A lingerie model.

A stripper.

An escort.

A prostitute.

A porn star.

Who is she? What has she been through?

Most importantly, what led her to this place?

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, talks to Not Sam, an author, human trafficking survivor and Shero, about the realities of pornography and the sex industry.

Human trafficking, or sex trafficking- the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of person who under threat, force, coercion, fraud, deception, and/or abusive power are sexually exploited for the financial gain of another.

A Sex Trafficking Survivor’s Story

Not Sam isn’t her real name, it’s what she wished to be called for this interview, but her story is real.

Not all stories start like hers, but some do.

Not Sam was 16 years old, but many victims are much younger.

She was walking down the street when she was forced into the trunk of a car by two gorilla pimps.

That’s how Not Sam became a sex trafficking victim.

There was a process to go through before she was put to work.

Not Sam had to be broken.*

She doesn’t talk about exactly how that was done for her, but she does say it was a lot of abuse.

The amount of abuse that it takes to get a person to do that and return, it takes a lot. It can happen with the best intentions, on the victim’s part, and without them even realizing it’s even happening. A trafficker has a specific end result in mind, and they will extend their abuse to the point of complete compliance on behalf of the victim.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

A trafficker will go to great lengths to make sure their victim will comply and their spirit is completely broken.

Severely abused and broken, Not Sam was ready to be turned out.*

She was sent out to work.

And she would. If she didn’t, she would have nothing.

“I wasn’t allowed to buy food or drinks, even water. I would be given those things, if my slave master felt that I had earned them.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

As if the abuse wasn’t enough, Not Sam was forced to live in a bare apartment in the ghetto. The moldy walls surrounded the master’s bed, the only furniture present, as she slept on the floor. The two “work” outfits she possessed had been chosen for her.

Deprived of every human’s basic needs unless she worked, Not Sam obeyed.

She may have earned a lot of money, but none of it was ever hers.

“After a full shift of sexual abuse, a slave will be collected from whatever venue they were taken to. Sometimes, they’ll work 24 hours and then be taken to a new venue and dropped off again. They are at the whims of the masters and the predators who are spending the money. All of the money that is paid to the slave is taken, for control.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Most workers have responsibilities, goals they’re supposed to meet each day, week, month or quarter. Most workers simply don’t earn a bonus if those goals aren’t met.

Not Sam didn’t dare miss her daily quota.

“Not meeting that quota can mean a wide variety of consequences, including death.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Under extreme duress, she worked. She couldn’t find any other options.

“If a sex slavery victim comes to the car window of a predator looking to purchase sex and cries that they might die that night if they don’t get $1000, they won’t get any help.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

When people hear about the horrific circumstances Not Sam lived in and the abuse she endured, they ask her why she didn’t run.

“‘Run where?’ That’s really the best answer I can give.”  

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

When Not Sam wasn’t working to meet her daily quota to escape the possibly deadly consequences, she was isolated from the outside world. The only people she came in contact with, other than her master, were the people who bought her.

“We suffer greatly at the hands of our masters, but we suffer far worse with the predators who purchase us for services. They are the ones who abuse us all day, every day.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

She couldn’t ask a John* to help her escape, they couldn’t be trusted.

“We don’t want to engage them. We cannot ask them for help. They are not safe. We have nobody to help us.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

Not Sam says her life, as a trafficking victim, was not a life.

“It is not a glamorous life. It is not sexy. It is not fun, and it is nearly inescapable.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

After about a year in captivity, Not Sam was able to get out.

Not Sam is now a sex trafficking survivor.

She’s one of the lucky few who got away.

Now, she’s a survivor, and she’s on a mission to tell the world the truth about the sex industry.

Because she’s lived in it… and it’s ugly.

The Truth About Sex Trafficking

Not Sam wasn’t alone in that moldy, ghetto apartment.

“My traffickers had multiple girls, ranging from 13 to 17, all United States citizens that were taken right off the streets in broad daylight.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

Traffickers know who to target.

The average age of a sex trafficking victim is only 13 years old, barely a teenager.

At 13, kids are trying to figure out who they are. They’re trying to fit in. They’re trying to be liked.

They’re vulnerable. Traffickers know it, and they pick the most vulnerable.

Not Sam says there’s a process to trafficking that can include dating, grooming, breaking, and turning out.

Not all traffickers go through the whole process but every trafficker must break their victims before turning them out.

