Episode 47

Alia

Child Sex Trafficking Survivor, Former Porn Performer, & Advocate

Trigger Warning: This discussion includes frank discussions of abuse and suicidal ideation that may be triggering to some. Listener discretion is advised.

Alia grew up in Ventura, California, with a young mother who wasn’t ready to prioritize her. From a very young age, Alia experienced sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. Her warped understanding of love and affection pushed her to seek out validation from older men on social media. By the time she was 14, she had entered into a relationship with a man twice her age who then trafficked her. When she was 18, the exploitation Alia experienced evolved into performing in strip clubs where she was eventually invited by a customer to join the porn industry. Ultimately, Alia’s experience in the porn industry was dramatically different from the glamorous and empowered life that was initially promised to her. Even as a popular mainstream performer, she experienced more trafficking, abuse, and exploitation, eventually breaking free and connecting with other sex industry survivors. See how Alia’s childhood abuse paved the way for her career in the commercial sex industry, and why she finally left on her own terms.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Fight the New Drug Ad: Hey listeners, Did you know that Consider Before Consuming is a podcast by Fight the New Drug? Fight the New Drug is a non-religious, non-legislative 501C3 non-profit that exists to provide the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on the harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts. Fight the New Drug is research based, education focused, sex-positive, and anti-shame. To learn more about Fight the New Drug, and to see the additional free resources that we offer, like our three-part documentary series, and our interactive conversation guide, visit FTND.org. That’s FTND.org.

Garrett Jonsson: Today’s episode is with Alia. She’s a person who has experienced the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation in some devastating ways. She grew up in Ventura, California, with a young mother who wasn’t ready to prioritize her. At a young age Alia experienced child sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. She went on to experience sex trafficking as a child, and ultimately ended up in the porn industry.

About four years ago, Alia decided to transition away from the commercial sex industry. Today, she’s an involved mother, has finished a four year degree, and is helping other people who have experienced sexual exploitation.

We want these conversations to be educational, uplifting, and hopeful. As we sit down with experts, influencers, activists, and people with personal accounts, we cover a wide variety of topics that may be triggering to some- you can refer to the episode notes for a specific trigger warning. Listener discretion is advised.

With that being said, let’s jump into the conversation, we hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.

Garrett Jonsson: How are you doing today?

Alia: Pretty good. Pretty good.

Garrett Jonsson: How’s California?

Alia: Oh, it’s beautiful.

Garrett Jonsson: Really?

Alia: As opposed to the high of nine they’ve had this week in Chicago.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Alia: Yeah. Yeah. It’s gorgeous here. It’s like 65 degrees and sunny.

Garrett Jonsson: Quite the change of scenery.

Alia: Yeah, exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: I have to ask what took you from Chicago to California?

Alia: I’m from California. Um, and I have a daughter that lives here with her dad.

Garrett Jonsson: Cool. How old is your daughter?

Alia: She’s five.

Garrett Jonsson: Nice. That’s a such a cool age.

Alia: Yeah, she’s great.

Garrett Jonsson: Is that your only one?

Alia: No, I have an 11 year old and a four year old.

Garrett Jonsson: Nice. We have three kids as well, so I can relate to the busy-ness.

Alia: Yeah. Yeah. They’re crazy. But they’re great.

Garrett Jonsson: For sure. Well, it’s nice to get to know you a little bit. The first question I have to ask, because this is kind of our first time really talking to each other and I don’t know even how to pronounce your name yet.

Alia: [laughter] Alia.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s a pretty name. Where does that come from? Cause it’s so unique, I’ve never seen it before.

Alia: Um, it, it was from the book Dune. Do you remember that book? They made it into a movie.

Garrett Jonsson: No, I don’t.

Alia: Yeah. There, I think there’s a movie coming out soon. It’s like a science fiction book that was really big in the late.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, cool.

Well, a couple of things to help us better understand, um, you as an individual, would you share with us, uh, once again, where you, where you’re from, um, something that makes you happy and something that you’re proud of?

Alia: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, so I’m from Ventura, California. It’s a little beach town just north of Malibu, south of Santa Barbara. Um, something that makes me happy. Um, man, at these days, it’s just about everything. I’m just super grateful to just be able to live the life that I do. And anytime that I get to just be a part of, of my life now and get to be a part of, um, the amazing things that I get to do, like those are the things that, that really bring me a lot of joy, but I’m also a big reader. I watched a lot of Netflix, Netflix makes me happy [laughter].

Garrett Jonsson: [laughter]

Alia: Um, I’m a big foodie. And then something that I’m proud of is probably, uh, the work that I’ve gotten to do in the last few years and just bring awareness to a lot of things that I thought would, um, would end being shamed that I would take with me for the rest of my life, that I have turned around to be these things that are just awesome testimonies.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s so cool. I’m interested to know how you came to where you’re at today or how you transitioned into being more public?

Alia: Yeah. And don’t get me wrong. There are times that, um, I feel a lot of, you know, uncomfortability sharing my story and there are times where that does like rear its head and I have to put it back down and remind myself of, you know, what the truth is and that this isn’t just my story. This is everyone’s story. And, um, and there was a shift for me that happened about six months after I left the industry where I thought, you know, at that time I was thinking like, I’m, you know, “This is my, this is my baggage. This is my, um, shame that I’m going to have to keep hidden.” People aren’t going to want to hear what I have to say. But I realized at some point that that was really my old thinking that was carrying on into my life. That that was my old shame.

And that, uh, if given a platform, uh, I was always going to say yes, as long as I thought about it and thought like, this is a healthy way to use my voice. I was going to say yes. And as soon as I made that decision, things just started coming out of the woodwork. I had, um, people who wanted to interview me, people who wanted to, um, be a part of telling my story. And, and I just thought like, “Wow, this is, this is a gift.” This is something that, uh, doesn’t just affect me. This is something that’s affecting so many people’s lives. And I have a unique ability to speak into that. Uh, so it’s been really cool to see like the way that that willingness has carried on over the last few years and the things that have gotten to kind of come out of that. Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It makes me think of the concept of like, um, when give you get. Right?

Alia: Right.

Garrett Jonsson: And then there’s almost like you’re giving away some of these stories and experiences to help other people and you’re getting these opportunities, which we’re so grateful for.

