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A Human Trafficking Survivor Tells Her Story

Holly Austin Smith, human trafficking survivor
Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media

A Human Trafficking Awareness Day was held at the State House today. There were videos, songs and speeches. Clearly the most moving segment of the program occurred after newly sworn-in State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa introduced Holly Austin Smith, a native of South Jersey. Holly is a human trafficking survivor.

In the summer of 1992 Holly was 14-years-old. She had just finished 8th grade. Holly was confused, afraid of the prospect of high school and the possibility of losing her friends. That’s when she met a man at a mall.

“I wanted someone to listen to me,” explains Holly. “I wanted someone to understand. He did. He listened to me….He said I was too mature for high school. I just needed to run away. He could get me a license and a job in Hollywood acting with Julia Roberts.”

Just 36 hours after running away with the man, Holly was arrested for prostitution on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City. 6 days after that she was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for an attempted suicide. One month after that Holly was arrested again on the same street in Atlantic City.

The story ends well for Holly. She eventually escaped. She graduated from Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. Now in her early 30s, Holly lives in Virginia and has achieved her dream of becoming a biologist.

Holly is warning anyone who has kids or even knows kids to be aware that human trafficking is happening. She explains, “Traffickers prey on all children, all the boys and girls at the mall, at the movies or on the streets as runaways. All of those kids are up for grabs to sexual predators.”

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