Audrey Morrissey and Lisa Goldblatt Grace
DescriptionCo-Executive Directors Audrey Morrissey (58) and Lisa Goldblatt Grace (53) of My Life My Choice remember their first meeting, reflect on the growth of their organization My Life My Choice, and discuss the importance of uplifting the voices of survivors of sex trafficking.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Audrey Morrissey
- Lisa Goldblatt Grace
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Partnership TypeFee for Service
StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.
00:02 Hi, my name is Audrey Morrissey. I'm 58 years old.
00:07 Today is April 12th. 2021. I'm from Boston, Massachusetts. And I'm here with Lisa Goldblatt Grace, who I work closely with other organization in Boston called my life. My choice, and Lisa is my direct supervisor at the organization.
00:27 Hi, my name is Lisa Goldblatt Grace. I'm 53 years old, is April 12th 2021. I'm in Boston, Massachusetts. And I'm here interviewing. Audrey Morrissey. One of my favorite humans on the planet, who I get to work with that. My life, my choice.
00:48 Hi, Lisa. Same space. I hate that. I'm excited about today. I I'm just reminiscing about how you and I first met at a party. Remember. I just remember what I said to me, was telling me about this new startup organization and the training of people on Commercial, sexual, exploitation, of children, and could I come and kind of share my experience being in the life and I was like, no problem. And I remember the first time I met you at the first training that my life, my choice did and and you were so welcoming and so excited. And and I remember just watching you speak and training that audience and
01:46 I was like, oh my God, I I'm impressed with what this woman is doing here, you know, on how can I be more in the back of my mind it, but how can I be more a part of what you're doing? Right? It just, you know.
02:03 Looks so exciting and sad at the same time. You know, I'm what you were covering, but I was like, wow, how can I, how can I be more of a part of this and I just remember you just being so welcoming. It's sweet of you to say that because what I remember of myself from 20 years ago, almost 20 years ago when we met that and now I look back and I think I feel like I didn't know anyting to know what I mean. Like, I feel like I was just learning and you knew so much and
02:37 I can't remember the exact first time we met that. I remember the first time we did a train that was just the two of us that nobody else was there and it was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And it was a huge gym at like like a YMCA and it was lines and lines. And lines of people sitting in chairs and I was really nervous cuz I was still feeling like God, I don't I don't think I know enough and you were
03:04 Funny and smart and personal and thoughtful and moved everybody in that room. So the parts I had to do we're so we're still manageable. You made it manageable for the part I had to do cuz you did the part of getting people to understand and to care and to get that commercial sexual exploitation what's happening right now to kids in their communities. Like you move that mean you made them feel and it just that's what I remember so much and just being in awe of you and and who would have thought that time whenever that was. So maybe that was 19 and a half years ago, that we'd be still sitting here together. And you know, we were younger and 1/2 years ago, you know, how time flies. But one of the things that I do really want to
04:04 Always been curious about.
04:09 Is what what led you to want to work with? Would move you to work with survivors? The first Survivor who started the program with me? And then when I met you, I knew you all taught me so much about what was happening to young people in this country. And at that time, we were thinking about girls. We were thinking about was happening to girls and and work with girls in bad situations for a long time.
04:42 But I didn't understand about this and I didn't and it just felt like this is what I'm supposed to be doing right now. Now from some kind of Savior perspective, like people need me. Not that but like these incredible women know what to do to fix this and maybe I can help them a little bit. Like maybe I can be part of this with them and quickly. Learned, you know, as we started to grow my life, my choice and grew the number of survivors in, in our program who were working on a program, as well as we worked with. But that these were the smartest, most resilient, most powerful women I've ever met. Most hilarious, you know, like 8, just, I just felt like I'm so lucky if I get to be part of this with them, you know, what was it like for you?
05:37 To be the first, I mean, you were the first Survivor in Massachusetts to kind of stand in that like stand in your story, standing your expertise and know that there was something you could offer to kids. Like what was it like being the first? Well, I'm sick of myself. I'm kind of giggly right now thinking about it and I'm laughing because first of all and I always share this is that, you know, I'm a mother of three daughters, you know, and and I have to be honest.