For United States citizens, gone are the days when foreigners made up the majority of trafficking victims.

85% of sex trafficking victims, identified in the United States, are U.S. citizens.

With the increasing sexualization of people in society, the demand for sex workers has increased, resulting in an alarmingly high rate of children being exploited in the sex industry.

Every 2 minutes a child is exploited in the sex industry.

Unfortunately, proponents of the sex industry are trying to legalize what’s happening. They argue that legalization of “sex work” would decrease trafficking.

Not Sam disagrees and says that Las Vegas is proof that legalization doesn’t decrease it, but actually has the opposite effect.

“In the 48 years since sex work was legalized in parts of Nevada, they now have 63% higher rates of sex trafficking than any other state in the country, and they rank in the top 10 states for exploited youth.  Less than 10% of all prostitution happening in Nevada is legal.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

In 2018, the United States became one of the top three sources for sex trafficking victims in the world.

The U.S. is also the #1 consumer of sex work, worldwide.

It’s no wonder that the annual revenue of the sex industry is more than the annual revenues of the NFL, the NBA and the MLB… COMBINED.

Sex industry annual revenue > annual revenue of NFL + NBA + MLB

That’s billions of dollars in revenue every year.

This is something that shouldn’t be happening, but it is.

Not Sam says it isn’t just prostitution that’s generating money for the sex industry.

“Prostitutes, escorts, massage parlor workers, cam girls, lingerie models, strippers, pornography participants are all examples of the highest-funded sex slavery victims in the United States.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Pornography is one of the biggest drivers for demand.

The Ugly Truth About Pornography And Sex Trafficking

When the woman on the screen appears to be enjoying her job, it’s easy to assume, she really does.

Not Sam says that’s what the sex industry and sex work is all about: appearances.

Illusion is the key ingredient in the sex industry. It’s belief that those being depicted in pornography, or those who are physically engaging with buyers, are somehow aroused and are choosing the consumer. We acknowledge that it is all fantasy, even those who use sex workers will say it’s not real. But that’s where the thinking stops. Anything further ruins the magic trick.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Reality isn’t as sexy, but that’s the point.

It isn’t reality, it’s abuse.

“Sex work isn’t sexy because it isn’t sex. It’s the abuse of people who have already been abused.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Pornography is a fantasy that perpetuates abuse.

Pornography is unrealistic.

Pornography destroys families.

Pornography destroys lives.

When Not Sam hears women struggle with not allowing pornography in their marriage because they don’t want to “be controlling,” she tells them it’s not controlling, it’s saving lives.

“It is absolutely okay to say no to porn. It is not prude to not want children to be enslaved and sexually abused.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Insisting on a pornography-free home isn’t just keeping the wife safe, it’s keeping others safe as well.

It’s a classic example of supply and demand. If the demand is there, the supply will replenish.

Every click on pornography is people coming together, joining to pay for this to be happening. It’s paying for the perpetuation of this industry.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

What also disturbs her are the statistics that say a wife is more likely to stay with a man who cheats with a “sex worker” than one who has an affair with someone he knows.

Not Sam knows it’s a case of not understanding what the sex industry is really like, but she believes it should be more alarming that a husband would use a sex worker.

“Their partner chose the sex industry because they couldn’t be denied. That is extremely problematic for any sexual partner to be subhuman in the eyes of the abuser.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

Not Sam says she’s had women ask about some activities within their marriage that they question and warns that wives of addicts are at risk of being trafficking victims too.

If your partner has ever coerced you to participate in videos with another partner or in the field of sex work, for the purpose of their financial gain or for bartering under the fraud of a trusting marriage you may, unfortunately, be a human trafficking survivor.

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

Whether they made money or not, their intent was to receive something in exchange for exploiting you and that makes it trafficking.

Not Sam warns addicts that they’re supporting the demand for trafficking.

“For any abusers listening, if you have looked at pornography you have seen sex trafficking victims. If you have been to a strip club, you have paid sex trafficking victims. If you have purchased physical touch, you have paid for slave labor and sexual assault.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

She says there’s no way there can be so many unwilling participants but, “magically, have everyone in your own histories within those same venues be happy to be there.”

She asserts that when a person participates in the fantasy, in the lie, they are not an ally, but become another perpetrator, supporting sex trafficking.

Not Sam declares that even mainstream TV shows that are pornographic in nature, like Game of Thrones, proliferate the demand for trafficking victims.

