Notice: COVID-19 resources, information and plans for current and upcoming academic terms. Learn more.

Inspiring Leadership Forum 2021: Virtual Edition, presented by TD Speaker Spotlight on Holly Austin Gibbs

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: January 29, 2021 10:00 a.m.

Holly Austin Gibbs, survivor of and advocate against human trafficking, is a keynote speaker at the 2021 event.
Holly Austin Gibbs, survivor of and advocate against human trafficking, is a keynote speaker at the 2021 event. Photo: provided by Holly Austin Gibbs

Holly Austin Gibbs is an author, a survivor of child sex trafficking, and an advocate for survivors of all forms of human trafficking. She is also one of three keynote speakers sharing their story of courage at this year’s Inspiring Leadership Forum 2021: Virtual Edition, presented by TD, which takes place on Wednesday, March 3.
 
The theme of this year’s event is The Courage Within, and Gibbs acknowledges that beginning to speak out about her own experience is the most courageous thing she has ever done. In her book Walking Prey: How America’s Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery, Gibbs shares her own story about commercial sexual exploitation at the age of 14. She continues to share her story in speaking engagements and interviews, as well as advocate against human trafficking. In 2015, Gibbs testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of two bills: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act.
 

Registration is now open for the Inspiring Leadership Forum 2021: Virtual Edition, presented by TD.

“The first time I spoke about surviving sex trafficking, it was over 15 years after I had been exploited by a sex trafficker and was recovered by law enforcement,” says Gibbs. “I was literally shaking, as I read from a tiny piece of paper I could barely look up at the audience. But I was so compelled to share my story to benefit an organization, led by another survivor, which provides victims services to young people of all genders who have been commercially sexually exploited.”
 
Gibbs continues to fight human trafficking full time in her role at Dignity Health, one of the largest healthcare systems in the nation and largest hospital provider in California. She serves as the Director of the Human Trafficking Response Program, overseeing the organization’s efforts to identify and appropriately respond to vulnerable persons and victims of human trafficking in the healthcare setting.
 
Gibbs believes that more education is needed when it comes to responding to human trafficking in our own communities. There are many misconceptions, and many times people believe it will not happen to them, or that it doesn’t happen in their country altogether.
 
“It is a misconception that human trafficking only occurs in countries outside of North America, every country is affected by human trafficking, including the United States and Canada,” says Gibbs. “I was a U.S. citizen, born and raised in South Jersey, and I was targeted and trafficked by a man who was also a U.S. citizen. People can be trafficked for commercial sex or labour without leaving their home community.”
 
With this year’s Inspiring Leadership Forum moving to a virtual format, it provides a unique opportunity for people from around the world to participate. Attendees can look forward to a high-quality networking and learning experience in this half-day event, consisting of three 30-minute keynote presentations, with an opportunity for attendees to ask questions after each presentation.
 
Individual tickets for the event are $75, with 100 per cent of the ticket proceeds supporting the Inspiring Leadership Academic Entrance Award, a brand new, four-year $30,000 scholarship at the U of R. Tickets can be purchased online on the Inspiring Leadership Forum website.

Related

Inspiring Leadership Forum 2021: Virtual Edition, presented by TD Speaker Spotlight on Suki Kim

Registration open for Inspiring Leadership Forum 2021: Virtual Edition presented by TD