06:14 I always wanted boys, right? And so,
06:21 Because in a girl stitches sassy, I mean, I do know, I had three little minis. Let's put it that way. So I don't know about anyone I'm speaking for Audrey's children, right? And
06:34 Insult, to be honest with you. Never ever in my wildest dreams. Would I ever thought I'd be working with girls? Because one of the first things that
06:46 We'll come to my time like listen cuz I listen, I'm a Survivor. I was out there. I was on the streets of Boston. I'm like, oh no, no, no. Can't do it. No, and I remember the first time a DCF worker after you and I had trained. All of these Department of Children and Families, folks, in Massachusetts on Commercial, sexual exploitation of children, right? What were the red flags? Come on. To help them. Better identify young people. And I remember this worker, the social worker asked me to go and go. Visit this young lady who was at that time in a long time.
07:35 And I really didn't know what I had to offer her. And so I just went in and also being a woman and Recovery. All I can do is give her my, my experience, my strength, and my whole. That's, and I just don't know why, but I'd learn write. And, and I just went to visit the young lady and I explained to her. You know, how I got in the Life, how I got out of the life, how fabulous my life had become and dumb? And I remember asking her, you know, do you want me to come? And see you again? If you like for me to come and see you again? I'll come and see you weekly. And she said, sure, no problem. And I think back about a month later. I had like the word must have got around like, in a month. I had like three or four young people on my caseload and dumb. And that's when I remember sitting with those young people as laugh when they laughed, I cried when they cried and not crying with
08:35 In a way of feeling. Sorry for them right around identification, right? I remember when those things, right? And I remember, I would say to the young people, one, in particular early on, I would say to her because she was fight back or two years, and I would say to her. You know, what, you're sharing is a lot. I've even getting to sweetie. I'll cry with you, and I remember learning early on
09:05 It's okay to cry with them, but don't leave until you put them back together. You can't believe the visit with them being, you know, sad and distraught about life's situations in their lives. Right. Right, then from there. I mean it just builds and you're not. I was all over Massachusetts mentoring. These young people and found it to be the best thing that I have ever done in my entire life. So it was exciting for me. And now we have 15 people 15 survivors doing. I think it's just an 15/16 doing that same entry. And the model is spread across the state and across the country. And when I think about that first young woman that you met with, what I remember most is that you've been exploited for maybe three years before that, maybe four and all that time. She just got bounced around and she got criminalized. Got arrested. She got told that
10:05 This was her fault in a million different ways. And then the, for the first time, someone sat down and they got it and she to this day. I mean, when was last time we saw, I guess, maybe a year. So go before before the pandemic, but that relationship with you with the most have little moment. And that's that's what helped me understand and even more. So like this is how change will happen is. We have to listen to Survivor survivors, have to lead. And in that, you know, that I could, I could love this young woman and support her in. As I got to know her. I did love and adore her, but I could never communicate to her.
10:48 I'm get you something that I can never communicate to her. Hope the way that you could write, like the way that she could see it and it was inviting and and you loved her and you taught me and taught the built our program together. That love was going to be the central theme, right? Like you go to social work school, right? I got my Master's and they're like, keep a distance are key, but not a distance, but like, but that love is boundary-less and like love is inappropriate. And, and then we met these young people for the one thing. They didn't have was consistent love. And so they look for it and they got what they thought was at right from an exploiter and that
11:30 Their whole world could change if we if they could be loved by people. And so we did with founders of the program is all that. Like we found our way to do it, but we built the whole program on what you started on that day of like I'm going to, I'm going to. You will not be alone. I will join alongside you and you will be loved and not I think it's the most transformational. Hey, do you know what does that mean? And I do also the fact that our kids get bounced around a lot, whether it's all right, whatever. Even if they're get caught up in the criminal justice system, whatever they were, the promise that I will go. I will see you whenever you are, like, it doesn't stop here. And so that for me was just so exciting with which, then leads me into a question for you, like,
12:29 Hey, if when you look back from when it was just the two of us. What is your thought about where we are today? Like, what? Is that? What do you do? When you look at the work that my life, my choices doing even nationally, training for right training folks, nationally are prevention, curriculum used in 33 States including Canada across the country. Just heard you earlier to talk about standing there thinking. I don't know what I'm doing, what you know and being was sitting here thinking. How are you? I mean now is that what is that like for you?
