Politicians talk a big game about stopping human trafficking. But are they really doing enough? Are they putting actions to their talking-points? In this episode we meet Kathy Givens, a passionate and humble survivor or domestic sex trafficking. She tells her story and answers questions aimed at debunking the myths and misconceptions around this heinous and dark crime. Kathy also outlines what each of us can do to help eradicate human and sex trafficking in our communities.
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Welcome, everybody. Today on the answer we take a sobering and honest look at the evil of human trafficking. The misunderstood and worst form of human trafficking is sex trafficking. There is no doubt it is happening right in your community. As conservatives, we need to become more involved in fighting this heinous crime. And our guest today, Kathy Gibbons, will share her real life story as a sex trafficking survivor. Be sure to share this podcast with your family and friends. Follow me on Twitter, and Facebook at Ben Armenta Texas. You can also find out more about my story at Ben armenta.com. One of the things that annoys me about politics and I love to follow politics, I clearly I participate in the political activities where I live. But one of the things that annoys me about politics is that the talking points, regardless of the facts, become the truth. And reality is no longer the foundation of those talking points. Take for example, all the sound bites that were continually repeated on mainstream media about Donald Trump collusion with Russia, insurrection, bigot and racist. All those things are untrue. Is Donald Trump raw and unfiltered? Yes, he is. But the frequently ignored the frequently ignored facts tell, often a very different story. Donald Trump never colluded with Russia. And in fact, all the evidence suggesting he did was 100% fabricated and we found that out just this past week, when the Durham report released that the investigation that the FBI did was unfounded and shouldn't have ever occurred. Essentially, even CNN had to admit that it exonerated Donald Trump. Donald Trump did not want an insurrection, he told people to respect the rule of law days before January 6. And during his speech, he told them at that point, to protest peacefully. He's not a bigot, or a racist, his own family are Jews. And he appointed dozens of women to cabinet positions, including UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. But you see the lies when they are repeated over and over and over and over and over again. Although false, they become the narrative. And the same happens in political circles when one person talks about building the wall. Or on the other side decriminalizing marijuana, or Combating Gender mutilations, or whatever of the issue is of the month. Others latch on to it. Now in principle, like I'm not opposed to winning ideas, and politics is definitely about winning and losing. And I'm not opposed to building a common consistent platform to unify the party and build momentum and deliver results. What I'm opposed to, however, are people who can't think for themselves, people who are just repeating cuckoo clocks. just spouting out someone else's ideas. I want Republicans to know the issues, know the opportunities, identify the gaps, and form their own plans for making things better. One of the reasons why I started this podcast, actually, really the number one reason was to educate and activate more conservatives, moms, dads, families, kids, anyone who actually cares about the truth. And who cares about family values, getting them to come together, share ideas, learn and do something about it. And one of the topic du jour for Republicans and Democrats alike, it just depends on the angle that they take is stopping human trafficking. Democrats use it to say that America needs a more accepting asylum process. And Republicans use it to say that they need to lock down or Americans need to need to lock down its borders. When in reality, in order to really stop human trafficking, we have to come together and we have to keep vulnerable people out of this modern day slave trade This should be something that all sides of the aisle can work together on. And all levels of government has a role has a role to play in fixing this. So I'd like to welcome in our next guest, Kathy Gibbons. I first came across Kathy story a month or so ago when she spoke at a luncheon I was at. But now after doing a little bit of research, I think I had heard about her previously, when she was covered on on some local news here in the Houston area. But Cathy's overcome the dark world of sex trafficking. And as a survivor uses her time and energy, really to increase awareness around human trafficking and to fight for victims. She's been featured in all kinds of magazines and articles and participated in the signing of a bill in the oval office a few years ago, and is the founder of a nonprofit 1211 partners. And so, I'd like to welcome you, Kathy to the podcast. Thank you for joining me today. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. So I'd like I'd like to first kind of start off as you share a little bit about your background, your story. I think there's a lot of myths and misconceptions around human trafficking and sex trafficking. And I think your story lends a lot to debunking some of those myths and misconceptions. Can you share a little bit about your background? Absolutely. I like to start with my my childhood, because I think it just sets up a different storyline that we're used to as, as you alluded to the misconceptions that we're used to hearing and seeing. So I was, I came from an amazing household. It was a single parent household, but it was an amazing household. My mother was everything. She did everything that she could to take care of my siblings and I, and it was just really great, right, I was actually born in Canada. And there was a gear during my teenage years, my mom just wanted to change and decided to move to Texas. And upon moving to Texas, it was a it was a big change, right? Because for me it was going from, well, you know, it's self explanatory going from Canada, to and coming to Texas, that's a big change for a young person. And then going straight into high school and learning the customs and learning, you know, like the slang and how I'm supposed to dress and it was just a very different environment for me. And so some people may see that as just a life change, which it is, however, that can pose itself as a vulnerability in which it didn't in my case, because everything was just so new, and so big. And so I went through high school