Human Trafficking & Abusive Men

by | Abuse Literacy

Whether it’s objectifying one human being through domestic abuse or many through human trafficking, dehumanizing women is a despicable act that BTR continues to speak out against.

Ann Basham, human rights activist, joins Anne on the free BTR podcast to take a deep dive into the correlations between pornography use, domestic abuse, and human trafficking. Read the full transcript below and listen to the BTR podcast for more.

Grooming: A Tool Used By Human Traffickers and Abusive Men

Grooming really is conditioning someone to do something that is not within their nature. Basically, it’s conditioning them to accept abuse, and this can obviously happen in a marriage, as well as in trafficking.”

Ann Basham, Human Rights Activist

In an abusive marriage, grooming may look like:

  • An abuser pushing your sexual boundaries
  • An abuser agreeing to perform certain safety benchmarks without actually changing his abusive mindset
  • An abuser slowly introducing increasing levels of emotional and verbal abuse over time
  • An abuser gradually introducing physical violence into the relationship
  • An abuser using blaming, shaming, and deflection
  • Gaslighting

Grooming is a universal tool of abusive, manipulative people. It is used both on the large scale, as with human trafficking, and in personal, one-on-one abusive relationships.

Exploitation: The Motivation Of Human Traffickers & Abusive Men

“When I was at the Department of Justice, I had a meeting with a man who spent his life working on reforms in the criminal justice system. He’s written books, he’s a leader in a college, and he said to me point-blank on the phone that the connection between an abuser in a domestic violence relationship, and a human trafficker are the same. It’s just in one case they do it with one person and in the other, they do it with many people and for money.”

Ann Basham, Human Rights Activist

Power, control, exploitation, greed.

Abusive men do not abuse because they:

  • “were raised that way”
  • have mental health issues
  • have addictions
  • have anger problems
  • are immature

They abuse because they want power and control, and because they have an exploitative, entitled mindset.

Just like human traffickers.

Sexual Coercion: How Human Traffickers & Abusive Men Manipulate Victims

Both human traffickers and abusive men are able to manipulate sexual abuse victims into believing that they, the victims, are at fault. They do this by gaining “consent” through manipulation.

Anne explains:

“There’s nothing more consensual than saying yes to getting married or people assume that, right, and so they don’t realize that just because a woman is married to a man, they assume that she yes. That she was able to give her consent. People don’t realize that she gets manipulated and coerced and all of these things, says yes, but then continues to be lied to, manipulated, coerced throughout the marriage for not just sex but other things. So, I think that that’s really important to think about too. People think that if you give your consent, it’s not abuse. They don’t realize that people are being abused into giving their ‘consent’ when they’re actually not giving consent at all.”

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Consent is an enthusiastic, fully informed, ongoing yes. When victims do not have the information they need to give that fully informed yes, it isn’t consent at all.

BTR Is Here For You

At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we know how painful it is to realize that you are being exploited by your own husband.

We know how hard it is to accept that you are being abused.

Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and find the support that you deserve today.

Full Transcript:

Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

Before we get to today’s episode, BTRG is our daily online support group. We have 21 plus sessions per week for you to choose from. You don’t have to wait for an appointment, you don’t have to leave your home. We are here for you. We’d love to see you in a session today.

For everyone who has given this podcast a five-star rating on Apple podcast or other podcasting apps. Thank you so much. Every single rating helps isolated women find us. And if this podcast has helped you, when you rate it you help another woman find it. So, your ratings make a big difference.

Rate the BTR Podcast

Here’s a five-star review we received on Apple podcast. She said: I wish I’d found this podcast sooner. Nine years of enduring lying, manipulation, gaslighting with my porn-addicted husband, so for years, I’ve been looking for support and for someone to understand my situation. This is the first podcast that is truly catered to women who are in an emotionally abusive relationships. I have never felt so understood. I have never understood fully that emotional abuse is real and that it happened to me until I listened to these podcasts. Thank you guys so much. I hope that you have an idea of how much you’ve impacted my life and I can’t imagine how many others.