Alia: Yeah. And I’ll tell you another big piece of that is, uh, I only know a couple of people who have been able to leave the industry and live successful lives. I think we know that, um, that’s not the case for most people and the couple of people that I do know have all chosen to do that. They’ve all chosen to turn around and tell their stories and give back and use the experiences that they have to help other people who are struggling or just to use it as like advocacy and education and information. So they were really inspiring to me as well.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s cool. It kind of just that shows the importance of like owning your story. Right? That’s cool. That’s inspiring. Well, like you said, it’s not easy, even though you’ve done this for a long time, you’ve, you’ve, uh, used platforms to speak about, um, the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation. And even though you’ve had those experiences, it’s still not easy. And so we just want to acknowledge that upfront. And as we go through the conversation, just know that if there’s questions you’d prefer not to answer today, um, please let me know. We wanna, we want to publish something that they are proud of. So…

Alia: Thank you.

Garrett Jonsson: Can we dive into your personal account a little bit?

Alia: Yeah, let’s do it.

Garrett Jonsson: Um, I guess the first question to open it up would be when did you begin experiencing some of the harmful effects of pornography or sexual exploitation?

Alia: Um, so that happened for me very early. I was sexually abused, um, pretty early, starting about four years old. And, uh, that included it, my abuse included pornography, my, uh, both like of taking pictures of myself at that age. Um, or my abuser taking pictures of me and then also, um, of pornography being utilized in that abuse, uh, as a way to, um, just introduce sexuality, I guess, into my life at that age, uh, by that person. And so that would, that would be where I would, um, where I would pinpoint the beginning of that, uh, that the introduction into, you know, sexual exploitation and pornography.

Garrett Jonsson: And at four years old, um, you know, I just can’t imagine because I’m trying to think back to when I was four, you know, and I have some very faint memories. Um, and then I think to my kids and goodness gracious, that is young.

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Um, I’m kind of curious, have you always known that the abuse happened when you were around that age of four or did it take some digging to uncover that?

Alia: So I had, cause like you’re saying our memories at four are so weird. Um, they’re hard to look back and be like, “Oh yeah, I remember the 10 and the date and the length of time.”

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Alia: And so I, I remembered I had clips of, of memories and, um, feelings that were uncomfortable, but because it was my abuse happened by a boyfriend of my mom. Um, and I knew the time when they were together when I was, you know, trying to really formulate when was this, which was pretty young because it was something that had still stayed with me that I did remember did happen. Um, I was probably 10 or 11, maybe 12 when I started formulating in my mind, like “When was this?” And then I was able to, you know, kind of pinpoint the age because of, uh, the person that she was with at that time. And, um, there are things that, you know, I don’t remember. I had a friend asking me recently, like “How long did this go on?” And I, I can’t, you know, those kinds of things. I can’t remember. Um, I can’t remember. I know that it was ongoing. I know that it was repeated, but I can’t remember if it was, uh, you know, a few months or a couple of years because that time period, um, in our brains at that age is just so mushy.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

And I also think that it’s not only just based off age, but maybe the experiences were so traumatizing that sometimes I think that can be almost like a coping mechanism of some sort. Right?

Alia: Yeah. It’s definitely a way that our brains protect us. And, um, there’s, you know, there’s a lot of gratitude and for me in that, that, um, man, I don’t have to look back and be able to play it back like a movie because that could be awful.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Have you noticed that as you’ve spoken about it more that you’ve had more memories come about or more clarification as to what happened?

Alia: No. Um, not, not necessarily as I’ve spoken about it, as I’ve spoken about it more, I’ve gone through, um, a lot of therapy and a lot of professional assistance to get over those kinds of traumatic issues and absolutely in those situations with a therapist, there were things that came back. Um, but and I did all that before I decided to speak publicly about my, uh, about my abuse and about my experience in pornography. So, uh, I’m grateful that I got all of those things out there in that safe place and with a safe person and with people who knew how to handle that, uh, before speaking about it more.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That’s really cool that you took the time to go to therapy and really take care of yourself. That’s really, really important. Um, and we’re grateful cause you’re here with us today and who knows if you would have been without all that therapy and, and self-improvement.

Alia: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Can you go back to how your, I guess how pornography, because pornography played a role in your abuse and how your, um, sexual abuse affected you as an individual early on in your, in your life?

Alia: Yeah. And there’s another, um, key point in that, that I think was really important to my development. And that was that, um, my mom was actually, um, a print, an adult print model. Um, and so I had another set of exposure to pornographic images, um, because of that. And growing up, my mom had, she had been a centerfold for one of Larry Flynn’s magazines, um, which was a big print hustler type thing. And she had had like a life size print of one of her centerfold photos hanging above her bed. And so that I also not only was I sexually abused, but I was also raised by somebody that had a really, um, high view of pornography at that point in her life. Things have changed a lot since then. Um, but as like a, a very young mom, that was something that she idealized as well.

So because I was raised in this environment and then coupled with, uh, the sexual abuse, those things, um, they spoke into each other, they were two, they were messages from two different places that were telling me the same thing. Um, both the, the pornographic images that I was seeing with my mother and the way that she carried herself, um, and the way that she spoke. So highly of her experiences, along with my abuser, who was telling me that this is what sexuality is, this is what, um, sexual touch is, what love looks like, um, specifically like forced sexual touch is what love looks like and that these women in these magazines, or, um, in the case of the sexual abuse that I was seeing, these underage, um, girls that I was seeing in photographs and things like that, that this is really where, uh, someone would peak in life that these were good things. These were things that were, um, to be, to be idolized and idealized. And so obviously that really affected my view of, uh, pornography in general of the men and women who were in pornography and of its place in my life and of my, uh, purpose in the world. Um, and I definitely carried that with me, uh, into, you know, pre-teen, adolescent, and then young adulthood.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow.

Alia: Does that answer… the question?

Garrett Jonsson: Absolutely. I think, man, I just want to acknowledge, uh, how unique your, I mean, I know that your experience is more common than we might think, but I just find it so interesting that your mom was also part of the porn industry and that you grew up in that. That’s really interesting to me. And it’s interesting to learn how that negatively affected you. What were your coping mechanisms to deal with the hurt and the traumas and maybe, maybe the neglect as well that you experienced as a kid?