“I dream of the day where, if there is some sort of love scene in a movie or a show, everything was very consensual, and it actually taught our children about what a consenting kiss actually looks like, and that asking for consent isn’t a buzzkill. It’s sexy to have consent.

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

She knows that if people stopped watching shows that support the sex industry, they’d stop making them.

In other words, if there is no demand, there’s no need for supply.

Demand decreases, the industry starts losing money, and supply won’t be needed, so they’ll stop producing.

The sex industry is no different. If there’s no demand for it, the supply will diminish and they’ll stop producing, trafficking will stop.

In the meantime, children are at risk.

The Truth About Trauma And Sex Trafficking

Not Sam isn’t just a sex trafficking survivor, she’s also married to an abuser and has children with him.

Not Sam is a Shero

It’s been extra difficult for her because she has the trauma from her trafficking abuse and, now, the betrayal trauma to work through.

She says it’s been hard and painful to work against everything she was trained to believe.

“It’s been a long process of trying to even feel comfortable to set boundaries when I was, unfortunately, trained to not have any boundaries and that I was not allowed to have boundaries. It’s been a lot of extra work, but the more growth that I have, the more empowered I feel, to grow even more from that.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

What’s even more difficult for her is facing the reality that, because of her betrayal trauma and having an abuser in the home, her children are more vulnerable.

“Unfortunately, if we have betrayal trauma in our homes and abuse in our homes, our children are now at-risk youth. As a mother, that hurts a lot that our children are now targets for human trafficking. Predators of all sorts will be able to spot their vulnerabilities to exploit them. We have to become educated on all forms of human trafficking, because of our shared family trauma and the risk that that brings.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero  

Not Sam says it’s vital that, as mothers, women make sure they are safe and taking care of themselves.

“If you are a parent, getting your mental health in order, facing your demons, for the sake of your child’s future, their self-worth is critical. You are painting targets on your own children with your choices. Every two minutes a child is exploited in the sex industry.”  

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Anne states that while she has made sure to take care of her mental health, she worries about her children when they’re with her ex. He continues to lie, manipulate and take responsibility for his actions.

“It’s very scary, especially for those of us who are divorced and send our children every other weekend to our abuser. Even if the only thing that’s going on is just that he uses pornography, and, maybe, when the kids go that weekend, he doesn’t, they’re still in the vicinity of someone who is willing to abuse someone else.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Not Sam says that even though not all traffickers use the same process, knowing what to watch for can help keep children safe. The most important thing to do is pay attention to your own children and listen to what they say about their friends.

4 Signs That A Child Is At Risk For Being Trafficked

  1. They have a secret boyfriend.
  2. They have a new, random, expensive gift. (No special occasions)
  3. They have a new tattoo from a partner. Most likely, it’s not just any tattoo, it’s a brand.
  4. They have offers for modeling jobs.

If you suspect that a child or a child’s friend may be a trafficking victim, or potential victim, please seek help immediately.

Not Sam affirms what most abused women have already realized.

We are really in a fight for our lives right now. We know firsthand what this industry has done to us, to our families. We know what it’s done to vulnerable children and to the disenfranchised. It’s insidious. We cannot let this hurt any more families and children.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

How To Fight Against Pornography And Sex Trafficking

This is not a battle being fought by a small band of armed citizens, but a raging war being fought by a considerably large, strong army.

Not Sam shares how people can take action to stop sex trafficking.

How To Take Action

Not Sam says that whatever women decide to do to help, they should remember to put their safety first.

“Recognizing our own limits and recognizing our need for safety, right now, is really our biggest priority.”

-Not Sam, Sex trafficking survivor and Shero

Not Sam says her traffickers knew what they were looking for when they picked her up and forced her into the trunk. They knew what they would need.

The abuse that she endured is appalling and she’s determined to prevent it from happening to anyone else.

Not Sam’s husband is early in his recovery, but she’s hopeful that he’ll continue working.

Anne hopes so too, and reminds everyone that, no matter what a husband chooses to do, he’s responsible for that choice.

If a man is faithful and non-abusive, and he’s honest and transparent and accountable, he’s not going to ‘accidentally’ pay someone to have sex. He’s not just going to see an attractive woman and then suddenly ‘accidentally’ end up in a hotel room with her. Accountability lies 100% with him.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Hopefully, next time we think of a sex worker, remember that she is someone’s neighbor, friend, cousin, niece, sister or daughter.

