Suleman Masood is a subject matter expert on domestic labor trafficking and male victimization. Since 2013, his advocacy experience allowed him to work with state and federal government agencies and non-profit organizations. Mr. Masood’s expertise includes collaborating with victim service providers and task forces to advocate for ways to improve the quality of services for trafficking survivors. This work emphasizes the need to build partnerships with survivors and to ensure that strategies and implementation are created with a survivor-informed approach. Mr. Masood’s partnerships with service providers and first responders include serving as a senior program specialist on behalf of the Office for Victims of Crime and working as a consultant for various law enforcement agencies across the United States. In 2017, Mr. Masood was credited with coining the phrase “survivor-informed,” which was adopted and published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services; a term now integrated throughout the anti-trafficking field. In 2022, Mr. Masood wrote, produced, and narrated a one-of-a-kind visual PSA on labor trafficking with the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Mr. Masood graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Criminology/Victimology from Fresno State University and currently attends the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law, where he aspires to create meaningful change within the criminal justice system.
Andrea Hipwell currently serves as the Director of Participant Transition and Persistence at Wellspring Living in Atlanta, Ga. Andrea graduated from the Wellspring Living Women’s Residential Program in 2009 and never imagined that she would have the honor of supporting survivors exiting the same life she is now free of. She is passionate about survivor leadership as she understands the importance of including survivor voices in the development of programs and services for survivors. Andrea is well versed in the areas of trauma informed care and strength based leadership and care. She has been recognized for her incredible determination and motivation for change in the area of survivor leadership and her tenacity to support survivors as they begin a new life. Andrea earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in the area of Criminal Justice from Georgia Gwinnett College in 2016. Andrea serves on several task forces and coalitions including the GA Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force and the GA Coalition to Combat Human Trafficking.
Tris Lester Bacani
Tris Lester Bacani is an immigrant from the Philippines who came to the United States legally with a work visa in 2006 to seek the “American Dream,” only to find himself in a human trafficking situation. Since escaping from that nightmare, Mr. Bacani has become part of several organizations who are committed to ending human trafficking in all its forms. Many survivors of trafficking understandably wish to put their ordeal behind them and focus on the difficult process of recovering and reestablishing their independence. Mr. Bacani has done an admirable job of advancing himself professionally and personally, while making time for advocacy efforts to help prevent the exploitation of others and to improve services for future victims. While it is not easy to identify publicly as someone who has suffered mistreatment and great hardships, he does so in order to help others. Mr. Bacani, now a Registered Nurse, is truly an inspiration to others. He turned his life experiences into hope as he advocates for victims and at the same time works toward recognizing trafficking and intervening in healthcare settings. Mr. Bacani’s goal is to serve as an inspiration to other survivors of human trafficking as proof that victims still have the chance of pursuing the American Dream, no matter what the price. He believes that if you have the aspirations and a dedicated work ethic, your dreams are achievable. According to him, the “American Dream” is about being able to pursue your passions while remaining optimistic about the future.
Dr. Marlene Carson
Marlene Carson, SurThrivalist, Minister, Author, Publisher, Founder of Rahab’s Hideaway and CEO of The Switch Anti-Trafficking Network, is one of America’s foremost authorities on the subject of human trafficking. While many have a textbook knowledge of the perils faced by teenage girls who are forced into prostitution, Marlene knows from her own personal experience. At age 15, she became one of the tens of thousands of girls and young adult women who are exploited daily. She is a native of Columbus, Ohio, but her heart for injustice knows no boundaries. Marlene’s work has been a leader in changing legislation. Her work has been featured on Katie Couric, Oprah (website), and the CNN Freedom Project, as well as on international and national news. As a consultant, one of Marlene’s desires is to educate and empower organizations that have a passion to protect, a desire to provide, and ability to see victims as priceless. Marlene has received many awards and commendations including President Barack Obama’s Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rafael Bautista is a subject matter expert on labor trafficking and a graduate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ first Human Trafficking Leadership Academy. With his expertise and real-life experience, he has helped and supported different organizations across the country and internationally in creating training programs, strategies, videos, and outreach materials for human trafficking awareness. As an active advocate, Mr. Bautista has testified in support of bills that provide better services for survivors of human trafficking. The California Department of Social Services recognized Mr. Bautista as a leader in the fight against human trafficking in California. Mr. Bautista has shared his skills and expertise with his fellow advocates and his fellow survivors, believing that no matter your race, culture, sexuality, or kind of trafficking – labor or sex – all survivors of human trafficking deserve proper support.