Alia: Yeah. Um, early on, I’d say my first coping mechanism was attention, uh, as a young kid, I didn’t get, like you were saying, there was some neglect. And again, I just want to say that my relationship with my mom now is, is very, very different and I’m super grateful for that. Um, she’s one of my biggest, biggest champions now,

Garrett Jonsson: That’s awesome.

Alia: But that, that was not the case, uh, until, until really not that long ago, maybe seven years ago. And, um, but I, my first, my first coping mechanism was to find that, find that attention that I wasn’t getting at home or that I was giving too much of at home in the case of the sexual abuse, um, in other places. So I turned into someone that, you know, I would, I was trying hard, every single thing that I would do and, and yet it was never enough.

And so then I would give up and I would try hard again and I would give up and I would try hard again. And until I found, um, till I found pieces of my life that I could control. So it was an aspect of looking for the attention, looking for the control, um, and then diving into those things that gave me that. And so, uh, early on one of those things that gave me that was, was food. I was always a really small person. Um, not only had I like seeing the, uh, idealized image of what it was meant to be a woman as being really thin, um, from my mom and from the pornography that I was, uh, exposed to, but also just from my natural body type, I was a smaller person and I got a lot of praise for that, uh, growing up.

And that was one piece of my life that I felt like, “Okay, this is something, um, that I don’t get don’t feel shame about.” And so that became, uh, an eating disorder grew out of that. And that became something that I definitely use to cope. It gave me a lot of control, um, when my life seemed, uh, anything but controlled, uh, and it gave me something that I could feel pride in and, and that, um, I carry that with me for, you know, gosh, like 15 years. And then as I got older, um, sex became a huge piece of that, uh, that coping mechanism, um, for me as well, there was, uh, a lot of abuse and a lot of relationships that were really unhealthy that I tried to use to cope. And it was just a lot of, of trying to find like, um, “What things make me feel better? What can I do that makes me feel better?” And that there’s so many things in life that, that works for a short period of time and they don’t.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, the instant better.

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: That instant gratification, that makes sense.

Alia: Yeah, exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Did, did you ever turn to pornography consumption?

Alia: Um, not as an adult, as a young kid, I had started to look, um, at pornography off on my own. I don’t believe it was necessarily as a coping mechanism. Um, when I turned to looking at pornography, it was as a comparison tool.

Uh, I used that to be like, “Where am I at with my physical, with my physicality?”, “What does my body look like?”, Um, and “In what ways am I supposed to look beautiful?” So for me, when I looked at pornography, um, starting at like 11, 12, it was almost like my way of doing research, like, “Okay, I know that this is the, this is what people are supposed to look like. This is what beauty looks like. This is what, um, the ideal woman looks like in the way that she behaves in the way that she acts. And so I’m gonna, you know, just copy that and I’m gonna just try and mirror that in the rest of my life.

Garrett Jonsson: So would you say that you were turning to it as, um, almost like sex education?

Alia: Yeah, absolutely. As, as sexual education and as life education, because, well, the information that I had been given, um, was that this was, this was, uh, the best thing. These were the best people. These were people that I should want to be like. And so I wasn’t given information that was like, this is just them at work, or this is them, um, you know, acting as if for the consumer that this was, my information was like, this is the best piece of life.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Hmm.

That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, going to your abuse and like, we’ve talked about sometimes, you know, when you’re, especially at a young age, that abuse can seem like a blur, right. And it’s hard to remember all those details and, um, it’s hard to even identify if abuse, like it’s hard to identify the abuse is abuse sometimes and they say “name it to tame it.” So I was, I’m curious to know, when were you able to identify your abuse as abuse?

Alia: Um, that’s something that’s ongoing for me, uh, because as I’m sure we’ll get into, there was more abuse that happened as I went into my, and even adult years. Um, and that was a really difficult piece for me to be able to identify that, um, as abuse. I mean, obviously at four, I didn’t have words for, um, sexual abuse or molestation or rape or anything like that. Didn’t have those words, and, uh, so the first time I had ever heard about sexual abuse, I think I was like 10. Um, and a friend of mine was talking about, I don’t remember, maybe she had just learned the word. I can’t remember exactly how it came up, but I remember thinking like, “That’s, that’s what happened to me.” And I knew I had already known that those things happen.

I didn’t, you know, have any sort of, um, block in my mind that completely protected me from the knowledge that it had happened, but I just didn’t have a way to frame it. Um, and so I remember when that happened to me, but I didn’t tell people, um, for probably another five years after that. And I didn’t tell my family until only a few years ago. And so each time that I’ve gotten to claim it in a new way has brought about that, like taming effect, it has brought about this like feeling of transparency, but like you’re saying, that’s, that’s, uh, a hard point in our lives when we don’t, um, we don’t have words for those things. And, um, and I saw that happen to me over and over again, where I would experience something that maybe had been, um, presented in such a way that it wasn’t abuse that it wasn’t until years later when maybe I was talking about the experience with someone else, or I was hearing someone else’s experience that I realized, “Oh my gosh, what, what happened to me? That was, that was what that was, that was abusive, that was trafficking or, um, that was assault.” And so it’s, it’s a process. Right.

Garrett Jonsson: You know, I think, I think it’d be interesting if you could give us some context or give us your perspective on why it took you years to talk about it. And the reason why I think it’s important to kind of address this, if you will, is because I think for people that are not very familiar, familiar with how abuse works and the grooming process and the aftermath of abuse, I think sometimes the outside perspective, that’s very oversimplified as like, “Why didn’t you tell sooner?” Right?

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And so I just want to give you an opportunity to maybe talk to that a little bit about why was it so challenging to speak about it?

Alia: So there’s a couple of pieces to that specifically for me, for one, um, again, at that age, like we just said, I didn’t really have words for what was going on. And I didn’t necessarily know that what was going on to me, what was happening to me was wrong. Um, it felt wrong. I didn’t like this feeling, but the person that was abusing me was telling me that this was okay, so there’s that piece. And it also, um, and then by the time I got old enough to know that this wasn’t okay, this person was gone and out of my life, um, there was still some kinds of feelings of like, “I don’t really know how to put this into words.” Um, I, I don’t, you know, that, that young, um, preteen, uh, you know, late childhood stage is just confusing. And then, and then there’s also like at that age, you don’t really understand that this thing that happened to you, even if it was wrong, even if you’ve gotten to that place where you’re like, “Okay, this is, I was abused.”, how it’s still affecting your life or how it’s going to continue to affect your life.

