Lisa Williams is an international heroine in her innovative efforts to counter child sex trafficking.
It was not enough for Ms. Williams to find her own freedom from a life of trauma and sexual exploitation. She answered the call to go back and free countless others like herself. It has been said as it pertains to child sex trafficking, Ms. Williams is a latter-day Harriet Tubman.
Ms. Williams founded Circle of Friends; Celebrating Life, Inc. in 1999 to educate, equip and empower women to live their best life, free of violence, as they served other women and girls. From those beginnings, in 2005 Living Water for Women was founded; in 2007 Living Water for Girls and the Living Water Learning Resource Center. Each program was opened as a beacon of hope. Over the years, Ms. Williams helped to spare the lives of over 200 children, including 14 boys and countless young women.
Williams knew the war she was fighting required more than simply raising funds and addressing surface issues. She used every resource she had to build programs that would address systemic issues and ultimately change lives. Through these intensive programs, Lisa developed what the Federal Bureau of Investigation calls “one of the most comprehensive, rehabilitative programs for child victims of sex trafficking in the country.”
A sought-after speaker, Ms. Williams has been called on to share her message on national and international platforms. Keynote addresses include thought leadership and experience on trafficking and sexual exploitation, self-care for women leaders, community collaboration, transformation and hope. Among those highlights: in 2013 Williams spoke at the United Nations 57th Commission on the Status of Women on the topic: The Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. Invited back March 13, 2015, Lisa spoke at the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women on the topic: Unfinished Business from the Beijing Platform for Action. Lisa had the distinct honor to speak at the White House on the topic: Eradicating Modern Day Slavery.
In 2015, the award-winning 2015 CNN Special Report, Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking featured Circle of Friends and the Living Water for Girls program. Through this documentary, Lisa and the young ladies from the Living Water for Girls and Learning Resource Center programs spoke to people across the world about the perils of America’s domestic human trafficking epidemic, survivorship and their hope for a better tomorrow.
On January 11, 2015, Williams established and galvanized the I AM Rachel movement; a collaborative of 400 lawmakers, colleges, survivor voices, houses of worship, community leaders, volunteers and Rachel herself to fight for Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act to become law.
On May 5, 2015, Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act was signed into law by Governor Deal; and the constitutional amendment, Senate Resolution 7, to secure the funding for the essential services required to heal broken bodies, minds and spirits, overwhelmingly passed with more than 83%- 3,000,000 Georgians voting “YES” on November 8, 2016. On January 1, 2017, Rachel’s Law became law.
Rachel’s Law is the first safe harbor law in America named in honor of a sex trafficking survivor. Rachel a proud graduate of the Living Water Learning Resource Center, is that survivor.
Lisa mentored and equipped Rachel as she stepped onto the world stage to become a powerful, authentic voice against the trafficking and exploitation of children and young women.
Ms. Williams understands the need to pave the way for survivors to have successful tomorrows by offering access and opportunities to post-secondary education and mentorship. With that understanding she established the newly announced Circle of Friends Impact Scholarship, to facilitate that goal.
Lisa’s focus has expanded further by opening access to protective and preventative education for those who work within the healthcare and education arena through cross-functional collaboration and community training, development and mentoring.
Ms. Williams the author of the best-selling book, Beautiful Layers: Stories from Those Who Survived the Life of Prostitution & Child Sexual Exploitation. Lisa honorably served our country as a former United States Commissioned Military Officer (Petroleum Surveillance Engineer), she is an Auburn Seminary Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle Fellow-Graduate and a proud member of the 2014 class of Leadership Atlanta.
Lisa is wife to her best friend of 30 life-affirming years and mother of biological and adopted children. She thanks God continuously for “this good life” as she works to pursue a better quality of life for those who call our nation home.
A few past honors and awards include: In 2014, the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, on behalf President Obama; In 2015, the first-ever L’Oréal Paris Impact Award, presented by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; In 2015, the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award; The Porsche Driving Force Award; The Ford Motor Company Ford Freedom Unsung Award; a L’Oréal Paris – 2010 Woman of Worth Honoree; Two (2) Proclamations from the City of Atlanta; and a Proclamation from the City of Charleston, SC. Ms. Williams was featured as one of 50 influential women over 50 in Good Housekeeping magazine in the September 2017 issue, as chosen by Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and L’Oréal Paris.
Lisa was nominated in 2014 and 2015 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and in 2016 by both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State for the U.S. Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Person. She counts this acknowledgment as a true recognition for survivors - American girls and young women - who call our community home and whom she humbly serves.