Again, if you haven’t yet and you’re so inclined, go to the podcast, rate it five stars, but also leave your comments. It really helps isolated women find us.

Check out Center For Peace

Center for Peace had a new year-long program start recently. It is the only program that we recommend for men who are exhibiting these types of abusive behaviors. We don’t recommend pornography addiction recovery programs, but we do recommend Center for Peace. So, to check out more about that email Joi at

Ann Basham on the BTR Podcast

We have Ann Basham on today’s episode. Ann has worked in both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, as well as government relations in the private sector where she advocated on behalf of human rights issues such as violence against women, child welfare, human trafficking, and genocide. She began her career working on Capitol Hill for a US senator, but most recently, Miss Basham was the senior advisor at the Department of Justice for Victims of Crime, the largest federal funder of anti-human trafficking efforts in the United States. OBC allocates over 6 billion in federal grants and other projects and Ann helped develop strategies to help victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, violence against women and children, and elder abuse. Throughout her career, Ann has served victims from all over the world helping them safely leave dangerous situations, navigate the legal system, and secure safe housing and trauma recovery.

With a master’s degree in education from the University of Virginia, Ann understands that education is truly the best form of prevention against human trafficking and other threats to children. This is why she is especially passionate about empowering children, parents, and frontline responders to effectively recognize and respond to human trafficking. Welcome, Ann.

Grooming in the Context of Human Trafficking

Ann Basham. Thank you so much for having me.

Anne: Before this episode we were talking a little bit about how trafficking and grooming and things like that, intersect with narcissism and the type of abuse that I talk about on this podcast all the time, all day long, every episode. So, as we talk about trafficking, where you see some of these intersections or overlaps or that you’re like it’s the exact same thing, I would really like you to kind of bring that out of the woodwork for our listeners since all of our listeners are married to men who use pornography. They’re married to men who exploit women by viewing pornography. So, as we talk about that, I want both of us to remember that so we can always bring it back to our listeners and what they can do and even how it can help them in their own situations.

So, let’s talk about what human trafficking is and then what grooming is because I talked about grooming on this podcast in terms of what men do to their partners. Trying to make them look like a good guy. Talk about grooming in the context of human trafficking.

Grooming: Conditioning Someone To Accept Abuse

Ann Basham: Yeah, so there’s definitely a lot of crossovers. So, grooming really is conditioning someone to do something that is not within their nature. Basically, it’s conditioning them to accept abuse, and this can obviously happen in a marriage, as well as in trafficking so that’s really kind of one of the crossovers. But in human trafficking, there’s a big misconception that human trafficking is mostly someone coming and kidnapping a child off your front lawn. That is not how human trafficking usually happens in America. Usually, it’s grooming so it’s really a boyfriend at a high school who appears like a wonderful guy, may even appear like a wonderful guy to the parents, and he really lures her in and conditions her slowly over time to either do things that she doesn’t want to do through force or coercion or then he threatens her. So sometimes it’s video recording sexual acts for example, and then threatening to put them on the internet, threatening to show them to peers. It could be physical threats of violence against her or her family. That’s really how trafficking starts, it’s really through force, fraud, or coercion, but it happens through the mechanism almost always of grooming instead of straight kidnapping.

Trafficking Involves Money

Anne: That’s super important for our listeners. I have talked to many women in our community who have been filmed by their husbands. He put a camera in the shower for example and then uploaded that to the internet for porn or filmed them secretly while they were having sex or other various and sundry situations like that. So, if she never finds out about it, is that still considered trafficking?

Ann Basham: So, the definition of trafficking is it involves money. So, if it’s in a marriage, for example, that is not going to be considered trafficking. So trafficking is using force, fraud, or coercion, and then attaching money to it. So, for example, you can be, you know groomed in all sorts of situations but when it’s trafficking, you’re actually exchanging goods. The underpinning of human trafficking is greed. Think of it like drug trafficking, it’s very similar. It’s really, how can we monetize a person, as a product and get money for them, and that’s really what’s underneath.