And so there’s shame that gets brought with that. There’s shame from the abuse, there’s shame from the fact that you didn’t tell anyone or for you, um, you know, you, you didn’t trust people in your life at that time and not trying to want to upset my mom or my grandparents and bring up something to them that had, um, had been years old at that point, uh, a child’s brain, especially just doesn’t work in that same kind of way that ours do. You know? If, if somebody grabs your purse on the street, you don’t feel any shame about that, and you don’t have a problem being, you know, going to the next person and telling them that. But, um, as a child,

Garrett Jonsson: That’s an interesting comparison.

Alia: Yeah. And as a child, those, those things, aren’t, that’s not the same. Um, yeah. You know, our, our brains go to protecting our people and, um, our brains are confused.

Our minds are filled not only with what we think is right and wrong, but what our abuser told us was right and wrong. And, and I, like I said, my relationship with my mom at that point, wasn’t at a place where I, um, I necessarily trusted her to carry something like that. And there’s, um, I know that fear, that cliche of not being believed, um, people, you know, say it as a cliche that, you know, that’s not a good excuse. Of course they would believe, um, a child who says that. But I mean, honestly, that’s not always true.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Alia: And I, I carried that, um, feeling of, of that. I wouldn’t be believed with my mom until gosh, maybe three years ago, even when I told other family members or I had told, um, you know, other people in my life and worked through it in therapy. I didn’t tell my mom about that until, until about three years ago. And, and I’m lucky, I’m lucky that my mom, um, my mama absolutely did believe me and was of huge support and affirmation. And she actually already knew. Um, but that’s, I mean, that’s, that’s a burden that people who went through, uh, abuse carry around with them. For sure.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Thanks for sharing that insight. I know you also experienced the, you entered at some point in your life, you entered the life of sex trafficking, and I was wondering if you can talk to that a little bit of how that transition happened and what it looked like for you?

Alia: Yeah. It, so, um, as I kind of touched on, when you were asking me about my coping mechanisms, I touched on the fact that I used sex as a coping mechanism. Um, and that started for me around around 12 or 13. Um, I had, you know, through my abuse and through my understandings of sexuality, I had gotten the, um, the idea that sex was, uh, the end all be all, uh, it could cure all things, it could fix all things. And, um, um, so I started trying that around around 12 or 13 as I would feel uncomfortable, or I would feel, um, anxious. And a lot of the things I was feeling were probably affects from the sexual abuse that, uh, I had gone through. And of course the anxiety there and just the kind of recklessness and, um, feeling like my life wasn’t, uh, wasn’t valuable or my life wasn’t sacred.

And, and so, um, this was an aging myself here.

Garrett Jonsson: [laughter]

Alia: Um, but this was in like a MySpace era. And so my space was a place that I turned, um, in order to just like, I was a completely reckless preteen, teenager. And, um, I would just go on MySpace in the middle of the night or the middle of the day or whenever. And I would find these guys that were, uh, much, much older than me. Um, like I said, it was probably 12, 13, and I was finding these guys that were in their late twenties, who would come and pick me up and that I could go hook up with. And, and then, um, that would drop me back off at home. And so I was doing that pretty regularly and I, while I was doing that, I found, um, this one guy, um, I had done this, you know, quite a few times before, and I just thought that at this age, I thought like “I’m really street smart.”

Um, I had grown up in kind of a rough area from a rough family and, um, I thought that I could handle myself and, and, um, we want to talk about the grooming process like this, this man was in his late twenties. He was about 28 at the time. And he, um, he really knew how to, um, flip the script on a lot of the things that I was feeling, um, and promise to be the person that would get me to not feel that way. Because for me, it was always about “How do I not feel this way? How do I not feel this pain, um, how I feel like I’m alive?” And, uh, he, he really knew how to, um, how to rewrite that in a way that was dependent on him. Um, so at this time it was about 13, 14, and I was, um, you know, thought that I was in love.

And there’s this technique that, um, people in, in the, the life of sex trafficking know very well and it’s called boyfriend thing. And so it’s, um, where, uh, someone who plans to be a pamper is a pound will gain the gain, um, the confidence of a girl by being in a relationship with her. Um, and then eventually that relationship, uh, requires more than just relationship in order to stay in that relationship in order to hold your own. In that relationship, you’re asked to, uh, you’re asked to have sex with X, Y, and Z people, um, in order to hold your value in that relationship still. And because that bond has already been formed in the time before then, so many girls go, um, go ahead and go through with that. And so that’s what happened to me and he really knew how to groom me.

He knew how to bring in, um, the idea of prostitution. Um, it’s, it’s crazy. Like I said, I’m still unfolding things and still realizing, um, pieces of this, even, even now, you know, this is about 15 years, uh, 15 years ago that this started happening. And even just in preparation for this podcast, I was talking to a friend of mine. I was talking to her about the situation and, um, this relationship with this guy and I’m telling her like, “Oh, you know, but he, he had his own stuff and I, you know, I don’t hold anything against him. And he was doing this on his own and he was sleeping with women for money in order to, um, provide for himself and to provide for me.” And I’m saying this to her and I’m looking at her and she’s just staring at me. Like, “She’ll get there, she’ll get there.”

And that’s when I realized, like you just, you know, just a couple of weeks ago, “Oh my gosh, that’s not what happened.” Like “That was something that he was telling me in order for me to feel comfortable with what he was going to be asking me to do a few weeks from then.” And so he knew how to do that. And, um, and, uh, and I fell into that. And so at that point, my life looked like it was about 14, 15, and my life looked like, um, like leaving my home. I would run away from home for, um, as long as I could without getting caught. And I would go be with him. And in the time that I was with him, he would, um, and take me to hotels and, um, take me to people’s homes and drop me off. And, and my experience wasn’t, um, a violent one, which was an issue for me naming it, like you said, um, moving on later. And, um, my experience was one where I thought that I was doing this consensually because my boyfriend had asked me to do this. Um, especially at that age, you know, 14 is, is that age of like, “I’m an adult. I know what I’m doing.”

Garrett Jonsson: Right. That mentality.

Alia: [laughter] Yeah. And so I didn’t understand that, um, like my mind was still able to be molded and groomed and, and, um, just kind of like changed to whatever someone else would, uh, would want at that time.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

And going to like the legal definition of what sex trafficking is in the United States.

