As a survivor of child sex trafficking, Holly Austin Smith refers to her life in two acts: before and after Atlantic City. 

The New Jersey town, a town well-known for its casinos and nightlife, was where Smith was taken in 1992 as a 14-year-old by a man she'd met at a mall. 

Smith believed she was meeting a man she'd met at the mall two weeks prior who she'd been talking to on the phone and had convinced her to run away with him to begin a career in the music industry, she said. 

Later, she found out the man she met at the mall was the cousin of the man she'd been speaking with and the two were working together to traffic young girls, Smith said. 

Once in Atlantic City, Smith said, she was introduced to a woman who put in her in a red dress, heels two sizes too big and more makeup than the teenager had ever worn, then sent Smith out with a much older man who'd hired her for prostitution. 

Within 36 hours on the street, Smith was arrested for prostitution, she said. 

"Who knows what my life would have been like," Smith said, adding the man she was with had planned to take her to New York City the day after she was arrested. 

Smith -- who was in town with copies of her recently published book, Walking Prey: How America's Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery, presented "Human Trafficking 101" to a room full of Texas A&M students Tuesday night. 

In many ways, recovering from the experience was harder than what she'd gone through, Smith said during an interview prior to the presentation. 

Police and the court system treated her as a delinquent, her parents made her feel like a troublemaker, her therapist blamed her for running away, and "I was treated by people in the community like I was dirty," she said. 

It took nearly two decades for Smith to realize she truly was a victim of child sex trafficking. 

"I was what they call a 'willing victim,'" she said. "Willing victims don't get the attention they deserve." 

Too often, Smith said, the media and advocacy organizations depict child sex trafficking as an issue that involves physically abused or helpless children.

But "just being a teenager" is a predisposition factor when it comes to a victim's vulnerability to child sex trafficking, she said. 

Smith said she's a strong advocate for kids who insist they want to live the way they've been manipulated by an adult into living and has spoken to law enforcement throughout the country to raise awareness about those situations.

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(1) comment

jake

Wow. So neive and stupid. Young people, go to church, and get involved with church youth groups.

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