How Do We Solve The Problem Of Human Trafficking
Where Can I Find Resources to Stop Human Trafficking?

Are you ready to help stop human trafficking? Melea Stephens from NCOSE shares how you can participate in advocacy without having to leave home.

The global severity of human trafficking and sexual exploitation is clear. Melea Stephens is on The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Podcast to explain what you can do to stop human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Here at BTR.ORG, we deeply appreciate the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) and the important work they do. Learn more about NCOSE here.

Help Stop Human Trafficking & Sexual Exploitation Today

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BTR.ORG Stands with NCOSE in Fighting Against Human Trafficking & Sexual Exploitation

At BTR, we know how deeply personal and painful the realities of the sex trafficking industry can be. When a spouse secretly uses pornography, solicits a sexually exploited person, or sexually assaults or coerces a partner, the results are devastating.

We are here for you. Attend a BTR.ORG Group Session today.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:01): Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne.

I have Melea Stephens on today’s episode. She is on the National Center for Sexual Exploitation, also known as NCOSE board. They do amazing work on sex trafficking. If you’re really interested in being involved, NCOSE is the place to get real information about how to help with that.

Melea got involved with NCOSE because for over 23 years she has been a practicing therapist and she has seen young children be addicted to pornography. She wanted to help make sure that we protect kids.

Melea lives in Alabama, so she’s currently working on passing a bill in her state. We’ll also talk about how you can get involved in helping out in the location where you are. So stay tuned for that. Can you tell us about what’s going on in Alabama right now?

What is a “Filter Bill” and Can it Stop Human Trafficking?

Melea Stephens (02:16): Thank you for having me. Last legislative session here in Alabama, we worked to pass what we essentially would call a filter bill. It’s a bill that would require tablets and smartphones to have the filters defaulted on. One of the names that it’s had was the default to safety bill.

We’ve had different names at different points. Utah passed a similar bill a few years ago. We have wanted to pass it in Alabama and several other states are interested in introducing it as well.

One reason we wanted to promote this bill is that we know 47% of young children have their first unwanted early exposure to pornography on smartphones and tablets.

It’s just a common sense protection to have preexisting filters that are already on smartphones and tablets defaulted on. Versus putting the burden on caregivers and parents to try to go through 30 some odd steps on many devices to try to figure out how to activate existing content filters.

Helping Trafficking Victims is Something We Can All Do

(03:17): We have Supreme Court precedent that says that it is preferable for protections to come at the filter level on devices. We know the courts would uphold this bill. We’re pretty confident that it would be very enforceable.

All it is simply doing is asking that three major companies, which would be Amazon with the Kindle, the Apple products, and Google with their products that have smartphones and tablets that a software update would happen, which is a very simple fix.

We’ve talked to software experts who work closely with device manufacturers and they say this would happen in a matter of hours.

That they would just do a very simple update that would allow for phones that are activated in Alabama to have the default on instead of off with the content filter so that parents or caregivers don’t have that responsibility of trying to figure that out.

Broad-based Protections for Young Children

(04:16): It automatically has broad-based protections for young children so that they’re less likely to stumble across pornography at an early age. People would say, well, you can get around that. Kids are going to find ways to get around it.

Obviously kids can begin to try to figure this out, but when we’re talking about very young children who aren’t even thinking about pornography that stumble upon this content.

It is very traumatic to them to not understand what they’re looking at and the way it affects their brain and then how it affects their behavior and their development. This gives them extra years of innocence and safety and protection.

“Anytime a child is exposed to pornography, that’s sexual abuse of that child.”

Anne Blythe – BTR.ORG

I had the honor of speaking to different parent groups. I have spoken to schools and churches that are in some of the areas where kids really don’t have involved parents. Those children, child on child harmful sexual behavior is just rampant in those communities because children are just handed devices.

No one’s looking out for them. Very early on they can become addicted to pornography. They act out what they see because that’s what children do.

Fight Human Trafficking to Stop the Cycle of Abuse & Trauma

(05:23): They copy what they see, and then there’s a cycle of abuse happening and a cycle of trauma. So I especially think about those children. When I think about this bill, we’ve been excited.

There was a great response last session. We had 67 bipartisan co-sponsors in the house, and it passed through committee with bipartisan support. We got to the Senate, it passed through committee with bipartisan support. It was poised to be passed through the Senate and become a law for the governor simply to sign.

We had one person in the Senate who refused to allow it on the calendar because it really only takes one or two people that set the calendar and they blocked it because there was a lot of opposition that we had to fight along the way. And that’s been true in every other state.

There’s been opposition from big tech and telecommunications companies have shown up at all of our hearings with their lobbyists as well.

Why Does Big Tech Fight Against Protecting Children?

(06:25): Even though our bill has zero to do with companies like AT&T or Verizon, they’re not held liable and it’s explicitly stated in our bill. They would show up because unfortunately, big tech and telecommunications companies and the pornography industry will sometimes band together to fight common sense protections for kids.