And remember that she may not be there because she wants to be, she may be there to save her life.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery empowers women to take back their lives and find safety.

One way we can help is by providing a safe place to share. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.

*Definitions:

  • Breaking– when the slave master breaks the person’s spirit and resistance
  • Turning out– forcing the trafficking victim to participate in sex work
  • John– a buyer, sometimes referred to as a trick, as if they are an average “John,” who was tricked into it. In reality, they are predators.
  • Pimp– slave master, trafficker, a person who owns other people
  • Prostitute– Usually, a human trafficking victim or sex slave. Even if currently choosing sex work, they were first a trafficking victim.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

We have a woman who would like to be called Not Sam on today’s episode. She is an author and a human trafficking survivor. We know that some women are going to likely be triggered during this episode, so we’re doing a trigger warning. We will be talking about sex trafficking and her experience with being trafficked.

We’re going to start by talking about some of the language that is used, and we really want to honor victims and survivors by using the proper terms. We’ll be addressing this in just a moment.

Sex Trafficking Terms And Definitions

Welcome, Not Sam.

Not Sam: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’ve benefited greatly from your podcast and from your website and from other victims of betrayal trauma. I’m really grateful to be able to share my story and, hopefully, help some people.

Anne: Before we go into your full story, I do want to tell women that not only are you a sex trafficking survivor but you’re also a current betrayal trauma victim in your current relationship. That’s important for women to know, so that they can understand that you’re just not coming to this from the sex trafficking survivor place, but both situations. That you understand both sides of this.

Can you talk about the language and what sex workers are referred to? Can you talk about that?

Not Sam: Throughout the conversation, a lot of times, we hear the word “pimp” being thrown out there, and that’s a really cartoonish name for what is really a slave master, a trafficker, a person who owns other people.

You’ll hear a buyer, referred to as “a John,” sometimes as “a trick.” That makes it seem like they were tricked, they’re just the average “John,” the average guy. When, really, this is a person who is purchasing another human being, they were purchasing, possibly, children. We refer to them as “predators,” to recognize that that’s what is really happening.

Also, a lot of times you’ll hear “prostitute” being thrown out. That’s the rarity, and what a prostitute really usually is, is a human trafficking victim or a sex slave. Even if they are, currently, choosing to participate in sex work, statistically, first they were a human trafficking victim and they have that trauma in their history.

Anne: I think this is really important to talk about because we do not want to villainize other victims. As victims ourselves, having compassion for other victims rather than blaming them or giving them responsibility for our husband’s abuse is not helpful to anybody.  That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to have this conversation. Let’s start with just basic definitions. What is “sex trafficking”?

Not Sam: The definition of “sex trafficking” is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of person who under threat, force, coercion, fraud, deception, and/or abusive power are sexually exploited for the financial gain of another.

Sex work has been extremely normalized in our society so much so that, when I say “prostitute,” the picture that comes to mind is that of an adult on the side of the road luring innocent men. A trafficking victim, on the other hand, is imagined usually as a foreigner. Maybe they’re chained to a bed, possibly injected with drugs.

Sex Trafficking Statistics Reveal The Truth About Pornography

Illusion is the key ingredient in the sex industry. It’s belief that those being depicted in pornography, or those who are physically engaging with buyers, are somehow aroused and are choosing the consumer. We acknowledge that it is all fantasy, even those who use sex workers will say it’s not real. But that’s where the thinking stops. Anything further ruins the magic trick.

Reality is a lot less sexy and has a much smaller marketing budget. The truth is that the average age of a sex trafficking victim is 13 years old. It’s not the willing adult that’s being presented in the fantasy. 85% of sex trafficking victims, identified in the United States, are U.S. citizens. These are our own children. 

In 2018, the United States became one of the top three sources for sex trafficking victims. Sex slavery jumped 13% in the United States between 2016 and 2017 and is the fastest growing crime. Americans were the #1 consumers of sex work worldwide. The annual revenue from the sex industry in the United States is more than that of the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, combined.

Prostitutes, escorts, massage parlor workers, cam girls, lingerie models, strippers, pornography participants are all examples of the highest-funded sex slavery victims in the United States. All of which we’ve been desensitized to.

Anne: Yes, it is jaw-dropping to think about how all points of society are participating in this in some form or another, and how, in order for it to stop, we all have to stop the demand. The easiest way to do that in everyday life is to not view pornography, the very simplest form.