Bella Hounakey has dedicated her professional life to encouraging and supporting victims as they navigate the recovery process. Since 2011, she has served as an advocate, organizer, and speaker on anti-trafficking programs and policies. She previously served on the Board of the Human Trafficking Coalition in Michigan. She has also counseled female victims of sex trafficking at a specialized residential Trauma Recovery Center. Since 2015, she has worked with and supported the most vulnerable trafficking victims in the foster care system. Throughout her career, Bella’s ambitions have remained steadfast: raise awareness, reduce risk of victimization, educate members of the judicial system and general public, and advocate for victim protection and treatment. Bella received a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Spanish; and a Master’s degree from Western Michigan University.
Sameer Jain is a native of India. He advocates for a scientific and a data-driven approach towards prevention, identification, prosecution, protection, rehabilitation, and assistance in cases of labor and sex trafficking. A subject matter expert on labor trafficking, he has spoken at various governmental and non-governmental organizations on the subject of trafficking and aims to focus on cases involving individuals/groups of people moved to the United States through legal channels. He wants to increase awareness at the federal, state, and local government levels as well as leverage and engage faith-based and ethnic minority-serving organizations to increase public awareness about trafficking. Mr. Jain moved to the United States on a visa for specialty occupations, spending all his life previously in a white-collar profession. Despite his social, educational, and financial background, he lived through the horrific experience of trafficking. Instead of pushing him into the corner, this horrific episode made him determined to play a lifelong role in combating trafficking.
Fainess Lipenga, a survivor activist, is the training advisor at the Human Trafficking Legal Center. She has been an active member of the National Survivor Network since 2013, and a board member of Survivor Alliance from 2018 to 2022. As a survivor of labor trafficking, she uses her voice and experience to educate the community and raise awareness. Her mission is to prevent other survivors from being re-victimized and give them hope and courage to heal, become leaders, and achieve their dreams. She served on the Steering Committee for the Freedom Network USA. Prior to her role as training advisor, Lipenga served as a consultant to the Human Trafficking Legal Center for more than five years. Lipenga has testified before Congress regarding the challenges that survivors face, and has presented to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She has trained pro bono lawyers, law students, physicians, law enforcement officials, healthcare professionals, and federal prosecutors. She has spoken at national conferences and developed expert training materials. In 2019, Lipenga testified before the Maryland General Assembly to advocate for passage of the Anti-Exploitation Act. With the help of her testimony, Maryland passed the bill, making labor trafficking an illegal act for the first time in Maryland. Lipenga is a recipient of the Justice for Victims of Crime Award from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, DC. She believes survivor voices and leadership are essential to advocacy on human trafficking.
Brenda Myers-Powell’s advocacy began in 1997 fighting for victims of sex trafficking. As a community organizer, she assists in organizing, training, and empowering victims to speak with legislators to bring change for their communities. She has been featured in numerous print and broadcast media outlets. She has been the key researcher in several research projects related to violence and the exploitation of women. Brenda is an outstanding public speaker, dealing with topics relating to poverty, violence against women, and criminal justice reform. She has been bestowed with several honors including the Chicago Magazine’s honoree, Illinois Coalition for Victims of Sexual Assault award for community activism, the 2010 Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Award, and many other special honors. She is the co-founder and executive director of the Dream Catcher Foundation and has sat on the board of numerous organizations including Sophia’s Circle, CAASE and PART. She considers herself fortunate to have survived many challenges in her life but is now able to use those experiences to assist others in their personal journeys of empowerment and recovery.
Rachel Thomas, a graduate of UCLA and a personal survivor of human trafficking, has extensive experience teaching, training, curriculum writing, public speaking and mentoring. As the founder of Sowers Education Group and lead author of Ending The Game: An Intervention Curriculum for Survivors of Sex Trafficking, Rachel has helped millions to become more aware of human trafficking and has helped hundreds of survivors break the bonds of attachment to traffickers and the lifestyle of commercial sexual exploitation. She and her work have been featured on numerous media outlets including New Day Morning Show on CNN, Inside with Chris Cuomo: Anyone’s Daughter on HLN, The T.D. Jakes Show, The New York Times Upfront Magazine and ABC’s Newsmakers.