Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery  by Holly Austin Smith

I read Walking Prey out of my respect for Holly Smith’s advocacy and survivor perspective. I had read and posted many of the articles she had written for the Washington Times Community Section on our Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) social media sites over the last year, so I was excited about her book.

Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery is an incredible resource for law enforcement, teachers, social workers, mental health professionals, youth service providers and anti-trafficking movement lay people. She gives sound advice, based on both her research and personal experience as a commercially exploited child.

It is galling to read how she was treated by those who should have helped her, but Holly’s voice is not one of bitterness and anger. Rather, she provides much-needed tools and resources, so those mistakes are not repeated with other exploited children. She has included appendixes of resources for parents, victims, teachers and law enforcement, among others. This book is a must read for those working with at-risk youth and those who have already been trafficked or commercially sexually exploited. 

One of the main reasons I highly recommend this book to not only those working with youth, but also to the general public, is because she paints a picture of what so many trafficking victims and commercially sexually exploited children actually look like in the United States.

So often, when we hear of human trafficking, we are bombarded by images of people in chains, bloodied and broken, looking downcast and miserable … women in jars and meat packages; and, unfortunately, when the shock value wears off, we are left with a false concept of what a trafficking victim looks like. So when we see the teen in a mini-skirt, fully made up, smiling seductively, strutting in her stilettos, we look at her differently — a prostitute — someone who has chosen this life … someone bad … not a victim. And we do nothing to help her. We blame her.

Holly’s book washes away the make-up, takes off the heels, and helps us to see beyond the short skirt, the seductive smile and the supposed choice. She examines some of the root causes that can lead to the commercial sexual exploitation of a child: the objectification of women and girls in the media, sexual abuse, feeling inadequate, and the constant messaging that sex is love. 

As I read the book, I wanted to copy whole pages and post it on our social media sites, but, honestly, taking a page here or there does not do this book justice. We, as parents, need to read it. Our daughters and sons need to read it. Our law enforcement and youth service providers need to read it. It is honest, detailed and helpful on multiple levels. I would encourage you to purchase this book or to ask your local library to order a copy so you can read it. I have included the link to her articles in the Washington Times, as well as the link to her book on Amazon.com.

To read articles by Holly Austin Smith:


To preview and/or order Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery:



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