A Sex Trafficking Survivor Tells The Truth About Abuse

Since you were sex-trafficked, let’s start with your story. What are the realities of being a sex slavery victim?

Not Sam: Just like each betrayal trauma story is different, each trafficking survivor story is also unique. There’s a typical process that’s used by traffickers to secure sex slavery victims, which is dating, grooming, breaking, and then turning out. Not all of those steps will be taken depending on the slave master’s typology, but breaking and turning out will always be present, which is just the breaking of the person’s spirit and resistance. The “turning out” means forcing them to participate in sex work.

Anne: Another very simplified way to say that is they are severely abused.

Not Sam: Yes, absolutely. The amount of abuse that it takes to get a person to do that and return, it takes a lot.

Anne: It’s actually similar to what women are experiencing in their marriages but a totally different version of it, but it’s very interesting to me that the pattern is still the same. There’s a pattern of grooming, there’s a pattern of breaking, and there’s a pattern of harming. Both of these are abuse.

Not Sam: Right. We know that we, the betrayed, we were deceived, defrauded, and coerced, at a minimum. It can happen with the best intentions, on the victim’s part, and without them even realizing it’s even happening. A trafficker has a specific end result in mind, and they will extend their abuse to the point of complete compliance on behalf of the victim.

Each slave is given a quota that they must meet each day. Not meeting that quota can mean a wide variety of consequences, including death. If a sex slavery victim comes to the car window of a predator looking to purchase sex and cries that they might die that night if they don’t get $1000, they won’t get any help. The predator will simply drive away, dismiss it in their mind as rare, a scam, and that most sex workers are like “Pretty Woman,” but younger and going to college.

The victim will be left no closer to having the money they need. The only option they are given, by design, is to service the predators who abuse the sex industry for their own gratification. After a full shift of sexual abuse, a slave will be collected from whatever venue they were taken to.

Sometimes, they will work 24 hours and then they’ll be taken to a new venue and dropped off again. They are at the whims of the masters and the predators who are spending the money. All of the money that is paid to the slave is taken for control.

I wasn’t allowed to buy food or drinks, even water. I would be given those things, if my slave master felt that I had earned them. My traffickers had multiple girls, ranging from 13 to 17, all United States citizens that were taken right off the streets in broad daylight.

We slept on the floor in a ghetto apartment where the walls were covered in mold. There was nothing in the apartment besides one bed, with no bedding, and it was for the master when he was there, not for us. We each had one or two outfits, chosen for us to work in, and that was the extent of our worldly possessions. It is not a glamorous life. It is not sexy. It is not fun, and it is nearly inescapable.

Anne: How old were you when this started?

Not Sam: I was 16 years old when I was actually taken by two, what’s known as “gorilla pimps,” which means that they’re very physically aggressive. I was just taken off of the street and put into a trunk. That was the process. That’s how it started for me.

Anne: I know many people have asked you, “Why didn’t you run?” How do you respond to that question?

Not Sam: Well, “Run where?” That’s really the best answer I can give. The only people that we have contact with, that we are allowed to engage with, even to make eye contact with are people who pay to use us.

We suffer greatly at the hands of our masters, but we suffer far worse with the predators who purchase us for services. They are the ones who abuse us all day, every day. We don’t want to engage them. We cannot ask them for help. They are not safe. We have nobody to help us.

Anne: I am so sorry. That is a living nightmare, that you were describing and it’s horrific to think that some women listening to this podcast, perhaps including my ex-husband, I don’t know, have been involved in this type of abuse. Not just to themselves, they have experienced abuse in their own homes, but then to find out that their husband is also abusing women in the way that you’ve described is just a nightmare.

Sex Trafficking And Betrayal Trauma

From your perspective, as a woman who has experienced both betrayal trauma and sexual exploitation in the form of being trafficked, what would you like both the betrayed and the abusers listening to know?

Not Sam: I have read a lot of articles in my own journey of healing and I read that, statistically, if a cheating man uses a “sex worker” then it is more likely that a wife will stay in the relationship. This is alarming to me.

Anne: What you’re saying is, from what you’ve been reading, from a wife’s perspective, it’s easier to handle that he has paid for sex with a sex worker and it’s harder to handle that he had an affair. Is that what you’re saying?