13:11 I still I can't believe it. I had that moment in almost every staff meeting. Right? Where we when we are in prison, would sit down together or when the zoom screen comes on and there are 34 35 people there and it was sold for so long was just you and I and then it's you and I and end in till 2010. It was three of us. And it's 2021 and where, you know, continuing to hire more folks. And then the need is great. And I, I sometimes, I can't believe it and I go back to
13:46 Kind of the vet.
13:49 Like the foundation. We built it on, right? That we were going to build something together that was built on Partnerships, that was built on survivors and allies coming together.
14:01 Equally with respect with support that, that Survivor voice would be. Prioritized that Survivor leadership would be prioritized and
14:15 And then and then sometimes I think, like, what? Like we we were able to hold on to that like or what does it mean for you when you look around, like, what are your noi when I think about it and I'd look around with first thought that comes in more recent, you know, cuz I think back on it was just the two of us and my voice was all over the place and still is. But now, when I look around particularly at the survivors in the organization really get in touch with really getting in touch with the lifting of other survivors voices in this movement that
15:02 You know, it's it's ongoing and I use the term fight we've been fighting, right? This is an issue. We've been fighting for almost 20 years and and I feel like now with fighting even hotter. And and so, I guess what I'm saying is,
15:24 I'm really after about 20 years.
15:30 Understanding that, what I bring to the table is not just.
15:37 What I've given to the youth, over the years, I have used that are grown. Like I have grown women that, you know, my first few mentees are in their thirties. We're not right for who the love that I had given them. A couple of them are still in my life today. Right? I think, I think of one young lady whose suffering with them paranoid, schizophrenia will get hospitalized all the time and one number that she doesn't forget, is mine. Right? And so what I'm learning now, because now I'm doing other things in the movement.
16:19 And not mentoring. I see a couple of kids, just right, but now I'm feeling like
16:26 The next level for me, when I look at how our organization has grown in that. There are 16 survivors, and I'm not with the young people, the way I was that. Now my role is to uplift, the adult survivors who are working in our organization and realizing like that. That's powerful to write older Little People, Sarah. Don't let them people know who have grown up and who need support as well. And so,
17:02 I guess it's kind of mind-blowing for me. I'm like you do cuz it's hard for me. A lot of time to think of myself as like it. An example or people look up to, you know, I'll always say I'm just a humble. I was just you know, and I give myself enough credit but there's more for me to do because this is going to go on when you and I are retired gone, right? No longer here. And so, how can I come in where I feel? Like? Now I want to look at how we've grown, just really got me. What I need to do. Moving forward for the survivors, who work for us with come behind me.
17:44 Are they like you?
17:48 You we've always talked about like, what it means to be a good Ally and like tried to figure that out. And I feel like I've spent the last 20 years and I'm just trying to really figure that out as best I could and end making mistakes, right? Like definitely making mistakes that a long list of them. But what is with all you've learned? What do you think of the key characteristics of an ally? What does that mean to you like in this movement and in this walk?
18:16 Okay, the first space that comes to mind is yours. So let's keep that real, and 100, and I'm, and I'm not saying that in a believe me. I am not into people who brown nose and I can't stand. It makes my skin crawl. This says, this is the truth of the matter, and just to give an example. It's it's so funny, you know, when we go back to when it was just you and I and you and I would doing all the training and one of the things that I really admired about you.
18:50 Was your level of humility and I remember like when the first slide when we did go to slides, remember before slides? Remember when we were just talking it through with right, everything on flip chart, paper to roll it up and we get there to take them up around the room, right? Cuz remember the fear. Remember the fear of her husband and we were like defiant. We're going to do it our way out like please, I'll give it to you. He could not deny that. Now we need to do some.
19:36 And I think of the slide and I remember.
19:40 You know, our names will be on the slide and how your name will always be above mine. Right? And I came to this work as a Survivor and there are a lot of survivors who have degrees master's degrees. I didn't bring any of that to the table. I brought like my experience about my experience of being in the life. And one thing that made me a good made you a good Ally, is that you would always tell me you're the expert. You're the expert. You're the expert. You drill that into me over and over and over again to where my esteem building. Somebody had something to say. I'm like, I'm an ex like that, you know, and dumb. But one of the things that I really love
20:22 What's how you would always have my name above yours on the slide.