Alia: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: Um, I think a simple way to put it is that it’s, um, a commercial sex act induced by force fraud or coercion or in which the person is under the age of 18.

Alia: Right.

Garrett Jonsson: So, um, you were under the age of 18. Um, but I’m wondering when, at what point did you start to realize that you were in the life of sex trafficking?

Alia: Um, so that’s, that’s another interesting point because, uh, I actually didn’t realize that as facts as sex trafficking until, um, I was probably 24, um, I had known that I had worked in prostitution when I was 14, 15, 16, 17, moving on into 18. Um, but I didn’t understand that I was the kind of person that could be trafficked. I didn’t understand that, that piece of like under 18, I didn’t understand that piece of coercion because that was absolutely, uh, a huge part of it, you know, like that grooming process that, um, kind of mind bending that happens, that manipulation that happens was definitely coercion for me. And so I had to have, I had to have someone else tell me, like, “What, what happened to you, um, what was going on with you was not, was not consensual.” Um, and once I started to put those pieces together, that that was when I was able to, um, to see that.

So it wasn’t until I was actually out of the situation and, um, that trauma bond, that survivors of trafficking and of, um, out of their third proffers have is, is a really hard to break. And it, um, it can rewrite what, uh, what actually happened into something that’s much more, um, much more digestible and the survivors mine, and then their, uh, in their spirit, you know, you don’t want to, you don’t want to see somebody that you cared about as being capable of doing something like that to you. You want to see yourself, um, as a person who had choice and as a person who, um, entered into something willingly.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Alia: So that was definitely my situation. Hmm.

Garrett Jonsson: One time I heard that the memory, like our memories as is kind of like a Wikipedia page where people can go in and kind of alter it and influence it. Right?

Alia: Yeah. Oh, that’s good.

Garrett Jonsson: So that’s kind of what you, I think a lot of, uh, victims and survivors of sex trafficking and that’s, that’s what’s happening is that, that grooming process, like you’re talking about. I think… actually one question I have is, did you know what sex trafficking was when you found out, like, as you were explaining these situations to people or to that person, whoever it was, whatever the situation was, and you started to that person helped you understand “That wasn’t prostitution, that by definition was sex trafficking.” Had you heard about sex trafficking? Did you know what it was?

Alia: So I had heard, um, of sex trafficking and, and I’m, we’re going to get to this as well. Um, from working in strip clubs, um, there’s California law. I don’t know if it’s U.S. law or California, but there’s a law that strip clubs have to have, um, like this big poster in their dressing rooms, in their office that defines sex trafficking.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Alia: Um, and so that was where I had first heard of it from, but I had still had this image that I think like a lot of people still do that sex trafficking is, um, children that are stolen or people that are brought here from other countries and held in like a dungeon. Um, and so the, the truth of what, what does this really look like domestically and who are the 99% and not the 1%, um, came out for me over time, as I realized like, “Oh gosh, you know, I, I am in that 99% of what, um, sex trafficking survivors look like.”, and the end it’s still unfolded for, um, for years after that, as I realized that other, other pieces of my story that, um, I would end up in, or that I had been in, uh, where, um, either trafficking or abuse.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

And like you said, I think that it’s common human nature to want to be in control of our situation and in control of ourselves. Can you talk to a little bit about how difficult it was to accept that, to accept that yes, you were a victim and now a survivor of sex trafficking? Was that a, like a tough pill to swallow?

Alia: Um,…

Garrett Jonsson: Or was it not too, not too difficult for you?

Alia: It was, it was, um, it was difficult. It wasn’t life shattering.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Alia: Uh, it was definitely something that I would lay there and just think like, “Wow, how did I miss this?” Um, but at the same time, um, my life was already so chaotic. And when I did find out that I had other things on my mind and other things that I had to handle and other things that took much more of my energy and, um, and, but a big piece of what was so traumatic was that, that trauma bond that I had formed with the person who had trafficked me and realizing while I had really been manipulated and duped, it wasn’t necessarily the situation. It was that, that that bond was, was shattered. And that, that, um, idealized thing that I had in my mind of who this guy was and how much he had looked out for me and had been really the only person that understood me and all of those things that I had thought, um, because he had, you know, performed by thinking to think those things, uh, that was what really bothered me. And that was what was, um, definitely more shattering.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That makes sense. At what point did you transition into stripping?

Alia: So, um, I got out of a, when I was 17, I went, um, out of state. My family sent me to a, um, to like a treatment center for kids who were having a lot of trouble that were having a lot of trauma that were, um, kinda out of control, because like I said, at that point, my stuff with my trafficker started when I was 14, but it didn’t end, um, until after I was an adult. So I was running off, uh, and disappearing for, uh, as long as I could and weeks at a time at some points. And, um, so my family wanted to put me somewhere safe and they did their best. My, um, the place that they picked probably wouldn’t be the place that I would pick, um, for someone, but it was what was, what was available at that point. And, and so I turned 18 there. And when I came back from, um, turning 18, I looked up my trafficker again, I got ahold of him. Um, and, you know, I explained to him “Look, I’m back.”, like, “I need, uh, I need you, I, um, I need to be, you know, away from my family and I’m 18 now. And, and nobody can put me anywhere and nobody can, um, stop me.” And, you know, at this point it’s like, and also no one can protect you. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, that’s true. The other side of that.

Alia: Mhm. And so, um, four days after I turned 18 and had gotten back, he picked me up and I just kind of assumed that things would go back to the way they always have been. But, um, this time, you know, he told me like, “Hey, things are going to be a little different. And, uh, why don’t you just start working in the strip club?” And he bought me some shoes and, and took me over to the club and, and dropped me off. And that was my first experience. And, uh, again, in preparation for this interview, I was talking this through with a friend and she was like, “Wasn’t that scary? Wasn’t that hard? Weren’t you uncomfortable?” And it’s so funny, like when your mind has been shaped to listen to, um, a certain type of person for your whole life and to just be told what you’re supposed to do, especially when it comes to sex and sex work and things, this was like, “Oh, this, this fit right into my narrative.” Like, “Okay. Yeah. Um, drop me off there and I’ll do the best that I can do.” And, and it was just, it was just the next, like, step on that stairway that I was already on.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Hmm.

That’s interesting. And then how, how many years did you spend stripping?

Alia: Um, so I worked off and on in the strip club from 18 to 27, so nine, nine years off and on.