It’s really sad, but that’s one of the things we dealt with and unfortunately this gentleman that blocked it, we assume that there was pressure from lobbyists and one company in particular. We’re going to do it again this session, and I’m grateful.

I don’t feel discouraged. I’m very encouraged because the draft version we have this session is even better. I think has even more protections built in, and we have major support across the state. So I’m excited about getting the ball rolling again this session.

Money, Power, & a Resistance to Any Form of Regulation

Anne (07:19): What’s the real reason they don’t want to do it? Because they’ll say all kinds of reasons that aren’t really real. What do you think their legit reason is? Is it just simply money?

Melea Stephens (07:28): Money is a big factor. We know that historically, if you look it up, Google, AT&T, or Verizon, do they get back channel profits from pornography?

They do and they have. There would be potentially a loss of revenue that way. But then you have big tech. Big tech hates regulations. They do not want to be restricted in any way, shape or form.

They don’t want to give up an inch of their authority to determine what they do when they do it. I think money, power and a resistance to any form of regulation.

Which this really is to me, it’s like a safety feature on a car or something requiring that they have proper antilock brakes on a car, something that’s very reasonable. In this case, it’s just a simple software update. All the technology is there.

Can the Government Stop Unwanted Pornography Exposure?

Anne (08:19): I hope this does not sound too political, but I’m a patriot in saying I’m really grateful for all of the government services that we have. We have roads, we have a military, we have things in place to keep us safe, and that’s only something that the government can do because the government is all of us.

I am so grateful that we have these opportunities that we can pass things to protect us because no company is going to do that for us. We need to do that through the government because nobody’s going to willingly do that. Although some companies have willingly done some of the things right. I’ve seen NCOSE has worked well with some companies, so that has been exciting.

A “Very Tooth and Nail Fight” to Help Victims

Melea Stephens (09:06): Absolutely. Yeah. There’s opportunity. Companies respond to positive communication and sometimes negative pressure. We have what’s called the Dirty Dozen list where we name and shame the main promoters of sexual exploitation.

We have had tremendous success because once things are brought to light, it’s been refreshing that several companies have changed their corporate policies to better protect citizens, to protect them from sex trafficking or from unwanted exposure to pornography.

This has been a very tooth and nail fight all along the way, the opposition will say, well, you should just be fighting the pornography instead of asking the manufacturers to do this at the device level, which I agree.

And we are. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation along with many of our allies are constantly fighting the pornography industry to make changes there.

Here’s the truth about that is it goes back to our government. I wish our government was stepping up in this issue because the laws on the books on a federal level would prohibit the production and distribution of hardcore pornography, which is the majority of pornography that’s on the internet.

The Truth about Federal Obscenity Laws

(10:23): Our laws prohibit the distribution of all pornography, be it softcore or hardcore from being on our internet. But our Department of Justice for many years now has not been enforcing federal obscenity laws.

That leaves us having to take this approach to tackling this issue of illegal pornography through corporate strategies, through legislation, through lawsuits. We have lawsuits against PornHub that we’re winning right now. We’re gutting the mind geek and the PornHub industry because of lawsuits that we have with survivors.

We’re having to go at every different angle, but this is one of the most practical, simplistic things we can do to protect children. As I’ve talked to families across the state of Alabama, they really, really want to see this passed, and they’re very upset that it was blocked last session.

Whether they’re democrat, republican, it doesn’t matter. I think the main part of this is that there’s opposition from big tech, the pornography industry and telecommunications companies, and to everyday citizens that want to make a difference and make an impact when it comes to fighting sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in general.

Going Upstream to Fight Human Trafficking & Sexual Exploitation

(11:38): Yes, at NCOSE, we understand that you’ve got to go upstream. I don’t know if you’ve heard the metaphor or the analogy of you’re seeing people floating down the river that are drowning.

You rush in to try to pull out as many as you can, and you’re struggling to get as many to safety as you can, and you do this for a long time until you’re exhausted, but you’re not able to get to everyone.

Eventually you come to this idea of like, I’ve got to go upstream and figure out who’s throwing people in the river. You go upstream and you find out there’s someone that’s shoving all these people into the river, and in this case, that’s the pornography industry.

Today’s mainstream pornography, as you know, is highly addictive and changes the way that they operate. It changes their belief system.

Fighting Human Trafficking at the Root Level

(12:25): It gives them permission, giving beliefs about rape and sex buying and things of that nature. People become objects. We’re raising up a generation of kids to have a different type of sexual appetite, and it’s creating a world of harm.

We fight things at that root level, and we know that if we don’t address that issue in addition to sex trafficking, we’ll be just putting out flames forever. If we did not have rampant hardcore pornography, if it was restricted to just the adult bookstores like you had back in the eighties with soft core porn.

As bad as that was, if we just lived back in that world, that’s what the laws on the books say our world should look like when it comes to pornography in the United States.

Striving for “A Shift in Cultural Expectations”

There should be nothing on the internet, nothing on cable, satellite tv, all that stuff. And if we just live like that and our children were able to flourish freely without feeling like they’re going to be exposed to pornography around every corner.