just kind of did y'all have connections? In Texas? Did you? Was there a network already here for your family? There was a so we moved because my I had we had family here. Okay. And so my aunt and uncle lived here. And they were very familiar with Houston. And, and they kind of just showed us, you know, they introduced their community, so their church community and friends and things like that. So we did have a community. But it was a different community. Very, yeah, it was just a very different community. Very, very, very different. And, and so in high school, we'll even talking about we're even talking about the education system. It's a big difference, right? The grading system even is different. And when I left Canada, I was this little girl just kind of played around, and I came here what would be in the US, it would be considered 10th grade, but really, I loved Canada, and I was like, leaving eighth grade. So I jumped straight to the 10th just because it's just a different grading system. And, and so that was big, right? And High School, for me was just kind of trying to fit in high school look like, you know, like every other teenager, really just trying to fit in just trying to find my way, learning my likes and dislikes and just trying to fit in with the crowd, the only differences I went, I was one of those kids that went the extra mile to fit in. So I was very adaptable and very moldable because I didn't know how I was supposed to be at that time. And so that's another vulnerability, right? Having to learn that at such a young age, so becoming susceptible to being brought into the world of human trafficking or sex trafficking, akin. It could start at any age, really, oh, it can start at any age. I know people that unfortunately because of familial trafficking, which we don't talk a lot about but it's when the family member is the trafficker. Some people are just are born into it. So their their earliest memory is being bought and sold, right. And I've also walked alongside people who they were introduced to it well in their 40s. So at the moment where you're thinking, Oh, well, you're an adult, you would never be, you would never be a target for this. But actually, it happens. So at any age, so you're you're a teenager you're working to fit in, you're probably, you know, self conscious trying to build a network, it doesn't sound too different than probably the experiences that any teenager has. Right. And that's what makes it so dangerous, because some of those signs are blended in with regular teenager stuff. Right? The signs of honestly, we just call it growing up, right? So kids are growing up, youth are growing up. And it's hard, because some of those signs that we would look for which we would call red flags. They seem like regular teenage teenagers just growing up. And so that's what makes it so dangerous, because it's hidden in plain sight. So, so what happened? How did it progress from from that to, ultimately to you being caught up in the world of sex trafficking, right, the vulnerabilities just began to just kept stacking up on top of each other. So things would happen in high school, for instance, I I, I experienced a sexual assault in high school. That was another vulnerability. And so all these vulnerabilities that are stacking themselves upon each other, are very attractive and appealing to traffickers. I didn't make it out of high school. And it was first year that I actually graduated. And I met this mutual through a mutual friend, I met this guy band, and this group of this group of guys, and they were super fun to hang out with. And they were very charming. What I will say, is that traffickers and trafficking, targets vulnerabilities, right? So and as I mentioned, the vulnerabilities were stacked on my end. So I was very appealing to this person. And he was in a guy band. He happened to be the leader of this of this group. He was, you know, he played the most instruments, he was the most popular. And then he started to take interested me, not my friends, but me. And for someone who is still trying to find their way, right. It was very, it. I thought I was blushing. Like, I thought that it was something that I was, it was, I was privileged to be in to be able to say that this person was interested in me. I couldn't believe it. What were the clues that you think he picked up on that you were vulnerable? Did you? Did you share an excessive amount? Did you open up early on to him? What What? What did he pick up on? Absolutely. So the that's a part of the process. So the befriending stage is actually what we've identified as kind of like the first step in the grooming process, what we call the grooming process. And so he became a friend, and what do you do with friends, you talk to friends, and you tell them things. And so there was a lot of questions that I answered, that was asked of me like, Hey, where's your mom? Where does she work? Where's your dad? So he found out very quickly that I was in a single parent household, he found out very quickly that my mom, because she was the sole provider, she was at work all the time. She he found out very quickly that I had a longing for my father, and I wasn't familiar with being affirmed by male figures because my father was absent. So he stepped in, and he he was that for me, right. And that's how traffickers prevent present themselves, they, they mold themselves into whatever the person needs at that time. So whatever vulnerability that person is experiencing, they will present themselves as filling that void and making that vulnerability go away, because they show up as that person as that need. And that's what he did. That's what he did with me. This person that was pursuing me, he started showering me with affirmations, he started showering me with, you know, gifts and making me think that I was telling me that I was beautiful and smart and all the things mind you, my mother told me these things however, I longed for the male figure in my life. And so he stepped in and was that for me? So looking back what what would have been the signs for you? Was it a too good to be true kind of situation and having sort of some you know, wanting or needing to have some some perspective and being able to take a step back and and be be critical of the situation and challenge the situation. I mean, what, what really the signs that in hindsight you wish you had paid attention to isolating me was one of the things. So he was very strategic and alienation isolation, and that he made sure that my friends who we all got into this big friendship with this group of people, they slowly started to go away. And that was because he would plant