20:27 And I remember, and you remember this conversation and I said to you, Lisa.
20:34 You have done your work.
20:37 To get your letters behind your name, honey. You can put your name above mine. I don't have a problem with that.
20:46 But that came from you being a and I'm going to cry, it came from you.
20:53 A real NY.
20:56 Meaning. No. It was no ego involved. It was
21:02 It was wishing to help people. In the people. We are serving of the most important and the survivors voice has to be uplifted. I also think of
21:15 People would say to you, do you pay her? Remember?
21:24 Hey me. What's right? And I think about that. Now that I have a voice when I'm training, I will try to bring you. No talk about, you know, people you have to pay the survivors, you hire have to remind people, we still pay rent. Some of us own homes. Some of us have children in college that we have the same bills that are feelings, do it. So
21:51 And you squat to me like you really thought for me like you only checked people around that issue and that's what an ally is like someone who puts
22:04 What's up front? What's most important to help people? And what's with you and Ally was you have let us behind your name? Clinically? Yes, you can you help people but you know, we were working with survivors and let us behind your name was not the solution to helping. Are you get out of the life? It was like I was voice is in in the trainings. You knew that the survivors voice? Listen to what she's saying because she's going to share throughout this training her experience. You knows what she's talking about. I haven't lived this but she has and so you fought for me, you know, in the in the workplace and you still to this day I feel very respected around everything. Like you make sure I don't feel less than because I have a g e d like, you know what I mean? Like, in the work.
23:04 You know, and in another thing that makes you a great Ally, you know, sometimes I have to say, Lisa, you can do that honey. Now that when I can't feel like, I'm alright with me sweetie. I know where my shrimps are. You can take that part. I'm going to do this part. And so you allow me to grow and you also allow me to. If I say, no fat is too much for me and then you you do it. You like okay. I got it. So it feels like a partnership. Thank you for saying that. But when you say, I allowed you to grow, I feel like you allowed me to grow. You can let you let me make mistakes and you didn't kind of give up on me to know what I mean. You didn't say like, okay. Here's another whatever Clinic.
23:51 Let me figure it out alongside you so that we so that it really was a partnership and checked me as I need to be checked and still do. And I think of you know, when you say things like that. It also reminds me that things have gotten better in the last 20 years. In those early years. We would get calls and some would say like we're going to do this event on this new thing you're talking about me that took a while in the beginning. Remember we do training that would be would be begging them to do the training. We be like you have to pay us will bring food for you.
24:26 And then when people started to realize all movies the problem, we need to talk about they would call and say, so we want you to, we want an expert and we want to survive her, right? Like remember that I'm trying hard not to swear on this that likes. And so, you know, and I would do like a few like deep yoga breaths and then I would be like actually, you know, both an expert and a Survivor that you don't doesn't separate people and then built a program where every Survivor on our team is also an expert right like that. That is what it means. But anyway, thank you for saying that.
25:05 And do you, what did you expect? It would be like, like our relationship over the years. Like what it would mean to be in Partnership? Like the new. Imagine we'd get here.
25:19 I did as you remember, Lisa session, right? And they just kicked us to the curb and then it's been other times too, like looking for money and I will and you were working off of unemployment right now, you know for me, I was working a full-time job back then. So I still have any rights. I had it all that one needs to live, right? And dumb.
25:57 And I will always say to you.
26:00 We're going to be fine. We're going to be fine, but you know, when I go back, you.
26:13 I think you had more times of. I don't know, then I had, you know what? I mean? The face yet, you were in those places where? No, I didn't know. It was like that things. You don't know where the next meal is coming from, but I know I'm going to eat, you know what I mean? And I would always so I've always believed in you.
26:34 In the organization. And I, and I have to say that like,
26:42 That, I believe that, I think believing in each other. I believed in you.
26:53 And there was a level of which, you know, you believed in me and him. And when we really look at this.
