HEAL Open Forum: Pandemic Uprising: Survivors, COVID-19, and Racial Injustice

We are excited for you to watch our third open forum on human trafficking and COVID19, called “Pandemic Uprising.” In partnership with the National Survivor Network (NSN), this forum included a panel focused on survivor experiences at the intersections of COVID and Racial Injustice.


Biographies of Moderators and Panelists

Ima Matul (She/Her) is a survivor advocate, mentor, consultant, international speaker, and currently the Survivor Leadership Program Manager at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST).  She manages multiple projects related to survivor leadership including overseeing the LA Survivor Network “Resilient Voices” and the National Survivor Network (NSN). Ima is also one of the founding members of this survivor leadership program, and since its inception in 2004 has spoken at local, national, and international conferences and training. Ima has consulted with multiple organizations on starting and supporting Survivor Leadership Programs, including developing a training curriculum with Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVCTTAC) on Survivor Professional Development. Ima has received multiple awards for her work including recognition by President Barack Obama as a hero in today’s modern abolitionist movement. Ima was appointed to the first United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Jaden Fields (He/Him) is an LA-based poet, cultural worker, and educator dedicated to cultivating healing-centered spaces for marginalized communities. As a black, queer, trans organizer, Jaden’s work has centered on racial justice, gender equity, and violence prevention since he was in high school. Jaden has facilitated community health programs and support groups and created intentional spaces committed to healing and wellness. Jaden was an inaugural member of the Transgender Advisory Council for the City of Los Angeles and currently sits on the board of Gender Justice Los Angeles. As a performer, he believes in the beauty of vulnerability and the strength in the stories our bodies hold. He trusts that storytelling is an ancestral form of healing magic, so he tries to tell his own sometimes. Jaden self-published his first chapbook, Intentional Musings on Staying Alive When I Want To Die (2019), an honest depiction of navigating mental health and systemic oppression and leaning into his own healing.

Rhonelle Bruder (She/Her) is a TED Talk speaker, advocate, and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of RISE Initiative; a community for survivors, advocates, and allies to inspire, educate, and empower each other.  A survivor of human trafficking, Rhonelle has shared her story of overcoming adversity and resilience to global audiences and uses her voice to advocate for raising awareness of human trafficking and for the rights of survivors. Rhonelle holds a Master of Science in Health Informatics from the University of Victoria and an Honours Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration from New York City College of Technology and has over eight experience working in research, business analysis, and project management. In addition to her public speaking and advocacy, Rhonelle provides consultancy to corporations, NGO’s, government agencies, non-profits, and advisory committees. Her expertise includes the design and implementation of culturally relevant, evidence-based, and trauma-informed services for women, youth, and those from diverse and racialized backgrounds; specifically, regarding human trafficking,  homelessness, and mental health. Rhonelle is recognized for her leadership in raising awareness of human trafficking and advocating for the rights of survivors. She was awarded one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to Watch in 2019 and has been featured on CBC, Global News, The Agenda, Flare Magazine, The Toronto Star, and more. Rhonelle is a member of the HEAL Trafficking Board of Directors.

Terriana Evans (She/Her) calls East Oakland home. She is a graduate of Emerge Academy and the Self-Determination Advocate at the Young Women’s Freedom Center. Terriana was one of four girls featured in Dr. Monique Morris’ documentary, “Pushout: the criminalization of black girls in schools”. For three years, Terriana has shared her gift of art and mentorship with LA County youth at the Youth Empowerment Conference hosted by the Dept. of Mental Health. Terriana is passionate about using her experiences and skills to inspire other young women to understand that their past doesn’t determine their future and that anything is possible. She is expecting her first child next month!

Tris Lester D. Bacani (He/Him) 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 that are committed to ending human trafficking in all its forms. Mr. Bacani, now a Registered Nurse, is truly an inspiration to others. He turns his life experiences into hope as he advocates for victims and at the same time works toward recognizing trafficking and intervening in healthcare settings.

Xi (She/They) is a Black Native sex worker,  survivor and radical transfeminist. Her work redistributes resources,  knowledge and care to other #girlslikeus



Jess Torres (They/Them) is the Survivor Leadership Program Coordinator at The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and Co-Chair of The National Survivor Network. As a 2019 Women’s Policy Institute Fellow, they successfully passed their human trafficking initiative in the State of California, and have served as a keynote speaker, trainer and presenter for various efforts throughout LA county (LADPH, LAUSD, LA HT Task Force, Little Hoover Commission, Dignity Health & Kaiser Permanente, etc). Jess was recently recognized by the City of LA with a ‘Change Maker’ Award and a Certificate of Recognition from the CA Senate in honor of “Outstanding Community Service” for their work as trainer with the CA Dept. of Social Services. Jess is also an independent consultant, collaborating with various Federal agencies and participating in a variety of national conferences and symposiums, including work with Freedom Network, UN Delta 8.7, and The Human Trafficking Institute.

Katherine Hargitt PsyD (She/Her) is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, specializing in traumatic stress, vicarious trauma and resilience. Katherine has been actively involved in the national and international anti-human trafficking field for the past 20+ years. She has specialized in the psychosocial care, recovery, and re/integration of survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Katherine has been leading advocacy efforts and training for civil society, providing consultancy for governments and NGOs, and conducting international research on human trafficking. She is an active member of the Sonoma County Human Trafficking Task Force, which she helped start, and the Sonoma Valley Homelessness Task Force. Katherine has served on M.I.S.S.S.E.Y.’s Board of Directors, is a Mental Health Advisor for Global Health Promises and works for Sonoma County’s Department of Health Services’ Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU).






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