Not Sam: Yes. They prefer the relationship to be a sex worker, versus an affair.

Anne: The assumption would be that a wife understands that with a sex worker it’s just about sex and it’s not an emotional connection, but with an affair maybe he’s in love with her, or something like that?

Not Sam: Correct. I understand the concern and the hurt of a possible emotional connection, but this shows a lack of understanding about the realities of the sex industry and that their partner chose the sex industry because they couldn’t be denied. That is extremely problematic for any sexual partner to be subhuman in the eyes of the abuser.

I participate in groups for betrayal trauma and have occasionally had a betrayed wife ask about some activities within their own marriages that they now question. I would like to say to the betrayed, if your partner has ever coerced you to participate in videos with another partner or in the field of sex work, for the purpose of their financial gain or for bartering under the fraud of a trusting marriage you may, unfortunately, be a human trafficking survivor.

Even if they didn’t make money. Their poor business skills are not your problem. If the intent was to receive something from your exploitation, please reach out. Speak to a trauma-informed therapist or a human trafficking resource center.

Also, unfortunately, if we have betrayal trauma in our homes and abuse in our homes, our children are now at-risk youth. As a mother, that hurts a lot that our children are now targets for human trafficking. Predators of all sorts will be able to spot their vulnerabilities to exploit them. We have to become educated on all forms of human trafficking, because of our shared family trauma and the risk that that brings.

For any abusers listening, if you have looked at pornography you have seen sex trafficking victims. If you have been to a strip club, you have paid sex trafficking victims. If you have purchased physical touch, you have paid for slave labor and sexual assault. There is no sugar-coating the statistics.

You can’t have so many non-willing participants, statistically, yet somehow, magically, have everyone in your own histories within those same venues be happy to be there. It was a lie and a fantasy that only existed because you asked for lies and fantasies. If you participate in the exploitation of a fellow human being, you are not an ally.

Protecting Children From Sex Trafficking

Every two minutes a child is exploited in the sex industry. You cannot prop up that system and also be a friend. If you are a parent, getting your mental health in order, facing your demons, for the sake of your child’s future, their self-worth is critical. You are painting targets on your own children with your choices.

Anne: Now that everyone is scared to death and terrified. It’s very scary, especially for those of us who are divorced and send our children every other weekend to our abuser, who is continuing to abuse us through lies and manipulation and refusing to take accountability for his actions, who is looking, for all intents and purposes, like an upstanding member of society and we don’t know what’s going on.

Even if the only thing that’s going on is just that he uses pornography, and, maybe, when the kids go that weekend, he doesn’t, they’re still in the vicinity of someone who is willing to abuse someone else.

I would like to mention to our listeners, because I am religious and I talk about God in my own experience, that our guest today is Atheist, just in case you want to feel validated. I love having all points of view here.

As a sex trafficking survivor, can you help me understand your perspective on mainstream television shows that include pornography, like Game of Thrones, for example, or any shows like that? Would you say that we also need to boycott that?

Not Sam: Absolutely. Every click on pornography is people coming together, joining to pay for this to be happening. It’s paying for the perpetuation of this industry. I remember speaking to my mother about it because she had recommended it. I said, “Mom, I can’t watch this. It’s just too gratuitous.” She was like, “Oh, yeah, I wish it wasn’t like that.” I’m like, “Don’t watch! Stop watching.” That’s how it stops being like that.

Anne: I’d like to know what everybody thinks. On this episode, if you go to our website btr.org and find this episode, please chime in and let us know. Maybe you’re having some ethical dilemmas.

The point of saying this is, even if you hate abuse as I do—I hate abuse and I don’t want to stand for any of it—it’s a little bit difficult, at times, to live in a society where it’s so rampant. It’s on mainstream television. I mean even if it’s not “pornography,” we’re still having examples of sexual assault or lack of consent or other things in or mainstream media, and it’s so rampant. Do we just not participate in mainstream stuff? I don’t know the answer to that.

Not Sam: Yeah, I dream of the day where, if there is some sort of love scene in a movie or a show, that it’s one where he leans in and it’s really great that he says, “Would it be okay if I kissed you now?” and she says, “Yes, I would love a kiss.” Then they would kiss, and everything was very consensual, and it actually taught our children about what a consenting kiss actually looks like, and that asking for consent isn’t a buzzkill.

It’s sexy to have consent. But the guides that we have for how we’re supposed to be treated in the roles that we’re supposed to play, it’s really not one that we would actually want to live in.