lies and make it just very clear that oh, you know, you shouldn't be with these people. They're talking about you behind your back and all these things. And so he made it, he made my world crumble to the point where he was the only one left in it. And I was having fights and arguments with my friends, I was having fights and arguments with my mother, to the point where I wanted to leave my mother's house, it was he was very, very strategic in dividing my separating me from my support network, and my community of support. And that would be a clear sign when someone doesn't want you to be supported when someone doesn't want you to be around your loved ones. That's a clear indication that this person has an agenda that is harmful. Another sign is not allowing me to speak for myself. So I thought, and it's called coercion, right? This whole process of grooming is called trauma course attachment, otherwise known as trauma bonding. And this is an invisible, this is invisible abuse. So it's hard. It's hard to pinpoint, it's hard to go to the cops and say, Look, I've been coerced, because they can't see it. It's invisible. But it's but it's so dangerous, the psychological abuse. And so he made me think that I was making decisions for myself, but really, it was him coercing me, and frauding me into making decisions to walk away from my friends and walk away from my loved ones and things like that. That's another clear indication as well. What what happened to his network, I mean, he was a part of a group, he was a part of an established I mean, a band, but you know, group of guys were, were they in this process around because they were a part of that. So they knew they were very familiar with his world, they were very familiar. I would say that they were all involved. They were all bad actors in the in it. They knew exactly what was going to happen to me, or one of us, one of the girls, when they when they pursued us, they knew exactly what was going to happen to me when he singled me out. So they were around, they were just a part of it. However, I thought that because I was walking away from my old friends, I was gaining new ones, because I was like, well, these are all like my friends. These are my brothers. You know, I would call them my brothers. And we're so cool. And so it felt like, like they filled in for the community that I lost. So that I wouldn't have that lack. Wow. Wow. Okay. So it moves further along, I can imagine the process can take a while there's a commitment to be in it for the long haul. I mean, it's not an overnight thing, although I assume it could happen. Fast or slow, right? Your process was over a period of what this grooming process was a period of a month, how long was it about a year, a little over a year? It took and I and within that year, I thought that I was building a relationship with a so called boyfriend, but all the time he was grooming me to be for his perfect for His purpose, right to capitalize off of me. So at the at the end of the year, about how many hours a day were you spending with him? Oh my gosh, in one day, I would say no less than six hours. And that was on a brushed day that was like on a day where I had a lot going on in my outside world. No less than six hours. Now when I do work or go to school what I did, I did work and go to school. And I couldn't wait to like the semester ended so that I stopped. So he convinced me not to take any more classes so that I wasn't going to school. So then all of my days were filled with just him while my mom thought that I was in school. Right? So it was like I was skipping classes to be with this person. And I worked but it was very minimal. It was part time started off full time. But by the time I got around him it was part time. And then he would even throw that in my face like well, we need to make more money. And so he was already sowing seeds. He was already planting the seeds. Yeah, and this the grooming process. Sounds very similar to some of the stories I've you know, heard or, you know, training that I think people might receive if they get involved in youth activities, volunteer activities and things to look out for the grooming process. But at some point it it snowballed completely out of control. And he you separated completely 100% from your support network. And then you were in the world and you were trafficked. At that point, we'll share with our audience a little bit about that story. And that day and your thoughts. The night that we were supposed to leave for this big elaborate plan that he put together, I was supposed to leave to help him with his, his new business. And I was supposed to have like an admin position. I was very nervous, very scared. We were supposed to leave Houston, Texas, to go to Dallas, Texas to meet with some investors for this business. And it was gonna we were supposed to spend about three months out there. And I was very, very nervous, but I just chalked it up to you know, since I had been to Texas, I had been in Houston only. So I was like, Well, I'm just nervous, because I've never been out of the city before. But really, I think that was my instinct kicking in, just to tell me that, hey, this wasn't right, because it was a very bad scene. We met at his house, one of his house is where he had a studio. I had been there multiple times, but this time just felt different. Because like the friends that were around him, they all had this look on their face that they knew, you know, like something bad was gonna happen. There were other people there that I didn't know. And so it was very, it was a very, very nervous feeling. I ended up getting in the car though. And I drove with him. He had actually someone drive me, I got in the car with this person, which I thought was weird, which was another red flag. Where was he? He was in another car with another female at that time that he said was just an artist. And so that was another red flag, like, Okay, I actually knew by then I was like, Okay, I'm being cheated on, I didn't think I was gonna be trapped because I didn't know anything about trafficking. But I was like, I am totally being cheated on. We're gonna discuss this, like, when we get to Dallas, I need to see what's going on. Because this is a clear, you know, that's, that is some he's up to something that was as far as my mind would go. But never in a million years, what I did I take it to the point where it got right. When I got to Dallas, it was the longest drive ever got to Dallas got out of the car walked into the hotel room where we were to be staying. And there were faces there that I did not know. So other people that are that did not know, he was there. And