Warrior for Human Rights
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. We were the first to really identify domestic sex trafficking here in the U.S.,” 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.
“Stopping human trafficking, which is a very lucrative enterprise, has easily been my passion for the last 17 years,” said Richardson, a single mother of two adult children who earned a master’s in leadership and is currently a doctoral candidate in Public Policy and Social Change at Union Institute and University.
Now the executive vice president at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Richardson continues to blaze trails as an advocate for women and girls. In 2014, she launched the International Human Trafficking Institute, which engages college students to help fight against sex and labor trafficking “through a shift of culture, hearts, and minds.”