Can you imagine how different our world would be if they were able to go through their developmental years without that atmosphere?

That’s what we strive for is a shift in cultural expectations. But then there are also very practical things we’re doing to interrupt the cycles of things that are feeding sex trafficking. So we’d love for them to come and look at our website.

The Truth About Sexual Exploitation & Human Trafficking

Anne (14:07): I really recommend NCOSE because so many people are talking about sex trafficking these days. And I have a really interesting story that is super alarming. One of my friends was on an airplane and she was sitting next to a man and they started talking about politics a little bit and he said, I’m voting for this person because of his record on sex trafficking because he is going to protect the children.

Her ears perked up. And she was like, oh, really? Tell me more about this. And he said, yeah, there’s just these people who are stealing these kids and we’ve got to stop it. Then she said, well, what do you do for a living? And guess what he did for a living? What? He owned a strip club.

Melea Stephens (14:52): Oh my gosh. You’re kidding. No.

Use NCOSE Resources to Work Toward Ending Sexual Exploitation & Human Trafficking

Anne (14:55): Everyone wants to end sex trafficking. Everyone wants to end pornography. I mean, everyone that listens to this podcast. Sure.

Melea Stephens (15:04): Yeah.

Anne (15:05): Here’s a man who is an actual literal sex trafficker. He owns a strip club, and he’s talking about this nameless, faceless group of people who’s kidnapping kids when we know who they are, it’s PornHub. We know who the pornographers are. It’s very obvious.

Getting involved with NCOSE is so awesome because it makes it very clear what’s happening so that you can say, okay, this particular senator, they’re the ones blocking this bill so we can write to that particular senator and we can make sure that this bill gets passed.

So I love that NCOSE clears out all the confusion because at least this man who owned the strip club, he was loving saying, oh yeah, we got to stop sex trafficking as a way to distract from the fact that he was a sex trafficker.

Finding a Anti-Trafficking Organization You Can Trust

Melea Stephens (15:55): Talk about denial and hypocrisy or else just a really good marketing scheme there.

Anne (16:01): That is scary these days. So I love that. NCOSE is a very reputable organization that has been around a long time.

Melea Stephens (16:08): They really do their research, and they are very careful about the details before they speak out. That’s one reason I’m always hesitant when I’m a spokeswoman.

I want to make sure I do my best to present the facts accurately because they have such a high standard when it comes to what they share and what they do.

They’re very intent, and I respect that about them, and they will correct themselves if there is something that they find out is inaccurate, but they do things with a lot of integrity and they get a lot done with a very small budget in a small group of people.

Join the NCOSE community to Feel the Momentum & Fight Human Trafficking

Anne (16:43): Well, that’s the other thing that I love about NCOSE, because so many people when they talk to me about it, they’ll be like, nobody’s doing anything right? And I’m like, well, every year NCOSE with their dirty dozen list, they make progress. It’s so amazing to be a part of that because you can feel the momentum.

As much as pornography is this overarching exploitative, abusive, systemic problem that is affecting every single woman that listens to this podcast and so many families all over the world. It’s horrific, it needs to be stopped. It’s an abuse issue, and there are people who do not want to stop it, and they want people to get distracted.

I also think that the pornographers and the exploiters, I think they don’t want people to know that progress is being made. I think they want people to think that it’s a lost cause. So either it’s fine and what’s your problem? We should just let this go. Or the alternative, which is there’s nothing you can do.

What the Human Trafficking Industry Doesn’t Want YOU to Know

Melea Stephens (19:14): They want it to seem that it’s a right and it’s an entitlement first and foremost. They don’t want people to know that it’s illegal. Pornography is illegal.

They want people to feel that this is a free speech issue when it’s not protected speech, but you would think that’s the case given everything that they do. They have all these organizations that are under misleading names, such as this Free Speech Coalition, various names that make it sound like they’re anti exploitation as well.

They have some groups that sound like, but they’re actually the pornography industry putting up a false front to try to get in and sound like they’re being benevolent. They’re actually doing everything they can to undermine decency in society.

You have to really do your homework and dig deep when it comes to these issues, just like in our state and in other states that this filter bill was being presented. Several groups came in acting like they were pro-family pro children presenting Trojan horse bills that sounded anti pornography and people fell for it. It’s a very sneaky opponent.

Thankfully, the law is on our side, science is on our side, and as we educate the public about the harms of pornography to the brain and relationships in society, as we educate the public about what the law actually says, they’re empowered to push back against this evil industry.

NCOSE is the Place to Get YOUR Information About Human Trafficking

Anne (20:49): Look over here so that you don’t actually accidentally support a sex trafficker or a pornographer. NCOSE is the place to get your information from. They’re trustworthy.

They’ve been around for so long, and they really do their homework, and they know who the specific people are. They talk about specific things that are happening that we know about that are actionable, and that’s what makes us so effective.

Melea Stephens (21:32): Well, thank you so much. Enjoyed my time with you.


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