I started to confront him like, well, you know, ask him, uh, what was that about? What are we doing, and immediately, he became very violent. And he turned into a monster. You know, I actually used to say, he turned into a monster, but I believe he always was. And I was just he did a very good job at masking. You know, like my eyes from that. And so I think what happened was when we got to Dallas is that my eyes started to open a little bit to who he really was. Yeah, so he used manipulation, coercion, lies, which are fraud. Yeah, fraud traits of, you know, that monster behavior, but really, physical abuse, and anger and some of those other traits. The first time you saw it was in that hotel room. Yeah, the first time I saw the violent side, on me, because I knew he was he was a very aggressive person with others, but I never, he had never got to that extent with me. And honestly, when you think of the legal dictionary definition of trafficking, has to include force fraud, or coercion. And traffickers can be one or all of those things, you know, to someone and for me, it started off as coercion and then fraud telling me that this was a job and then force when I finally got there, and the force was basically used to let me know that I was stuck and that I was his, his property and that what he said goes, and so I was forced to participate in acts against my will, forced to take have pictures taken of me against my will, you know, because I was in a very violent situation. And, and, yeah, and that and that literally, there was no training and there was no prep talk. There was no you know, okay, Kathy, this is what you're going to walk into. It just happened and it felt like an outer body experience because it was happening so fast. I think one of the things that fascinates me is trying to wrap my head around this network, the the business of this the the process and how how it all plays out as an organization, so the hotel room is this. Was it the kind of thing that was a one day type of type of event, you know, all these people coming together to, you know, new new faces do people who are being trafficked these women being brought together? Was this a ongoing recurring thing? What what, what was your impression of that maybe in the moment, and then now in hindsight, in the moment, I couldn't process what was happening, honestly, I didn't know what I was walking into. I didn't know what was happening. So I didn't have a grip on what what was happening over time. There were several hotel rooms. So and there were several women and girls going in and out, and men going in and out of these all these hotel rooms. And then eventually, we got separated. So it was I was in a hotel room with him, the trafficker and like two other people. And that was all that I would see. But I knew that there were others. And it was then that I realized that, like, he's a horrible person, I still could, I still didn't call it trafficking, because I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what trafficking was. But I was like, he is really abusive, and he's a really bad person. And then instantly, like, how am I going to get out of this? What am I going to do to get out of this? You know, yeah, when was the first time you asked yourself that? That same night, the very first night, the very first night? Again, I could not processed what was happening, but I knew I was in danger. And that was my question. From that day forward. My only question was, how am I going to get out of this? Did you? Were you able to have any kind of relationship with the other women, other people around? Was it? Just him and you did he end up separating from the equation and go back to trying to groom and bring others into it? What what walk us through some of the relationship pieces relationship, we were allowed to have relationship with the people that were there or involved, according to as long as he was dictating that relationship. So open conversations with him sitting there, if we were involved, if we if we he said to talk to each other, we talked, we spoke to it that we to each other. If he said go get something to eat together, we went and got something to eat together. If he said get dressed together, we would get dressed again. It's literally he was dictating our every move. So I don't know that it was, you know, a want to be in those relationships. But it was kind of part of the equation. It just came with it. And eventually that became my community. Now did he separate himself? From me, he never separated because I don't know what the deal was with me. But there were other I think maybe because I was the newest was maybe the greenest? I don't know. But he was always there with me. And he wasn't the one doing all of the grooming, he would train us to do the grooming, he would train us to do the recruiting, I'm sorry, the recruiting. So he was very strategic about the roles that we had to play, which is another misconception, right? People think that trafficking is this one event. And oh my gosh, this is horrible. You were bought and sold for sex, or labor, which is awful. within itself. However, these traffickers assign other roles, there are other things that you're forced to do while you're there. And unfortunately, for some, it's, Hey, you have to go and you have to recruit more people or befriend more people or befriend a person as a part of your quota. Or, you know, you pay the consequences. And a lot of times, quite honestly, I did end up just paying those consequences. Yeah. So there's, there's fear. That is a big motivating factor in that. Yeah. So that's, that's fascinating. Do you think this was his first time doing it? No, not at all. Not at all. I think maybe it was his first time doing it. To that extent, like, meaning he had more people under him, he had more victims. I think previously he had so the person that ended up being in the car though the female that was in the car with him. She was actually a part of it as well. She was she was victimized as well. But he preyed on her. Because she had been exposed to this and she was a child. So she had been trafficked, unfortunately, since she was a child, so he preyed on that vulnerability. And, you know, through that, I think they just kind of got into it together. And he was trafficking her and then maybe one other person, but to the extent of trafficking, myself and other females and other girls that would come through there. I think that was his first time doing it on that scale. How are the other females used in the recruitment process? They are the same way, everyone's pretty much treated the same. So once you're once you're under his wing, you're