Holly’s Story

Holly Austin Smith

NewsWorks Article by Kevin McCorry, photo by Nathaniel Hamilton for NewsWorks.org

An excerpt from Walking Prey: How America’s Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery


June 1992, South Jersey

I was looking for something.

It was the summer after my eighth grade middle school graduation, and I had been looking ever since that school year had begun. The song “When It’s Love” by Van Halen was still popular, and I would turn up the radio dial to listen to the lyrics. Sammy Hagar sang about waiting and wanting to connect with someone–I was the same way. I stared into the faces of strangers as they passed by me in large crowds, a habit I had picked up that year. I was looking for someone to acknowledge me in some way. I thought that if someone noticed me, if somebody, anybody, didn’t look away when I bumped into his view, then I would know that I was really there–that I was alive and solid and visible.

And then one day, somebody did.

I was walking through the mall with friends, searching each face, when I noticed a man watching me. I held his stare, waiting for him to turn away, and then he raised his finger and curled it back, motioning for me to come over to him. I blinked and looked behind me, thinking for sure he must be talking to someone else; but nobody was there. I looked back at him and he curled his finger again, motioning for me to come over.

I shook my head no.

He dropped his fist and continued to watch me. I looked around to see if anyone noticed the exchange. My best friend and her boyfriend had stopped at the Piercing Pagoda, my other friends loitering around them, and everyone else in the world continued to look over me, past me, or through me. Only this guy noticed my existence. It was a moment for which I had been waiting–a stranger who lived out there in the real world spotted me and invited me in. I was unsure of what to do, hesitant; yet I was equally afraid I might miss this opportunity–but for what? I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out.

Read more of the prologue from Holly Smith’s Walking Prey.


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