Anne: So, if a man is selling that porn on the internet. Would that be trafficking? Even if it was his wife?

Even If It’s Not Technically Trafficking, It’s Still Abuse

Ann Basham: That’s a really interesting question. Trafficking always by definition has to do with money and the exchange of money. Legally trafficking is if there is a sexual act. So, if she’s just in the shower, and he videos her, puts it on the internet, and sells it. It’s probably illegal. I’m not an attorney, but it’s not technically trafficking. If, however, he videos her in a sexual act with him and then puts it on the internet and makes money off of it, and the intent is to make money, so if he filmed it with the intent of making money, that absolutely can cross the line into sex trafficking. Absolutely.

Anne: So, if I were a sex trafficking husband defense attorney, I would say, well, he didn’t mean to make money. That wasn’t the intent, and I would get off.

Ann Basham: That could. I don’t know if you’d get off or not, it’s up to the attorneys, it’s definitely a gray area. But if there’s a sexual act, and that sexual act can be proven that it was videoed and then intended to make money off of it in any way, then that crosses the line. Legally, the legal definition is force, fraud, or coercion. So, if that video is then used in a coercive way, it’s also crossing the line.

Anne: Interesting. So, it sounds like we need a little bit stronger laws on the books in terms of men filming their wives and putting it on the internet for porn.

Pornography Changes The Brain

So, a lot of women come and they say, my husband filmed me, he put it online. I don’t know what to do, right, and they’re trying to figure out do I save my marriage or not? I want to be like, that’s really, really, really, really not good. Like, if he’s done that to you, it’s like unto trafficking, even if no money has changed hands> Like, you’ve got a serious, serious abuser on your hands if that has happened to you.

Ann Basham: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I will tell you, the issue with pornography if I can just go down that road, is that pornography really opens the door. There’s a huge link to trafficking, and it’s not discussed enough. Fortunately, people are talking about it a lot more, but it used to be oh no, you know, pornography is something innocent. If people are willingly making pornography or willingly consuming pornography, what’s the issue? Well, the issue is that it absolutely changes the brain.

“The Connection Between An Abuser… And A Human Trafficker Are The Same”

Just to give you a quick understanding of trafficking, so that there are the traffickers, and those are the people who are selling the victims. And then there are people who are called the recruiters. So those could be teenagers in high school. Think of it in terms of drug trafficking, you know you have people who sell the drugs, you the supplier who gives them the drugs. Well, they think of usually girls the same way, so the target age I should say of a person who’s trafficked it’s actually 11 to 15, but it goes up to 25. But the mindset really is very similar to a narcissist. And I will tell you when I was at the Department of Justice, I had a meeting with a man who spent his life working on reforms in the criminal justice system. He’s written books, he’s a leader in a college, and he said to me point-blank on the phone that the connection between an abuser in a domestic violence relationship, and a human trafficker are the same. It’s just in one case they do it with one person and in the other, they do it with many people and for money.

“Pornography Conditions Your Brain”

So that was really interesting to hear from him because he said that to me point-blank at the beginning of a meeting with him. But I will tell you that in terms of traffickers, that they really do target their victims. It’s a lot of mind games, so that’s a lot of similarities that you’ll see with some of your listeners, there is a lot of mind games going on, and you don’t see many people who are purchasing the victim. So, you have the traffickers, the recruiters, and then you have the buyers, and if they don’t have a pornography problem first. Think about it. Pornography conditions your brain. And what you see on the screen, then you naturally want to act out, and so that’s why there’s a link.

Pornography 20 years ago isn’t what pornography even is today, and it’s even more violent, it’s not always consensual, and every time someone consumes it, their brain gets a bit of a dopamine hit. And so, when their brain gets that dopamine hit then what happens, they want the next. So, if you think of it in terms of addiction, sexual abuse addiction is one of, if not the most difficult addiction to break. There’s a woman who’s on our board of directors, and she is an expert in sexual addiction, and she is the one who actually explained to me that it’s more difficult to break a sex addiction than any other kind of addiction because you carry your sexuality with you everywhere you go.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne: I’m going to take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. Our books page also has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults, so it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart. After you have purchased the book, please remember to circle back around to Amazon and write a verified purchase review, along with a five-star rating. That helps isolated women find us, it bumps Trauma Mama Husband Drama up in the Amazon algorithm, and even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast, which is free to everyone.