Garrett Jonsson: So nine years, that’s quite a bit of time.

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: What is the average, would you say, according to the, kind of your perspective, your knowledge experience, what is the average duration of someone that works in that industry?

Alia: Um, I would say that at the time that I left, when I was able to say, like, “I’ve been working in clubs for nine years.” That was a big deal. Um, that wasn’t, by any sense, like the average, um, honestly I think it could be anywhere from just like a few months turnaround. There’s so many girls that come in and they, um, they end up deciding this is not, you know, not necessarily a safe place, not for me and not what TV tells us, it’s going to be like. Um, and then leave two to maybe a couple of years. Um, but the thing with, with strip clubs is it’s something that I think people, um, repeatedly go back to. So they’ll work for a few months here and then they’ll stop and they’ll get, try and get life together and, and, uh, and work another job. And then they’ll, they’ll end up coming back. So that’s a hard judge of like, what’s the average time. Um, but there aren’t many, there aren’t many women over 30 in a strip club. So, you know, there’s, that gives you a short window.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Was your trafficker, um, in control during your entire nine years working in the strip club?

Alia: Uh, no. My situation with my trafficker, um, pretty much ended after that. I ended up, uh, getting pregnant by someone else that I met, um, and leaving, leaving the strip club, um, and not really having contact with him, uh, after that. Uh, and so, um, my, my trafficking situation, uh, at least from the perspective of, um, of what it had been when I was being trafficked by that specific person ended, ended at about that time.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. Around the age of like 18 or 19 or so?

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. Gotcha. And speaking to, you mentioned how people will leave the industry and then return and then leave and return or go try a new job. And then return.

Do you think that it could be because of the lack of options, is that why that could be returned?

Alia: Oh, absolutely. I think there’s, there’s a lot of pieces to it. Lack of options is going to be, um, um, absolutely one of the, one of the top ones. And, um, especially, you know, when you live in somewhere like Southern California, where cost of living is just out of control and, and you have to put food on the table and be able to pay your rent and all of those things. And, um, I mean, there’s not a lot of jobs out there, especially for while there are a few of them. I don’t know a lot of women who entered into commercial sex who, um, had stable home lives, who had not undergone abuse and who had, you know, any sort of marketable skills to get a job that could really provide a life.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Alia: Um, and again, that’s not to say that there aren’t those exceptions out there, there are, uh, but it’s not the majority. Um, and many of the, the women that I worked with had a similar, um, similar experiences to what I had had growing up.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. This is a challenging question. So I just want to acknowledge that difficulty there, but if you had to guess based on your experience, um, if you had to put a percentage to how many people in the industry were abused or yeah. I guess, experienced childhood abuse, sexual abuse, what percentage would that be? Do you know? Or is that just to chat to challenging? Do you not talk enough about that?

Alia: I mean, there are actual percentages out there from interviews that people have done with, um, like actual, like academic studies that people have done and it’s high.

Garrett Jonsson: I looked at one, and I thought it was like 60 to 90%. Is that correct?

Alia: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I would have, I would have said probably about 80, um, and the other 20, honestly, some of them were probably part of that 20 that wouldn’t, that, um, wouldn’t say that they’ve been abused. So I bet you a big chunk of that is from not being able to put a name to the abuse that happened or not understanding it as abuse as well.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

And so, at what point did you transition into doing pornography?

Alia: Um, so I transitioned there, um, after my daughter was born and my daughter, when I was 19 and I went right back into working in strip clubs, you know, I was, um, obviously a really young mom. I hadn’t finished high school. Um, didn’t have a whole lot of other options, um, was in a very abusive relationship. And so I started back in the strip clubs and there was a customer there, um, that would always come in and he would talk to us. He talked to all of us who would spend a lot of money. Um, so he was the kind of person that wanted to spend more time with. And, uh, I started getting fed the line of like, “You’re, you’re so beautiful.” Like, “Why don’t you do modeling? Um, you know, that I know people that can get you out of here. You don’t have to come in here, you can do everything in the, in the daytime. And, um, there’s lots of people with kids.” I heard it all of the time, uh, let me give you this girl’s number. And so he gave me, um, he gave me the phone number for, uh, a woman to call, to talk about modeling, right. And so I called her and she was pretty upfront for me. She’s like, “Yeah, you know, this is a lot of modeling, but essentially it’s porn. Um, and these are the kinds of things you’re going to be doing.” And she’s like, “You can make your own hours. You can say no to anything that you don’t want to do. Um, you can always call us if you feel uncomfortable. You don’t ever have to do a shoot with people that you don’t want to do a shoot with. And if you ever just feel uncomfortable, you call us and you leave.” And so, because this was a girl that I was talking to, um, she was a girl, you know, maybe a little bit older than me. Uh she’s like 20, 23, 24. She had been doing porn. She was working for this management company. Um, I, I trusted her. I trusted her experience. Um, she had, uh, she had two little kids and so I felt like this is not a person that’s gonna, um, that’s gonna…

Garrett Jonsson: Exploit.

Alia: Yeah, exactly. This is somebody I can relate to. And so at that point, you know, with my trust in her, I started doing, um, I started doing porn porn then I think I was, um, about almost 20.

Garrett Jonsson: And you said that you also stripped until you were 29? So you were doing this…

Alia: 27.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, okay.

Alia: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And can you talk to a little bit more about how it was being in the industry, uh, like the porn industry, um, how it felt maybe go into your, your first experience. So you say, “Okay, this, this, this individual is not going to exploit me.” she’s building trust. Right. Um, it could be said that maybe she was grooming you because I would imagine she was probably getting paid to get you to gigs, right?

Alia: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, I mean, that’s the way that a management company works is they take a percentage of your income. So obviously if you’re doing shoots, they’re getting paid. And so, um, my first experience, um, was wildly uncomfortable to put it, uh, to put it, um, just flatly. And I drove down to like Santa Monica area. And, um, there’s like, you know, there’s solo shoots and there’s girl/ girl shoots and there’s girl/ boy shoots and all of those things. And my first shoot was a solo shoot. And so it was just going to be me and I drove down there and it was like in someone’s home, which, um, I, I had kind of had an image of things being a lot more, um, put together, I guess, is how I would put it.

Garrett Jonsson: Like on a set.

