Vegas Magazine - Niche Media - There is a place beyond the crowds, beyond the ropes, where dreams are realized and success is celebrated. You are invited.
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Survive to thrive MULTIFACETED PAIR TOLGA AND CHRISTINE MARIE ATAS HAVE EMBARKED ON THEIR MOST IMPORTANT WORK YET: PROVIDING REFUGE AND INSPIRATION FOR ESCAPEES FROM SEX TRAFFICKING. by SCOTT DICKENSHEETS Tolga and Christine Marie Katas are a motley Las Vegas duo. He's a former musician and pro- ducer, now an inventor and a fashion photographer. She's a software developer work- ing on her PhD in media psychology. Some years ago, as a single mother, this former Ms. Michigan found herself trapped in an abusive, polygamous, sex-trafficking situation in Utah. After escaping, bereft of resources, she eventually went public with her story on the Investigation Discovery series Dangerous Persuasions, in an episode titled "Prophet or Predator." Later she met and married Tolga. After years of helping similar victims informally, in 2013 the couple began a program called Voices for Dignity to assist people escaping from religious polygamy and prostitution by pro- viding them with housing and jobs. This fall, their message will gain a larger platform when the Lifetime channel captures their efforts in the reality TV series Escaping Polygamy. ON HELPING VICTIMS Tolga: She'll get an anonymous call at 2 in the morning and say, "I've got to go drop off clothes in the middle of the road." These women are so afraid [of getting caught], they don't even want to meet her. The couple once assisted a boy named Willy, an escapee from the notorious Warren Jeffs's polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Tolga's uplifting photos and video of Willy were shown on ABC's 20/20. Christine: When a girl [from the same church], Alissa, saw the footage online, it was a wake-up call. Within two weeks, she was out of there. As part of Voices for Dignity's work, the couple employs Tolga's visual expertise to shoot empowering photos of escapees. Christine: The first person we did a photo shoot with, we worked with her therapist to find out what message she needs to believe about herself— things like "I'm smart, I'm beautiful, I'm strong." Then we created backgrounds and costumes to help show that. In one she was an African prin- cess. In another she was sitting at a computer, looking professional. When we were done, the therapist said, "That was not a photo shoot; that was a life-changing experience." Tolga: There's something about seeing a photo of yourself with a power message. It shows that, Wow, I can do it. From their Las Vegas home, Christine Marie Katas and her husband, Tolga, are turning her personal trauma into a fight against religious polygamy and prostitution. PEOPLE Spirit of Generosity 68 vegasmagazine.com