State to speak and raise awareness about human trafficking.  Recently, while speaking at an event in northern New Jersey, I met Carlos Lejnieks, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties.

Carlos joined BBBS in 2008 while the Newark-based organization was still undergoing changes to improve growth.   The program was serving about 100 children at that time.  By the summer of 2011, the program had jumped to serving over 1,000 kids, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Carlos, a New Jersey native, recognized early on in life the importance of mentors.  Raised by a single mother, an immigrant from Ecuador, Carlos struggled to watch his hard-working mother clean the homes of upper middle-class residents.  Carlos quit high school in order to get a job and help her.  Luckily, a caring adult in Carlos’ life persuaded him to return to school.

This person helped Carlos realize that the best way he could help his mother was to stay in school.  Carlos went on not only to graduate high school but to enroll in college.  He completed his bachelor’s degree program at Brown University and then earned a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Carlos is now passionate about growing his BBBS program in order to help lead other disadvantaged youth into successful futures, and I am so happy there are people in the world like him.

I remember feeling very lost and lonely that summer after eighth grade when a stranger spotted me in a crowded shopping mall and befriended me.  I was desperate for a connection with someone, so desperate that I didn’t recognize the nefarious intentions behind this man’s friendship.  After he promised a new life in Hollywood and convinced me to run away from home, this man forced me into a life of prostitution at the age of fourteen.

You have the power to prevent this from happening to other the children.   Become involved with or donate to a child-mentoring organization like Carlos’ Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

To find a youth mentoring program in your area, I encourage you to visit

In a recent article listing child trafficking prevention strategies for middle school teachers, I suggested that teachers investigate their local child-focused volunteer organizations and to make this list available to students.  I encourage all parents and caring adults to do the same.  Please research what programs are available in your area and make those organizations known and accessible to the kids you know and love.

For troubled youth, having a relationship with a mentor could derail them from any detrimental decisions.  A child or teen without any other options is vulnerable to believing a stranger who offers “a better way of life.”


Recognizing Heroes Benefit

Morgan Perry

Morgan Perry is the Executive Producer/Producer of the Sex+Money: A National Search for Human Worth documentary and campaign. Morgan produced the Sex+Money documentary and in 2011 launched a national campaign, screening the film in all 50 states and Canada. Since the release of the film, Morgan has been interviewed by CNN, NBC, Voice of America, World Magazine, Relevant Magazine, and more. Morgan was also the recipient of a Certificate Of Recognition for her work in combating trafficking from the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.


Holly Austin Smith

Holly Austin Smith is a survivor of child trafficking survivor advocate, author & speaker. In November 2011, Holly appeared on the Dr. Oz show and was also featured in the August 2011 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. Holly submitted joint testimony to Congress, in support of the reauthorization of the Trafficked Victims Protection Act (TVPRA). In addition to working as a training consultant for the AMBER Alert Program, Holly is requested on a regular basis to provide testimony and input to law enforcement officials, social service providers, human trafficking task forces, and journalists. Most recently, Holly was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Trafficking in Persons Symposium in Salt Lake City, UT, an event hosted by the United States Department of Justice.


Arlene Irion

Arlene Irion is the Director of National Initiatives of F.A.C.T. Alliance and their “Let’s Respond” campaign to fight against child trafficking in America. Arlene has been involved in local and federal law enforcement for the past 13 years.  Her expertise is related to commercial sexual exploitation of children.  She was the recipient of the FBI Director’s Award for Excellence and The Attorney General’s Award, the highest honors bestowed by the Department of Justice, for her exceptional performance and notable accomplishments in establishing a dynamic, multi-county task force in Southern California that is dedicated to rescuing minor victims from commercial sexual exploitation and prosecution of their perpetrators. Arlene served on the advisory committee for the film documentary “Sex+Money; A National Search for Human Worth.”  She has a passion for righteousness and justice and a tender heart towards the innocent children who have been sexually exploited and victimized.


Ben Decker

Ben Decker is a publicist, event planner, promoter and entrepreneur. He has been involved in events associated with the Golden Globe Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards and more. Ben specializes in producing and publicizing concerts, fashion shows and charity events. Ben has been a part of fundraising events for Unlikely Heroes, Toys for Tots, Susan G. Komen foundation, Benson Breast Cancer Foundation, Children of the Night, SPCALA, The American Red Cross, Falling Whistles, Love Cures Cancer, Total Family Support Clinic and more. Ben is an active member of the community, often finding new projects to participate in, volunteer for, and support. A former actor, he has appeared on multiple TV shows and film, and most recently, reality TV featuring his work in public relations.