under his wing. So he would strategically go after people that maybe were homeless, runaway youth, people that were working in strip clubs, because they had that was their last resort they felt to feed their children. So single moms would was something that he would do as well. And so he had is, he was fixated on certain vulnerabilities that would make it really easy for someone in an already bad position to say, Well, yeah, okay, I'll do this. I'll work for you. Because I'm already in a bad position. You're promising me a better? Yeah, a better life on face value, it seems to be the better of two evils. Right. Exactly. Exactly. So how long were you in the cycle of sex trafficking? About a year so those three months that he promised we were supposed to go down and meet with some investors turned into about a year of my life. And honestly, it felt like a blur. It didn't feel like a year and it didn't feel like a little bit of time, it just felt like I was living moment to moment. So it was just a blur. And actually didn't know it was a year until after the fact after I got out. Did you stay in, in Texas in the Dallas area? Or did you move around at all, I moved back to Houston. Well, while I was being trafficked, I was I was in the Dallas area, and throughout Dallas, all throughout Dallas, primarily, Houston a little bit when because he would come out, he would come back to Houston for trips and things. And so I had to do stuff in Houston. But primarily in the bulk of my trafficking experience happened in Dallas. One of the things I came across as I was doing a little bit of research was the story that you participated in that walked through the tattooing and the branding process. Tell a little bit about about that, and share a bit about your experience with being branded his property. Yeah, the branding process can look like so many things. For me, it was coercion, as a coupled with a forest. So I was told, you know, you're gonna get this don't come back without this, basically. But it looks so he had planted that seed a long time ago, before I even got to Dallas, or before, you know, the trafficking, the bulk of the trafficking even happened, because he would say, Well, you know, your mind, and I need other people to know that your mind and I, this is, you know, this is just what we need to do. And it started off like that. So very, like, Oh, that's so cute. He wants me to get his name on him, right, as a young person, that's what you're thinking, then he would get really aggressive. And I remember one time I was, you know, a bunch of people went and got some tattoos and came back. And he was like, well, where's mine? And I was just like, I didn't get one like, what, where's yours and he got really, really aggressive and was like, he sent me back out. He was like, Don't come back with that one. Or he's going to be trouble, you know. And that was that's how mine happened. And he told me exactly what to get. It had to be his name. And he was just like, I remember the day that I got it. And when he saw it, he went from angry, angry, very violent person, you kind of like, he was very violent, and finding where it was, he didn't even give me a chance to show him. And, and when he did, it was just like this evil grin. Like, yeah, now I got you your mind. And it was just very, very evil. But a lot of people are coerced into it. And so that whole, well, you don't love me if you're not gonna get it? And like, how am I supposed to let other people know that you're mine? And how are we supposed to do this. And so the branding can be coerced or forced, just like trafficking happens. So it can be a part of the grooming process, or they can literally take you in and do it themselves. For me, it was an underground place, you know, that did it that under his recommendation under a quote unquote, recommendation. But they were all they were all I think the place where I went they were all very familiar with what happens, right? It wasn't the first branding that they've done. Sure. It's an it's just one other piece of the business of trafficking of human trafficking. So you go throughout this year, how often are you trying to escape or you're asking yourself how do I get out of this any any attempts to escape that were unsuccessful? Yeah, no attempts only because and that's another misconception because when you're and you're not necessarily trying to escape, you're trying to find a better life because you can't put a name to it, right? You escape something when you identify it as trafficking, but a bad relationship. It's like, how am I going to break up with this person and get away from him? You know, like, how am I going to stop the abuse? How am I gonna get away? So escape is a term that is used by allies and advocates, it's not a term that is used by someone that is in currently experiencing trafficking most of the time, right, depending on their trafficking experience. So for me, I was just trying to survive. And my survival looked like, if I just do this one last thing that he says to do, then maybe we'll go home, if I just please, you know, make as much money as he wants me to make and just say yes to whatever he wants me to do, then maybe he'll let me go home, that was my survival. Because escape was far off, you know, running off and all that kind of stuff. They he was very clear, like, you're not going to run, you're not going to do any of this stuff. Because mind you in the grooming process, he knew everything about me. He knew where my family was, he knew where my friends lived. He knew where I went to church, he knew he knew every detail of my life. And he would often say like, okay, don't do anything crazy, right? Because you want to make sure that your if you love your family, and if you love your life, then you're not going to do anything crazy. And I took that very seriously. Yeah, so in some respects, you maintained some vulnerability, it just, it just shifted, and you continue to use that vulnerability against you. Yes. Yes, absolutely. That's exactly what he did. So how were you able to leave the relationship and step out and get out? There was another, there was an individual that was experiencing trafficking as well. She was being trafficked as well. But she had a history of mental illness. And so a lot of her doctors weren't in Houston, because of this history. And it was, I think there was a night or morning I couldn't remember, can't remember honestly, what time of day it was, but there was a time that she just started to, she was really activated in one of her episodes, to the point where he couldn't quiet her down or handle her. And at this point, like all of his goons, you