27:03 And I'm not discounting anyone else and I organization, but we wouldn't it wouldn't be what it is. If we didn't believe in each other, the way that we have over the years. And you also made me think of when we have our little spat and that's not like you, I can have my stat. I don't have to feel like I do if I got to check her but now or you call me for something and I had my list of all waiting and I got to get with her. Okay. I'm going to take my all right. She got my butt around. All right. I'm a, I'm a little feelings. You know, I'm a few. I'm a little feelings and when they left, and I'm in a more spiritual place right now. I will be calling her cuz I'm list of things that I have to check you. Write 2.
28:03 Why is that? I don't have to be fake with you. I don't have the next woman of color and keep it 100, a woman of color conditioned, right? Of a certain way to work in the white world, right? Asleep it 100. Don't you say nothing or drink? Right? You might lose your job. They might think, right? And that makes a good Ally that anytime like
28:30 Anytime I have a disagreement with you.
28:35 Are you with me? But if we flip it around, I don't go into that. Disagreements. And all of you say this to her. You're not going to have a job for off. And then then your clinical something, her clinicals. They said they near clinical self which helps me, you know what I mean? And so I think what we're good at is,
29:01 You have an ability to help me right when I need clinical help cuz there are times. I need clinical health and then there are times when I have to help you around stop and clinical, it is what it is. Damn it. Sorry, and I did swear. It's just, I'm just excited that we were sitting here. We're having this conversation to be able to really talk about a lot of things that he's just not, because our organization has grown so much. And because people are pulling you from all kinds of directions to know. So I can be a little jealous to, like, wait a minute. I don't like I used to. Do you help me with that to almost, like to get you or drink? Go on now. Now go on that. You've been doing this girl, get away from me, go over there.
30:01 People. Now you now you already know this stuff, not go on down and you help me when you've done that many times cuz then I'm like Lisa said, I can do it, so I can do it. It all many times. Many times has been the same going the other way. Like, when you, you tell me that when you remind me that I know something, right? Like, cuz I'm so I'm so clean. I feel so clear of how what you know is.
30:30 Different more important, all those things. And what I know when when you kind of Center me and tell me know you can do this. It it does the same for me what all the stuff we've done together. What do you most proud of you have something that comes to mind as trying to think about this?
30:48 But I think I'm most proud of go to things how we've grown. And what I'm most proud of is is the mentoring the mentoring program, you know what I mean? Like,
31:04 I just
31:06 Because I just believe in.
31:10 For an organization to be successful and kind of walk their talk.
31:16 You got to get down and you got to get, you got to get in there with the people. You know what I mean, like being behind the scenes doing in a paperwork and pushing a grant writing that stuff that you guys do. Right? Cuz you need funding to do it. But to me, that's that's what I'm most proud of you. Babe. We have an organization with 16 survivors that are out in the communities of Boston, and surrounding communities of Boston, reaching out to argue and we are done good at it. And I'm really that is what? I'm just most most proud of what are you most proud of?
31:54 I would say that that in that grows that we've done, that. It's also survivors who are doing the clinical consultation for other programs and training programs, all over the country and running out prevention. Like that is
32:09 And in that, over the last, almost 20 years that things have changed and we have so much more work to do and this is still happening too far, too many young people and adults.
32:20 And it's better than it was right, like there's better policies in place and laws and play some more people understand it. And again, we got a long road.
32:31 But that, we're
32:34 But it's better, things are better and I'm kind of proud of us for sticking in it together, you know.
32:43 Like I'm proud of that.
32:46 Yeah, that's something that that feels important to me. And I just want to say this cuz I don't get to say these things recorded and I don't know what else we'll talk about. But this feels important to me that I just want to say like, in this recording.
33:03 Just how much I love you and that you're one of the most important people in my whole life and my whole life and I think of you as family, so I just want to say that cuz I have a chance to say it and it's somewhere. So it feels important to me that that will be recorded for generations to come and I love you right back and I'm getting so emotional. Will you know when they talk about all the bee archives and people will be able to in the anti-trafficking movement, be able to kind of pull this information and listen to what we have to say and as a Survivor and recovering addicts like nobody really ever want to hear what I had to say, you know what I'm saying? So it's really, it's really important and I'm at least me to ask.
33:54 What are some of the greatest successes in the anti-trafficking feel that you think have been accomplished in the last 20 years, that we've been working? What ifs? What is a highlight for you?