Anne: Let’s talk about the legalization of “sex work”, which I don’t even want to call it sex work because we know it’s abuse. But, in our society, there is this normalization of the sex industry, with some groups even pushing for legalization. As someone who has been in this situation in real life, what is your view on this?

Not Sam: First and foremost, for any of those who are struggling with, “Is it okay to say no with porn,” which a lot of women still struggle with because “it feels very controlling and we don’t want to be controlling,” it is absolutely okay to say no to porn. It is not prude to not want children to be enslaved and sexually abused.

Sex work isn’t sexy because it isn’t sex. It’s the abuse of people who have already been abused. It is absolutely okay and healthy to say no to all industries of sexual exploitation and still be pro-sex. These are not conflicting realities.

We are really in a fight for our lives right now. We know firsthand what this industry has done to us, to our families. We know what it’s done to vulnerable children and to the disenfranchised. It’s insidious.

Right now, we have laws popping up to help recognize victims and to stop arresting children for being purchased for sex by an adult, to prosecute buyers, and to end the demand. There are multiple states where, if a sex worker is a minor, even if the buyer says they did not know, it is a felony and they will go to prison and they will need to register as a sex offender. There is so much information out there to educate ourselves, that ignorance is no excuse anymore.

Statistically, it’s a child being bought, and it should not be worth the gamble or that person doing the buying is a risk to our society. At the same time, there are bills being deciding on right now in DC, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York to fully decriminalize sex work. They are presented with the lie that this will somehow decrease trafficking and provide services for sex workers, but they have no resources of any kind provided within the bills.

We know, from Las Vegas, that trafficking rakes in 50 to 70 times as much money as the legal brothels in Nevada. In the 48 years since sex work was legalized in parts of Nevada, they now have 63% higher rates of sex trafficking than any other state in the country, and they rank in the top 10 states for exploited youth.  Less than 10% of all prostitution happening in Nevada is legal.

We cannot let this hurt any more families and children.

Anne: Yes. As we as women who understand the serious ramifications and abuse of pornography and the abuse that happens with people who are involved with pornography, we also need to recognize that we too have been victims of this in our own homes.

I know several women who have been filmed by their husband, for example, and then the husband put that online for porn. They did it without their consent and they did it without their knowledge. They are victims of sexual exploitation.

What would you recommend for listeners if they suspect that they might be victims of sexual exploitation or they’re wondering if they have been?

Not Sam: A great place to start is a book called Sex Trafficking Prevention, by Savannah J. Sanders. It will not only help understand the basics but it’s useful for parenting children with trauma as well, to help protect them. There are national agencies to get information and support. Polaris is one that is fantastic.

The Rebecca Bender Initiative does some incredible work with survivors. They’ve, personally, been amazing to me. Also, look locally. I am from a tiny farm town, this happens everywhere.

Find your local agencies, support them, “Like” their pages, share their articles that you agree with, attend functions. If you’re brave enough, some even have weekly walks to try and help find victims.

There are real underground railroads that are happening, freeing slaves. There are a lot of churches, actually, in my area that do these weekly walks to help free children. That’s just so sad and it’s empowering, at the same time.

Whatever really feels comfortable to each individual. Recognizing our own limits and recognizing our need for safety right now is really your biggest priority. Endsexualexploitation.org has some really inventive campaigns attacking the money, where we can make the most progress, and they think outside the box.

They have really great ideas that can inspire your own ideas, and then they in turn, will help support those ideas. You can contact politicians and demand enforcement of our laws and be aware of what the laws are in your area.

If my child is kidnapped it is a crime committed against them. If my child is sold, they are treated as a criminal. Make sure that that is not true for where you live, for your children and your families. Last but not least, learn how to identify trafficking victims and teach your children.

If their friends have a secret boyfriend, a new random expensive gift, a new tattoo from a partner—which they think is a tattoo but it’s really a brand—or offers for modeling jobs, they need to tell an adult and that adult can reach out to either their local or a national human trafficking agency to get assistance on how to proceed.

Anne: I’d like to end with this question, since you are also a betrayal trauma victim, currently in a relationship with a man who is abusive to you, and you’re currently trying to navigate boundaries and figure out this relationship that you’re currently in. You understand how all the listeners feel in that regard.

How do you think that compassion for other victims can help betrayal trauma victims heal?