know, were gone. So it was just, it was just himself, it was me, and it was her. So it was just us three, so happened to be in this room. Everyone else had travelled back to Houston or wherever they went. So he she got to the point where she was really activated. And she was having Fitz and having a very rough episode. And he got tired of it. And he was like, Okay, well, I'm going to have her committed in Dallas somewhere. And I convinced him to take her back to Houston, because she had a bunch of doctors in Houston, and we can get her some really good medical care if we just get her back to Houston. And he agreed, and the only reason he agreed is because they share a child together. So he had one life, where he was actually this business person, but he had another life where he was this trafficker, and the people who loved him and followed him and supported the business person, he would have to then go back and explain if he would have treated her like he treated everyone else, you know, just kind of like make her disappear, quote, unquote, per se, then he would have to go home and answer well, where's the child's mom? Like, where is she? This is she left with you like where she now. So he agreed, we got her back to Houston got her squared away, and so a hospital. And then coming back to Houston. For me, it was very traumatic only because I realized when I was out there, I was a different person because I had to be to survive. But the real Kathy started to see signs, street signs that was very familiar and neighborhoods that were familiar, and that activated me. So from the traumatic experiences, it just really activated me to the point where I started to have like an episode. And he was over it by then he was just like, I'm not doing this. Again, I'm not going through this cause somebody to come pick you up, and I will come pick you up tomorrow. Because you need to go have this out with someone else. And he was very confident in saying that because he knew that he had me in the palm of his hand. I was so gone. I was like not thinking for myself. He was my entire world. abuse, trauma, violence didn't matter. He was my entire world at that point. Because he had my my mind. And so he let me call for help. He let me call to you know, get picked up for the night and my brother and my sister in law came and picked me up from a hotel room we were in. They didn't ask too many questions. They just thought okay, Cathy's in a bad relationship. Again, nobody really knew what trafficking was. And the fact that he allowed me to call he was such a gentleman when they showed up. He was just he turned he was really great. it like being different people. And so he was like, yeah, she just You must be so tired. I don't know, she drank too much. I don't know what's going on. But she just needs a night's rest. And he told me that he would come get me the next day, and honestly been if he would have got to my house the next day, my mom's house to my brother's house to pick me up the next day, I would have gotten in the car with him. Because I was that gone, there was no, I was dead inside. So for me, it was more terrifying to be rich for reality to sink in, it was more terrifying for me to say, oh, my gosh, I've been through this horrible thing, instead of just be that horrible thing. Because he had taken my identity from me he had taken he had stolen everything that I had for me. And the only reason he was unsuccessful was because of the power of my community. My my family, when they saw me, I was mute, I wouldn't talk into them because I didn't want to, because I was trained to only talk to him. And so I was basically mute when talking, I was severely underweight, I wasn't eating. And it was that they were like, I don't know what you've been through, but you're not going back with him. And they literally kept me from him. And I was angry for the first couple of weeks. Like, why are you keeping me from the one person that cares about me? Did he try to come get you? Absolutely, he did. And they threatened to call the cops on him. Because they thought I was an abused person. They didn't know that I was a trafficked person. Wow. Wow, that that is powerful. So have a few days weeks go by? At what point did you seek out help be just beyond love and protection from your family? Oh, it took a very long time. It took a very long time. I would honestly say years because I had to. There's there's phases of coming out of something like this. Now we have so much so much support and so many resources and help. And organizations back then I didn't know what that was right. And because I couldn't put a name to it. So for me, the very first thing was dealing with the guilt and the shame. So I blamed myself, how could I get into a relationship like that? How could I let someone hurt me like that? How could I? So it was a lot of blaming myself. And then it shifted to guilt and then shame. I was very ashamed to tell people what I had gone through because I couldn't put it into words, how do you tell your loved ones or your church members or your family members that oh, by the way, I was sleeping with like half of Dallas? Because I don't know how else to say that I was forced, like I don't know what that how to, you know, contextualize that. So, for me, it was silence. And I began to write, and that was part of my healing journey, I began to write it out. What had happened to me and I was I would get physically sick when I was writing it out. But I wrote it. And then it became a diary. And I started sharing it with people, the written version just because I couldn't speak it. And then through that came counseling, then I finally was like, Okay, I think I need to talk to maybe one other person about this. And so I started talking to some counselors and folks at my church and, and that, for me, kind of started the healing process. I'd done some work a handful of years back with combat veterans. And there's a there's such a critical role that combat veterans play in the PTSD, processing and healing of other combat veterans, because it's, it's a bond and a unique experience that unless you've been in combat, you you just truly can't relate to is that similar between survivors 100% Yes, there's such power in meeting someone else that has gone through to I know when I first did, I was I was blown away, at like, the fact that other people had gone through what I had gone through. And then, you know, bonding through not just the traumatic experiences, but bonding through the stories of overcoming it. Like what did you do to overcome this one incident and not just incident of trafficking, but literally breaking it down? Like so