34:06 Yeah. Yeah, the number one thing that comes to mind and I know this isn't across the whole country, but that young people who get abused in this way are seen as victims. Enter offered support as opposed to being criminalized in those early years. Like, when I think about the fact,
34:26 That likes 14 year. Olds are getting locked up for it, just as outrageous and that doesn't happen anymore in our state and it doesn't happen anymore. In most of the country. Feels good to me. That feels like,
34:42 The fields momentous again. There's so much more to do there, and it's not clear. And no adults should be locked up for this either, right? Until we truly understand this is that this industry harms and that it's victimizes and that everyone deserves better than this. We want we want to arrive where we need to, but the fact that at minimum, we have started that the world and restore our world. Understands that these kids are victims feels really important to me. What about you?
35:12 Well, I am just the movement as a whole to just see survivors and allies being able to come together. And of course, we living in the world of Kobe Bryant now.
35:29 But before covid and after covid, just to see and be a part of different conferences, survivors and allies coming together to educate people across the country, on the issue of trafficking. I remember when we first started what will we go to a conference once a year or something like that? And now, you know, everybody was there cuz it was like we were all over the country and
36:08 Even now in the days of covid cases in a webinar or, you know, we're still the anti-trafficking movement. I'm still very impressed with with them because
36:25 We're coming together. You know what? I mean? Doesn't mean that you don't bump heads or survivors and allies don't disagree because I'd be lying. If I said that you and I both had those experiences, but the fact that we all have the same goal is to in trafficking. That's what I'm most proud of. And one thing to that, I wanted to
36:54 Wanted to ask.
36:59 Who are your mentors a role models growing up in in?
37:04 Social Work helping people. What? What led you to?
37:09 Want to do that work, because we know that that's not work where you going to be a Millionaire, right? Right. Bottom line, right, but it's all about helping people. Tell me about that.
37:25 That's a good question, man. I think I grew up with the understanding that.
37:32 That that, that things weren't fair that the playing field wasn't fair.
37:40 And that I had to have, I had a responsibility.
37:44 Tinted in whatever small way that I can to make things better and to show up for people. Just that likes fundamental. I feel like I got that from my mom and dad, you know, my mom and she is the kind of Soul on the planet and and I think that kind of was instilled in me at a young age. What about you are, too? When you think now, like, what is a, what are the most important things you want to leave this? This archive with? Is there anything you didn't get to say that you wanted to say? Well, I just, you know, what, I think of I didn't have a lot of Role Models, you know what I mean? Like I just come from a place. We have rolled into the role model, you know, I watched a lot of people who were Hustlers and shoplift it, right? And so those were the people that I looked up to one of the things that I want to say is that I wish there was a gay organization, my life, my choice, and Lisa Goldblatt Grace
38:45 That was in a riding around in a van. I remember when I was in the life. It was a van that would ride around the combat zone, which is in the area and Boston.
38:56 We are all the strip clubs and, you know.
39:00 And I remember then what come around because I was out there during the AIDS epidemic and I remember they would go around and pass out condoms. And the reason they were passing out condoms not to protect the girls and women in the life, but they didn't want the upper middle class, white men who are buying your most of the buying of us didn't want them to be infected. Right? And so what I want to and not because I work for the organization. This is not why I'm saying that I'm talking about the services that the organ in the organization provides how I would have not been in the life. All those years for almost fifteen years. I know I wouldn't have if there was someone like you who cared
39:52 Enough to make a difference in to help young people get off the streets. So, anyone doing this, this kind of work. It's a blessing. It's a blessing. So, I'm just fortunate and feel very fortunate to be a part of your life. And your mother is the bomb, I did. And I always, you know, I always say, I want to take her and she gives me the best hugs when I, whenever I can just give you the best hugs. And when I come to your house, your mother makes me feel like family to make me feel like a little girl and I just like laying on her little shoulder. Do I get my love? I Resort rights a little girl and get my love right? Because, you know, my mother did the best she could but not coming. I didn't come from nurturing, you know, I mean, I came from kids are to be seen and not heard. And what I want to leave with that messages, thank God today. And thank you. Lisa Goldblatt Grace for making me visible and the abyss.
40:52 Need to be heard, so I just want to thank you for that. Thank you.