Review Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Here’s a new five-star review we received on Amazon. It says: See the light. Love this book. I’ve been listening to the BTR podcast for months now. Ann has helped me see that my husband’s porn use, which is destroying our marriage, is not just an addiction but emotionally abusive to me. I’ve spent three years living in this nightmare trying to figure out what to do. Even though I filed for divorce a couple of months ago I decided I should get this book to help me through the process. I absolutely recommend this book to every woman who is living with a man that uses porn. See the light. I want to add that even though I’m not religious at all, and the podcast and book have some religious context, it is not overwhelming and does not factor into the message that porn use is abusive to partners. Thank you, Anne.

Thank you for your rating. Again, when you buy the book please circle back around to Amazon and leave a verified purchase review with your comments. Every single five-star rating on Amazon helps isolated women find us because even if they don’t purchase the book, it helps them find the podcast. And now back to our conversation.

“What You Have Is An Abuser”

I think the thing that that’s hard for wives of these men to wrap their heads around is that this is an abuser. So, even if he has a sex addiction, it’s not a sex addiction to you. His addiction is an addiction for him. He has the addiction. What you have is an abuser. It’s really important to know that this is tied directly to domestic abuse as well. I have a theory, I could be wrong, but my theory is that all domestic abuse, someone who’s willing to lie, manipulate, narcissistic abuse, so the covert abuse. That if someone is that type of an abuser, and he’s a man, then he is likely to use porn.

A lot of women will say, well, he didn’t use porn, but he lied, he manipulated, he did all these other things. In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking, well, you just didn’t know he uses porn because porn is so easy to hide. You can use it on your phone, it doesn’t smell, it’s not like a drug. It’s not like alcohol, where you can smell it on your breath. It’s very easy for someone to hide this type of drug use, porn use, from their spouse forever and ever and ever and they never find out about it.

Ann Basham: Oh absolutely, I completely agree.

“The Core Mindset is Objectification Of The Person”

Anne: Because there’s this sense that a human being is not really human, right. That they’re a drug, that they can be bought or sold, that they can be manipulated. And in the case of a husband, it’s more like she’s a tool. She’s able to do my laundry and do my dishes and give me sex, and you know these are the things that she is good for and I’m going to use her for those things, rather than actually seeing her as a partner.

Ann Basham: Absolutely. And that really is that what’s at the core of it and that was what I think this man when I was speaking to him at the Department of Justice was trying to get at is that the core mindset is objectification of the person. So, that they objectify the person they’re married to, or they objectify the trafficking victim. I mean that’s what the similar element would be, it’s a piece of property, you know. And that’s why, to be honest, it has, you know, we call it modern-day slavery, that’s what we call trafficking because it really is slavery, people can’t get out. They’re literally trapped. They are stuck in that situation that always starts with seeing someone as property and not seeing them as really equal to themselves in value or in worth.

Understanding Sexual Coercion

Anne: Something you said reminded me of our listeners as well. You said that traffickers play mind games with their victims to get them to the point where the victim is willing to do something that normally they wouldn’t be willing to do. In terms of pornography, I think that that is actually the case as well in so many cases. That there is a producer of the pornography, perhaps a trafficker or some type of person who’s producing the pornography, who’s played mind games with the victim in order to manufacture her consent. So, she would say yeah, I gave consent. Yeah, I said it would be in this porn film, but she doesn’t realize all the mind games that she’s experienced, all the manipulation, all the coercion. She’s not aware of all of that so she actually thinks she has given her consent. When she really has been manipulated and coerced.

Would you say that that’s accurate?

