Michealene Risley is an award-winning writer, director, entrepreneur, and human rights activist. She has survived and thrived after being sexually assaulted as a child and has increased awareness of violence against women and kids.

She spoke out, created a movie and curriculum on child sexual abuse and co-authored a book sharing her story in hopes that it would help others.

Michealene has created some of the largest deals in the consumer products and entertainment industry. She has worked with a number of fortune 100 companies such as Nike and the Walt Disney Company.  With Adidas,  Michealene launched Power of Two, the first-ever branded maternity line. As Vice President of Licensing and Character Development for Sega of America, she championed the Sega Girls Task Force and produced well over 100 episodes in animation.

Michealene founded and ran the non-profit organization Freshwater Haven from 2002 – 2014 to address the dramatic social change that is required to stop physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women and children.

She also wrote, produced, and directed a short film called Flashcards, which won Best Cinematography at the California Independent Film Festival, Best Short film at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, and the film screened in the Cannes Film Festival “Shorts Du Jour” program. Flashcards was distributed by American Public Television on PBS stations. The film reveals some of the most complicated issues of child sexual abuse and the broader cultural patterns that help perpetuate it.

As an award winning filmmaker, Michealene Cristini Risley co-wrote and directed Tapestries of Hope, a feature-length documentary that exposes the myth behind the belief that raping a virgin cures a man of HIV/AIDS. Her trip to Zimbabwe resulted in her being imprisoned and deported in an attempt by the Mugabe-led government police to quash her telling the story of Betty Makoni, a Zimbabwean child and human rights activist (a CNN top 10 hero for 2009) whose Girl Child Network rescues abused girls and provides them counseling, healing and educational support.


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“I don’t want what happened to me to define who I am. It was just a series of events, but it doesn’t define me.”Click-To-Tweet

In This Episode:

  • Being a “master” of empathy
  • Why she’s hesitant to include dominance in her definition of mastery
  • Growing up with dark secrets that she wasn’t initially prepared to face
  • How slamming her hand in a car door proved to be a life altering moment
  • Why her childhood experiences have given her a keen eye for picking up on other people’s emotions
  • Making a documentary in Zimbabwe and being thrown in jail
  • Why the hardest moment in her life was her not being true to her family mission
  • Comparing and contrasting external success vs. the internal experience


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Human Rights Activist |

Michealene Risley is an award-winning writer, director, entrepreneur, and human rights activist, who's survived and thrived after being sexually assaulted as a child and increased awareness of violence against women and kids.