Alia: Yeah, exactly. And I, and I’ve done and I’ve done shoots that were like that as well, but that wasn’t what this specific one was.

And, um, so it was that this person’s home is like an kind of an old gross dude. Like not somebody that I would have wanted to like be naked in front of, or be sexual in front of, you know, my own time. And, um, and it was just a really uncomfortable experience. And I just felt like very gross and very, just like, like my skin was crawling the whole time. And, um, and even though my manager, when I had come and talk to them and I had signed my contract, um, which is a contract like that, there is no joke. If you sign a contract for pornography, like that’s a legal binding document that you can’t turn away from, um, without lawyers. And so I had signed a contract, um, to do X amount of shoots and take home X amount of money. And, um, even though when I had done that, my managers had told me, you know, “If you’re ever uncomfortable, if you’re ever don’t feel safe, um, you call us and we have you, we’re here for you.”

All things, I hadn’t really heard ever before in my life. Um, and so we’re very appealing, even though I had just heard those things from them when I texted them and said like, “Hey, I’m feeling kind of weird. Um, could you like, come be with me while I’m here? Or could you, whatever.” Um, I just didn’t even get a response back. Oh, wow. So right from right from off the bat, uh, like they were reneging on their side of, of the safety that they had promised of the, um, comfort that the industry had promised me. But again, because of my life experiences before then this really fit in, well, you know, this, this wasn’t like, “Oh, and I am uncomfortable, and this is not what it said it was going to be. So I’m going to leave this industry and I’m never coming back.” This was another, just like turning up temperature a little bit on that, like boiling pot, but I was already in.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. Um, I was actually going to ask that because I think I like the example you just used about the boiling pot, because are you talking about the frog example?

Alia: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Um, I think that’s an interesting analogy because one of the, one of the thoughts I had is I wonder if they sent you to a solo shoot as your first shoot as part of that turning up the heat a little bit. Do you think that’s probably true?

Alia: Absolutely. Um, uh, my, my soul, my shoots went from solo shoots to girl/ girl shoots to girl/ boy shoots.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, that makes sense.

Alia: So I would think that that would definitely be, and again, that was that end of the, um, the more, um, uncomfortable the shoot with whatever they were asking me to do physically, or whether they were going to be shoots that were like simulating rape, things like that. Those were, those were never my shoots off the bat. Those were shoots that came further along, um, further along in my career.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Well, one thing you mentioned is you said that in your contract, they had you sign that there was a couple of details. Um, you said X amount of shoots and X amount of money. And I want to ask you, and once again, I just want to acknowledge, or I guess restate that if you don’t want to answer this question, it’s totally okay. Um, the question I have is how much did you make in that first contract? And, um, I think the reason why I want to ask this question, I think that it’s, it’s going to be eyeopening. Um, and I think if you made a lot of money and you’ve left the industry, then that shows like, “Well, why did she leave the industry if she’s making, if she made a lot of money?” And then the other side of that, if you didn’t make much money, then it’s like, man, well, maybe this isn’t because a lot of people say there’s money in pornography. So I think either way it can be kind of a thing that something that we should consider, uh, as an, as, as a world. So do you feel comfortable asking, answering that question?

Alia: Yeah. So my first contract, which was, would have been in, I think 2011, I made was $5,000 a month. So it was not a, was not a lot. Um, but for me at that time, that seemed like a lot of money.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Alia: You know, I had just turned 20 and never had a job outside of sex industry in one way or another. Um, when, by the time I left the industry, I was making, um, you know, a little more than double that, um, a month. But again, not all of that was things that I was taking. I was in like multiple abusive relationships where I was never in control of my money. Um, now I didn’t leave. I didn’t leave. Like one of my mentors who left the industry left laking, she was making $20,000 a month when she left and left it to take a job that was paying her $8.75 an hour. But yeah, but that, that first contract was, was $5,000 a month.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. Thanks for sharing that. Can you talk to how, um, how being in the porn industry affected you as an individual in regards to, um, your physical health, your mental health, your emotional health?

Alia: Um, well, absolutely. Like I, like I said before, I was already struggling with an eating disorder. Um, and the industry definitely, definitely, uh, you know, turn the knob up on that one as well. Um, there was a lot of criticism if I shoot was bloated or I, um, had, you know, a scrape on my leg, even just like normal things that we, um, that we have happened to our bodies were really looked, looked down on, um, at that point. And so there was a lot of pressure, um, to, to constantly be perfect and constantly have, um, you know perfect looking physique. Uh and that, that took a toll on me. Um, emotionally and physically, obviously I was a very unhealthy person at one point, you know, my hair was almost falling out because I was, um, restricting my diet so much in order to go to a certain, um, standards so that I could do these certain shoots that I was being booked for.

And, um, on top of that, it was, it was just kind of a mind, a mind trip. Um, there were so many shoots that I would go to where I was so uncomfortable. Um, I would maybe even, you know, want to leave crying and I would have to shut off, shut off my brain and like, kind of do this, this thing that, um, this like this associative thing in order to get through it. And then yet after the shoot, um, everyone would just be congratulating me and just praising me and, um, you know, taking us out to eat afterwards and like forming this, you know, little like bond with us. And, and that, um, it was really a trip of like, uh, “Which one of these feelings is real?”, like “These feelings can’t, co-exist, I can’t feel this way during a shoot and then feel this way afterwards.” Um, yeah, so it was leading to a lot of just depression and anxiety and, um, yeah, it was a mess. It was a mess. Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Thanks for sharing that insight. Um, I’m curious if, uh, and this is a very sensitive question, but I’m curious if you ever experienced, um, suicide ideation?

Alia: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: And once again, if you don’t want to talk to that, then that’s okay.

Alia: Yeah, definitely. Um, I was absolutely suicidal throughout most of my time, um, in the industry and I’m, I’m my, my baseline personality is an optimist. I am just kind of like a happy and bubbly and outgoing person in general. And so for me to be like really, really low, um, you know, it’s not, it’s not normal for me. And, uh, there were periods of time that were, um, very, very dark where I would fantasize about suicide, especially at the very end of my time in the industry, it would become, it became a fantasy. It became a coping mechanism and thinking about, um, killing myself was a way that I felt relief. Um, and that’s, that’s the place in my head that I would go in order to escape what I was feeling.

Garrett Jonsson: That makes sense.

Did throughout your time in pornography, did you ever experience a healthy relationship?