Ann Basham: Yes, absolutely.

“People Are Abused Into Giving Their ‘Consent'”

Anne: So, when I say this relates to our listeners too. There’s nothing more consensual than saying yes to getting married or people assume that, right, and so they don’t realize that just because a woman is married to a man, they assume that she yes. That she was able to give her consent. People don’t realize that she gets manipulated and coerced and all of these things, says yes, but then continues to be lied to, manipulated, coerced throughout the marriage for not just sex but other things. So, I think that that’s really important to think about too. People think that if you give your consent, it’s not abuse. They don’t realize that people are being abused into giving their “consent” when they’re actually not giving consent at all.

Ann Basham: Oh absolutely, and you know coercion can happen in any form, so it may not be trafficking per se, it may not fit the legal definition of trafficking, because there may not be an exchange of money. But absolutely, people can be coerced. I have worked previously in my career just in violence against women and I can tell you that was very frequently the case. That certainly by the end of the relationship there would have been a lot of coercion, they would have done many things that they thought they would never do and actually, it kept them really stuck in the relationship. We see that even in trafficking.

“There Is This Feeling That They Have To Return”

So very interestingly, when you see trafficking victims and safe houses and homes for these victims, oftentimes there are locks, now not just normal locks, but real security on these facilities. And I remember when I first visited, I thought oh, this must be to keep the traffickers out. No, no, no it’s not to keep the traffickers out it’s usually to help keep the victims in especially if they’re under the age of 18. Where they don’t want to be trafficked, they’re glad to be out, but at the same time, there is this feeling that they have to return sometimes because of various reasons or various factors. You know, there’s an enormous amount of fear, and I see that all the time with the commonality of just narcissism.

Anne: Let’s talk about some of the signs of human trafficking in your children, or in your community, because a lot of people think of trafficking as like if your child got trafficked so you never saw them again, but from what you’re saying your child could be trafficked right under your nose while they’re still living in your home?

Ann Basham: Yes, the woman who actually heads up our parent coalition, her daughter was trafficked right out of her own home. So here in a very wealthy Fairfax County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country right outside of Washington DC, parents were married, all of those circumstances.

Anne: So, what you’re saying is this is not who you imagine as being trafficked?

Ann Basham: No. No, this is not who you may imagine being trafficked, and I will tell you, this woman has come forward and is public with her story, but I know of plenty of these scenarios that are not public and will never be shared publicly for the protection of the identity of the daughter who was involved in the family who was involved. Let me tell you there are names that your listeners would recognize, and their children have been trafficked even out of private schools which is shocking to people. Like, how could this happen to people with intact families? The profile of what we think fits a trafficking victim isn’t always there. I will say just victims, in general, they can be very compassion-focused and very kind. And actually, some of the greatest strengths can also be some of the things that are perceived as weaknesses.

Anne: When you say that the victims aren’t always what you think or not what you think at all. That’s also true of the traffickers I’m assuming? That you think oh, a trafficker is supposed to look this way, right. He’s not supposed to be wearing a white shirt and tie, he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t have a good job, you know, these types of things and I don’t think that’s the case either, right? So many traffickers look like upstanding members of society.

Ann Basham: Yes, so there’s the traffickers and especially the recruiters. So, sometimes they are gang-related, but not always, and the recruiters often are very charming. I will say most of the time these people are very charming. Very charming, they can do a lot of the love-bombing, which I’m sure your listeners are familiar with what love bombing is but, you know where they shower them with gifts and flattery and attention and, you know, fill all those needs. And through the love bombing, you know, the victim just says this person is so wonderful. You know they’re getting all their dopamine hits; you know wow this person’s just checking all my boxes. And unfortunately, the trafficker or the recruiter knows this. And so, absolutely they don’t fit a certain profile. And I will say that with the buyers too. So, this was one of the most interesting things to me is the idea of the people selling, who’s buying these girls? That’s really what I feel like the focus should be a lot, is who is buying this. I don’t have the source of the statistic in front of me, so I’m not going to state this statistic explicitly, but it’s a real statistic that a large percentage I will say of the buyers, and so I don’t want to say the number because I don’t have it in front of me, but a large percentage of buyers of victims are white evangelical males. And I believe that that is because there’s a huge link to pornography. And so, I would just encourage your listeners because I know most of them are coming out of some form of abuse, that if there is sexual abuse in your marriage, I would really have your wits about you.