one day this happened to me? Did that happen to you? Yes. This is how I overcame that. Or this is I used to eat this just to survive. I used to drink lots of water just to survive. It's little things like that, that connect people that most people won't understand. I believe it I believe it so So one of the things we talk a lot about on this podcast or our public policy, agendas and ways that we can use the tools within our, you know, at our disposal and public policy to try to make our communities better and safer. What what are the things that you would like to see our elected officials doing to help combat human trafficking and sex trafficking that they're not doing right now? Because I feel like a lot of politicians on all sides of the aisle talk a big game. And I think in their heart of hearts, yes, that they absolutely want human trafficking to end and they know it's evil. But your actions speak louder than words. What are the actions you would like to see our elected officials take at all levels, more prevention policies, so Hera, like looking at looking at this from upstream and favorite, figuring out how we can prevent this from even happening in the first place. We got youth, tons of youth on social media and other platforms that are literally at risk of being trafficked tomorrow, right. So I think that it's important, like prevention in the schools, I don't think that there are, there's so much red tape to get into the schools to talk about this right? This topic and educate our youth. And honestly, they're being educated on social media platforms, with way more than we think they can handle. So I think that we need to get into the schools, we need to create policies that make it easier for trained professionals and advocates to get into the schools that can connect with youth. And make it a curriculum, put it in curriculum like this needs to be in curriculum, this needs to be a part of getting it right now is anybody I mean, I I've got, I've got an in eighth grade, an eighth grade student, and I've got a freshman. And, you know, here in Texas, and have opted into, you know, various education and sex education and whatnot. But I don't seem to recall anything around trafficking being a part of the curriculum at all, is it? Does it exist anywhere? Not in curriculum? So there are certain organizations that have partnerships with schools, certain schools that will go in and do presentations, it's all on the the principals, right, and superintendents to say, Okay, I will allow this. But then, you know, you can opt out, you don't have to, but I think it should be a half do I think that this should be curriculum? Honestly, you think that if we spend time, and I think we are spending more time and money educating our youth around social media and being better and safer, more responsible participants in you know, in cyber and social media? I think this has to be a key component of that. I mean, social media has got to be a significant, if not the primary gateway, in this in trafficking. Would you agree, in this day and age? Yes, I have to agree with that. Because we live we are in a digital world. Like I said, from my experience, yes, pictures were taken of me back then it was Craigslist, you know, all that. We had some we've had some amazing law that, you know, hold tech companies liable. But we're in a different age. Now. It's all digital. Right? Our kids are growing up with smartphones. And then we talk about the pandemic. And where kids were couldn't go to school, you know, like, they lost that social aspect of it. And so their social community, their community became social media. And so it's very dangerous. So policies, what about policies that strengthen the accountability for those that commit these crimes? And what happened with with the guy that got you into this? Yeah, unfortunately, for for me, just because of the stat and the years that have passed, and then the lack of evidence, because what happens in a bad breakup, you throw away all the evidence, right? You're like, I hate this person. I never want to see them again. So I did, but I wasn't told that oh, my gosh, this is key evidence. So for me, so for me, it's a little late. And he's, I believe that he will get caught up. He's still doing that. I think one of the laws that we got passed in Texas is phenomenal. So holding buyers accountable, because we have to look at all bad actors in this equation, not just the traffickers. So buyers now it's a felony to buy in Texas, to purchase humans for six in Texas, which I think is an amazing I think it should be federal, like that's an amazing start. We need to hold buyers accountable. And I think that also traffickers, I think that we I I don't know the law, enough to figure out what should be in place, I can't put it into legal language. But I do know that it's we depend way too much on the victim to go through the prosecution, meaning a trafficker is not going to go to jail for trafficking unless that victim gets on stand on the stand and relives their entire trauma with the hope of maybe this person will go to jail for trafficking, right will get convicted of trafficking. I've had several individuals that have done that on the stand and they get a pat on the wrist, they go, they go, they get them for like domestic violence, or they get them for other other crimes, but not the trafficking pieces, which is so hard to prove. So we've got to figure out ways that take that burden off of just the victim, like I understand testimony. But if you're relying on this victim, to bring all the evidence and bring everything to get this trafficker convicted, I think we've got to reevaluate the law and figure out how we can get creative and innovative to make sure that these traffickers are serving time. What role does our current border policy play and feeding the human trafficking networks currently, I think that the border, so we know that trafficking happens domestically, that's understood, right? So not everyone that is coming across the border. Traffickers, and not everyone that's coming across the border is at high risk or, or is being trafficked, however, that they are at risk. So I think that in order to make sure and protect these individuals, because trafficking is a human problem, right, wherever they come from, it's still a human problem. So in order to protect these individuals, I think, the less that we can have it happen domestically, meaning that knowing that these people, that these humans that are fleeing for their lives, for one reason or the other, are coming or easily accessing the borders, and coming with no documents, they have no food, you know, clothing, their