Not Sam: I think just recognizing that, if their partner chose a sex worker, that sex worker never had any animosity towards the family. They felt genuine compassion and sorrow. Understanding that this is what we were enduring. That what they were enduring had to be equivalent or worse. Just accepting that they had compassion and empathy, and then being able to give that back, coming from that place.

It’s easy to be triggered. It takes a lot of work to be able to get to that place. I know, in the beginning, I was very triggered just by any other woman. I love all of my sisters, and that was really hard for me to navigate and retrain my brain that just other women, in general, were not a threat. I know it takes a lot of work.

Anne: If a man is faithful and non-abusive, and he’s honest and transparent and accountable, he’s not going to “accidentally” pay someone to have sex. He’s not just going to see an attractive woman and then suddenly “accidentally” end up in a hotel room with her. That accountability lies 100% with him. Even if she walks up to him and starts kissing him or something, he can push her away.

They are accountable for their own behaviors, and I think recognizing that helps us know how to set boundaries for our own safety because we need to be able to trust our own husband, and he needs to be trustworthy.

Not Sam: Yeah, I can honestly tell you that I was trapped for roughly a year, and in that time, I never once had to go to an ATM, and that’s really sad. Meaning they knew what they were looking for when they stopped. They were prepared. They knew what they needed to have and they had it.

Anne: Well, I really appreciate you coming on today’s episode to talk about this. With your current abusive relationship, how has your experience informed you in your decisions right now?

Not Sam: Oh, it’s been extremely traumatic. The more trauma that you have in your history, the more the betrayal trauma intertwines. That’s the way it has been described to me by my trauma therapist, and so I’ve really had to work to separate the two traumas from each other, and also to try to remove my husband from my memories of my children so I can enjoy them and that they are not mingled in with the trauma.

It’s been a long process of trying to even feel comfortable to set boundaries when I was, unfortunately, trained to not have any boundaries and that I was not allowed to have boundaries. It’s been a lot of extra work, but the more growth that I have, the more empowered I feel, to grow even more from that.

Anne: Is your husband currently working toward being a healthy person?

Not Sam: Yes. He gets his own individual therapy and is part of a group. Both are all male, by my request, because I feel that he has a tendency to not trust female’s opinions or to see them as less. I see a lot of entitlement behaviors, so I feel like he’ll receive the best messaging from other men holding him accountable, at this point. He’s early in his recovery.

Anne: Hopefully, in your husband’s recovery he can choose healthy behaviors and stop the abusive thought process.

Not Sam: Thank you so much for having me and thank you so much to anybody who is able to get through this. Take care of yourselves.

Anne: What sets Betrayal Trauma Recovery apart from most therapists, CSATs, or clergy is that we really look at this pornography issue and the abuse issue from a global scale, rather than just has he stopped using porn. Pornography is an abuse issue, and I appreciate every single one of you who support this podcast by listening to it and sharing our articles on social media.

Tagging your friends from our Instagram account, which is @BetrayalTraumaRecovery, retweeting stuff from Twitter, and sharing stuff on Facebook. Every single time you share one of these articles it helps people get educated about this.

Each podcast episode has a corresponding article on our website. If you go to btr.org and click on Podcasts, you can search, and you can find this podcast episode and then you can share it on social media. Your sharing makes a huge difference and helps isolated women figure out what’s going on.

Unless we take this holistic view, we are not going to be safe, and also the men around us are not going to understand how to stop these types of abusive behaviors.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes or your other podcasting apps. Every single rating helps isolated women find us.

For those of you who have been listening for a while and you’re still seeing things, or you think things are okay but maybe you’re not sure or maybe you’re starting to dip your toe into setting some boundaries. Those of us who have set pretty intense boundaries know that you can do it without support, but it’s so much easier with support.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which is our online support group, is live and goes multiple times a day in multiple time zones with real, live, awesome, amazing, strong women that are there to help listen to your specific situation or to help you set specific boundaries so that you can have emotional safety and start making your way to the peaceful life that you deserve. To join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, go to btr.org.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

Translate »
9 Steps Checklist

The checklist we wish EVERY WOMAN experiencing betrayal trauma had

Subscribe to download the printable 9-step checklist with ACTIONABLE steps you can take TODAY.

Check your inbox for the checklist from Anne from Betrayal Trauma Recovery. We know this checklist can change your life, just like it's changed the lives of thousands of other women!