Anne: This is a scary thing. I would say the majority of our listeners are women of faith, but some of them aren’t, right. We have agnostics that listen and atheists that listen. We’re interfaith and inter paradigm so everyone is welcome here, but I think the thing that shocks the Christian listeners is, they thought they were getting a “righteous man” because he attends church and because he can quote the Bible and other things. Wrapping their head around the fact that those are grooming tactics that he is using to maintain power because there is power in the church if you’re a righteous man. That that is really alarming, right, it’s hard to wrap your head around, it’s hard to really understand that yes, Jesus is there and yes, Jesus can save people, but in this case, he’s not there to worship or to be a better person, he’s actually there to maintain the power. And that’s really hard for women to wrap their heads around, I think. It’s hard for all of us.

Ann Basham: Let me address that because that’s a really important point. Just in general, you’re absolutely right. Actually, some of the worst stories I’ve heard over the years and the ones that went on the longest, the person was very religious, and I don’t just mean Judeo Christian I mean they could have been any religion, and just very religious. So, I’ve heard this from a lot of different religions, because with faith, which I’m a person of faith too, you know you get all of the wonderful elements that really provide morality and purpose in life, and an explanation of, you know basically why we’re here. But, as with anything, there’s an opportunity for someone to come in and manipulate it and basically hijack religion in the name of control, and it really is a hijack. It’s not the intent, but it is the hijack of religion in the name of control. And so, unfortunately exactly what you’re talking about happens. They appear as this wonderful wise person, a wise religious leader and in reality, they are using that as an abuse of power to gain control.

Anne: And obviously, the most common example is a so-called righteous man in his own home, maintaining control of his own home. And in fact, some religions explicitly say that he’s supposed to do that. He’s the head of the household and he’s supposed to call all the shots and women are supposed to submit to that. That gets really scary for abuse victims, I think because not only do they have their abuser that’s manipulating them but then they feel like the tenants of their faith are also fighting against them from getting help.

“God Does Not Want You To Be Abused”

That’s one of my real goals. God loves you. The Holy Father loves you; He does not want you to be abused. These things that are being used to abuse you are not true. They’re not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They’re not part of any healthy religion. They are simply abuse that’s used to oppress you. I just want to set you free. I want to set you free.

Ann Basham: I mean I can just speak just as a Christian, specifically, I will tell you that if we take just Christianity, for example, and we just look at the Bible. Jesus made it so clear, and you know if you say, for example, just in a Christian religion if you say you’re a Christian, what does that mean? You’re supposed to be a follower of Christ. Well, what did Jesus say over and over is that he really looked out for women, and he really looked out for those who were victims, and really vulnerable. That those were the people that he really really helped.

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And even the intent. So in the US law, this is just US law, when you go to a court, they say to you what’s the language and what’s the intent? That’s how everything works. Okay, what’s the language of the law, but what’s the intent of the law and the same actually holds true to some extent, especially in the Bible. It’s, you know, not just what’s the language but what was the intent? You know, when Jesus said to the Pharisees words on divorce or whatever was said it always comes down to what was the intent because even in the New Testament, they look back at the Old Testament, and King David is praised for breaking laws by feeding his own soldiers out of forbidden bread from the temple. So, he took forbidden bread from the temple, fed his soldiers because they were in a crisis and they needed food, and he was praised for that from “breaking the law” because what was the intent of the law. The intent of the law was to save people, the intent of the law was always to protect people, to save people. It was never for us to just serve the law.

Anne: Right, and it certainly was not used in order to oppress, especially your wife. Miss Basham and I are going to continue our conversation next week, so stay tuned.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.

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