vulnerabilities are stacked pretty high. So we have traffickers waiting on that. Right? traffickers are literally like, well, they're here, they need us. So let's be the let's be the person right. And so that I believe that it's not just because smuggling is very different than trafficking. So people that come across the border, are at severely high risk of being trafficked, because of all the vulnerability because they don't speak the native language because they don't have documentation. Because they don't have food because they don't have like all these things. The traffickers are the safe place for them to fall. Exactly, exactly. So then how do we make sure that we're not putting more people at risk for trafficking? We, we decrease the vulnerability and how do we decrease the vulnerability? We stopped letting them we start putting them at risk. Yep. We stopped putting them at risk. Yeah. What? What advice can you give our audience who have maybe their parents, maybe their grandparents? You know, how to how do we prepare our kids for for the world that they live in today? How do we have these conversations with them? We start talking about so we talk a lot about a lot about red flags. So I can tell you all day long, what red flags look like? Red flags, however, because of the culture that we're in, are normalized. So you can talk to your kids till you're blue in the face about red flags. Hey, look out for, you know, people that you don't know, look out for catfishing on social media, you can talk to them, too. They're blue in the face about red flags. So we need to start having conversations about our green flags, green flags, meaning healthy boundaries, what does love actually look like? Are we talking to our kids about like, what this really looks like? What does dating look like? What does having good people in your life look like? So having open conversations that send up green flags, age appropriate, we're talking as early as three years old, you can start talking to kids about boundaries, right? You can start talking to babies about making sure that they're protecting their personal space, right, making sure that no one's touching them in a certain way, making sure that they know that what strength who strangers are, at six years old, we can start having more conversations by the time they hit Elementary. We're talking about, hey, when you get older, and if you meet someone that you like, there's no that not everyone's going to be your friend. We could have conversations when they get to high school. It's so normalized, the green flags are so normalized, that they are so empowered, that it decreases their chance of being trafficked. And again, a shield just to say this a shield to traffickers and a shield to trafficking is empowerment. So it's very unlikely that empowered people will experience trafficking if they're empowered with all of the right tools. I love it. I love the idea. First time I've I've heard the concept of green flags, I think it's a healthy and fantastic way to talk about you know, positive relationships, positive community what? What's appropriate, what's healthy. I just think that's very powerful. And it's empowering in and of itself. It validates for the, you know, the the youth or the young woman or young man or whomever it validates for them that what they're doing and the choices that they're making are the right ones, if they know how to recognize green flags. I love that. Yeah. So okay, well, look, I this your story is powerful. The you've educated me a ton. I mean, a lot of myths and misconceptions clearly around this. How can our listeners find out more? How can they help? What role can they play? The first thing is, it starts in the home. So have this conversation, have this conversation at home with your kiddos, as a family, right? Whatever your circle of influence is, has to have these conversations. The second thing is to get on Google and find out what organizations are doing really great work in your community. If you don't know how to find those organizations, Polaris has the national hotline number. That's not only used to report but it's also used to say I want to get involved and I don't know where to start. And so they can point you to the organizations that are reputable, that are doing great work in your community, call them up, get educated, go to some of their webinars, go to some of the attend some of their events, and get the education and then serve. Figure out how you can serve. Combating Trafficking doesn't always look like kicking down doors like law enforcement, right and snatching someone out of their trafficking situation. Human trafficking, combating trafficking can look like partnering with survivors, making food you know, teaching parenting classes for survivors that have come out of this, talking to kiddos hosting workshops for kiddos about like what this might look like. So there are several ways to combat trafficking, you've first got to figure out number one, what are you already passionate about and how what you're passionate about can help combat human trafficking. Kathy, this is this is fantastic. And more importantly, your bravery and courage to continue to tell the story to add a voice to survivors everywhere. And I know you're just telling your your story here, but it matters. I'm sure it matters to them. It certainly matters to the to all of us who are trying to learn more and want to help out. So I again, I appreciate you joining us today. And we'll certainly keep you in our prayers. And thank you for all the work that you're doing. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come on here. Thank you so much for listening. As always, you can email me your thoughts to Ben at Ben armenta.com. We have to be the one to combat human trafficking. We have to be the one to talk to our kids about those green flags. We have to be the one to advocate for those who need us to find their voice. We have to be the one that tells our elected officials that now is the time to hold traffickers accountable and put prevention measures in place. We can't just talk about it. We need actions. To find out more about Kathy and her efforts go to 12 eleven.org the word 12 and the number eleven.org. Until next time, thank you again. And God bless. The answer with Ben Armenta is sponsored by the kickin crab, the latest and greatest Cajun concept to hit the southwest. They offer down home flavors and it's one of those places where you're gonna want to take the kids, no plates just good times brought to you by folks that have strong conservative values like you and me. Visit them off of Highway six in Houston or at the kicking crab.com