2017 Graduate and Professional Studies Commencement Speaker

Warrior for Women and Girls


Deborah Richardson, an SMC alumna and senior advisor of partner engagement for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta

In an Atlanta juvenile courtroom in 2000, Deborah Richardson MA ’13 witnessed a booking that deeply impacted her professional life. A 10-year-old girl, handcuffed and shackled, was sent to jail on a curfew violation after being found in a van with a 42-year-old man who had rented her for sex. The man was slapped with a $50 fine and let go. At the time, pimping and pandering a child for sex was a misdemeanor in Georgia, but not for long.

Richardson helped lead a campaign to change the law to a felony, and raised $1 million to open Angela’s House, the first safe house for sexually exploited girls in the Southeast. “People thought sex trafficking happened over in Thailand and Bangkok,” said Richardson, who also organized over 20 organizations in 2010 to force Craigslist.com to close down its adult services site, where adolescent girls were being peddled for sex. In 2014, she launched the International Human Trafficking Institute, which engages college students to help fight against sex and labor trafficking.

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