Human trafficking: Supporting foreign-born victims

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

Supporting Foreign-Born Victims

RICHMOND, VA, January 30, 2013 – Several advocates have emailed me recently asking for advice on how service providers can best serve foreign-born victims who were trafficked within the United States. This is a great question, I thought. As a domestic-born survivor of child sex trafficking within the U.S., I recently wrote an article offering advice to service providers working with domestic children who endured similar exploitation. In order to approach this particular question, though, I thought it best to hear directly from foreign-born survivors themselves.

I’m pleased to present advice from two empowered survivor activists: Ima Matul and Shandra Woworuntu.

Ima Matul, Survivor Coordinator for the National Survivor Network, was lured from her home in Indonesia to work in America as a nanny. Upon arrival, however, Ima was separated from her cousin and forced into domestic servitude for several years. Ima offered the following advice to service providers working with foreigners:

• Shelter is always first priority, but it has to be a shelter specific for victims of human trafficking, not for victims of domestic violence or homelessness. “My experience was in [a domestic violence] shelter,” Ima explained, “And it was hard for me to relate with the other residents.”

• Offer shelter services to male victims as well as female.

• Inform victims about their rights within this country.

• Offer education to victims, including English as a Second Language (ESL), General Educational Development (GED) classes, and computer skills.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Teen Revolt: Activist Ateba Crocker launches program to educate teens

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

Join the Fight

RICHMOND, VA, January 23, 2013-  Meet Ateba Crocker.  Ateba created an organization in 2010 called Shoe Revolt, a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit which she started in order to raise funds for programs that serve victims of sex trafficking.  As a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation, Ateba said she “desired to see others free from the trappings of the sex industry.”

In an emotional interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Ateba described how she overcame early childhood sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation.  Through her faith and family, Ateba found the strength to return to school, to graduate college with a Master’s Degree, and to publish her first book, Rescued: A Testimony of God’s Saving Power.

Ateba used her love for fashion to help other victims of sexual exploitation.  The mission of Shoe Revolt was to donate portions of proceeds gained by selling new and gently-used shoes. As Ateba built Shoe Revolt; however, she said she quickly realized that what was missing was an education program for teens.

“I decided to change Shoe Revolt’s fundraising focus to creating and funding a teen preventive program,” Ateba stated, “[Teens must be] empower[ed] to fight against predators [who] seek to take away a human being’s right to freedom.”

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Jada Pinkett Smith joins Katie Couric to speak out against Sex trafficking

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


RICHMOND, VA , January 14 2013 – Human trafficking.  It is an ugly crime and a scary topic.  This is why many people turn away from the cause, overwhelmed by the crushing gravity of it.  Luckily, advocates across the country are refusing to be silent as they expose the issue of human trafficking to friends, family, and neighbors.

Today, this advocate is Jada Pinkett Smith.

Jada will appear on the Katie Couric show on Monday, January 14 in order to raise awareness about human trafficking.  Joining Jada are three empowered survivors: Ima MatulMinh DangWithelma “T” Ortiz, and Asia Graves.  Katie Couric and Jada Pinkett Smith should be commended not only for inviting survivors to share their stories but also for recognizing their expertise in the discussion.

Survivors are often requested to recount the details of their testimonies at different events, including conferences, symposiums, workshops, and more.  Unfortunately, they are then excused from further participation.  As a survivor of child sex trafficking myself, this is baffling.  If there is to be a discussion or compilation of data regarding the prevention of human trafficking and the protection of survivors, should not there be a survivor present?

Read the article on the Washington Times website

The Gray Haven Project: Local nonprofit helps victims of human trafficking

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

Josh and Andrea Bailey

Josh and Andrea Bailey, founders of The Gray Haven Project (TGHP)

RICHMOND, VAJanuary 8, 2013 — Meet Josh and Andrea Bailey, founders of The Gray Haven Project (TGHP), an organization which serves victims of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation in central Virginia.  TGHP has grown over the past year, and the Baileys have become inspirational leaders not only for their community but for a generation.

Josh and Andrea actively engage with younger audiences through social media and events in order to spread awareness about human trafficking.  TGHP joined the VANS Warped Tour in 2011, and again in 2012, as a way to promote prevention among teenagers.  Matt Greiner, drummer for the band August Burns Red, endorsed TGHP in this fundraiser video.

The Baileys also engage with area businesses and organizations in order to raise awareness about human trafficking and to coordinate local, effective services for Virginia-based survivors.  As a survivor of child sex trafficking, I am proud to partner with Gray Haven and I urge you, my fellow community members, to join them as well.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Mental healthcare: Don’t drop the debate in the New Year

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

Mental Healthcare

RICHMOND, VA, January 2, 2013 – As New Year’s celebrations come to a close, I’d like to encourage everyone to remember the achievements, the sorrows, and the many important discussions and debates from 2012.  The tragedy which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School left so many of us stunned, speechless, and simply heartbroken.  There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been expressed in response to the Newtown, Connecticut shootings and to the other recent violence from Colorado to New York City.

I would like to begin the New Year by continuing an important discussion which was born out of these horrific events, and that is the need for greater access to mental healthcare.  Setting these tragedies aside for the moment, I want to express the general need for greater access to mental healthcare and for more comprehensive education about mental illness, especially for students, parents, and teachers.

As a survivor of child trafficking, I can speak from experience about the lack of appropriate mental healthcare available to me during my school-age years.  The first signs of depression and anxiety appeared in late elementary school.  By intermediate and middle school, I was exhibiting full-blown rage, which was directed both internally and externally.  My behavior was above and beyond the angst experienced by a typical teenager, but neither I nor my family had the education to understand or recognize this.

I needed help.  Real help, professional help.

Read the article on the Washington Times website