Alia: No. No. I, I, uh, we like to say, um, “That my picker was way off.” [laughter] I’m sure you’ve heard that term before.

Garrett Jonsson: No. What is it?

Alia: The picker, like the people that you pick.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, yeah. [laughter]

Alia: Your picker, your relationship picker.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Alia: I, uh, my picker was way off and, um, even for people who, who might’ve been, somebody that I could have had a healthy relationship for, I was such an unhealthy person, um, because of what my interpretation of a world was, uh, that I wasn’t able to connect with somebody who was a healthy person. Um, I wasn’t able to have a relationship with somebody who was, um, functioning and, and, uh, you know, again, use the word just healthy. I wasn’t able to have a relationship with them because I was just such a mess. Um, so because of that was never able to have a healthy relationship. I, uh, even in the relationships I had that were maybe borderline okay. Um, I didn’t understand the boundaries and sexuality, um, because of my experiences growing up and then how, and then my experiences in porn, I didn’t understand how to say, um, like “No.” to people when it came to sex. So that led me, you know, to, to cheat on multiple relationships and be unfaithful. Um, because I had never been given the opportunity to say no to sexual contact, um, both in my personal life as a child. And then again, in my professional life as an adult. Uh, so that translated into my relationships as well.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Did you consume pornography on a personal level throughout these years as well?

Alia: Um, no, I didn’t. There were times that it was brought into, um, my relationship, um, where we as a couple would consume pornography, um, during sex or during, um, some kind of intimate, uh, moment.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. What’s your experience, your perspective on that?

Alia: Yeah. Um, I’m trying to think of how to put this into words. Um, I mean, we know that we know that pornography is, is it’s not real life. Um, and I know that on a, on a very personal level, like these are, this is not what people look like when they go home. These are not what people behave like when they go home. This is this one moment that is meant to be, um, the most highly sexualized thing possible. Um, and it’s not an accurate representation of what, of what sex is supposed to look like or, um, what relationships are supposed to look like. And so when you, when I was inviting those things into my, um, into my relationships, I was inviting, um, the unrealistic, I was inviting like failure essentially, and expectations that, uh, that just were not, um, anything that could have been, uh, ever fulfilled.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. That makes sense. Um, do you have a rock bottom moment that you can remember?

Alia: Yeah, so, um, in the last six months of working in the industry, I got into a relationship, um, that was very similar to the trafficking relationship that I had been in as a teenager. Um, throughout my time in, in porn, I was also stripping and escorting. Um, and, and I had this feeling that I had been in control. Um, I had felt like I was in control of my money, even if I necessarily wasn’t. Um, I felt like I was, you know, reclaiming the things that had happened to me. And, and I really thought that that working in porn and working in commercial sex was working for me. And I met, um, I met this person who, um, who kind of flipped my script a little bit. Um, and instead of being the one who was making the decisions and, um, the, the, uh, producers that I would work with and the companies that I would shoot for, um, he started setting up shoots for me outside of those things.

Um, I would get in the car to go with him somewhere and he would tell me like, “Oh, we’re not going there. You have a shoot.”, uh, or “You have a customer, you have something like that.” And, um, so all of the control that I had made myself believe that I had was gone. Um, at one point he got really upset with me and drop me off in an agricultural district here in Southern California. Um, couple of miles away from anywhere. Uh, no shoes. I was in like booty shorts and tank top, or booty shorts and sports bra. Um, yeah, no shoes, no phone, no purse. Uh, at this time in my life, I had had a lot of really expensive things. You know, I had really expensive purses. There were a lot of diamonds I had, um, like, you know, brand new iPhone and Apple watch and all of these things that, um, you know, really expensive shoes, these things that had made me feel like I had my life together.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Alia: And at that point, when he dropped me off, it was kind of like this mirror that I was given, um, like, no girl, this is what you have. Uh, this is what you really are left with, um, when it’s just you. And so that, that was my rock, my rock bottom in that area.

Garrett Jonsson: I got the chills as you explained that, because when you said that it was like a mirror, did you mean that in the literal sense, like you were looking at the car window and you saw yourself reflecting back or was it just a moment of self-reflection?

Alia: It was just a moment of self-reflection. It was just like, I was finally able to see, um, what I really was and how I was really feeling, um, once all of the things that I had kind of been using to cover that up and to tell myself that I was okay and that what I was doing was good for me, once those were stripped from me, um, yeah, I was able, I was able to really see, um, who I was as a person, how I was feeling and the life that I was living, um, in actuality, as opposed to like the idealism that I had had in my head.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Are you grateful for that rock bottom moment today?

Alia: Absolutely. I absolutely I’m in my life from them, from there on, um, while there have been periods of it that have been really difficult, um, has looked like things that I couldn’t have even dreamed of. So, yeah, I’m really grateful.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s cool.

One of the things I loved about, um, this conversation so far is one of the very first things you said is that, um, I said, “What makes you happy?” And I think your response, if I’m remembering correctly, you said, “Basically everything.” or something like that.

Alia: [laughter] Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And I think that comes from a place of gratitude. So I love that perspective. And, um, is that how you left the industry? Was it in that moment that you decided to, to leave the industry?

That was the last day in the industry? I don’t necessarily think that in that moment, I was like, and “I’m never going back to the industry.” And that moment I was like, something has to change. Um, and I felt like I really had three paths. I could go back to him and just submit and do whatever it was that he wanted me to do and just live my life like that and really give up because I would always, I had always had dreams of things that I wanted to do. And, um, like I knew that going back to him and submitting would be submitting to living the rest of my life this way. Um, so that was an option. Suicide was my other option. Um, and something that I was extremely thinking about, um, this wasn’t just something that was like on the table and I could take it off the table. This was, I mean, this seemed like a great path at this point, compared to, um, compared to my other options. And then my third option was to try something different. Um, I had known a girl who had left the porn industry, um, in 2012 and I had watched her life change as she healed. And, um, we’ll learn to learn to live life under a different lens. And, um, and so I, I just decided, you know, like I can’t go back, I’m not ready to go back to him. Suicide can always be on the table and I’m going to try this other option. I’m gonna try this third option and I’m going to try what she did. And, uh, I actually went to an aftercare program that we’re leaving, um, for women that were leaving sexual exploitation, whether that be pornography, prostitution, um, strip clubs or, or human trafficking. Um, I went to an aftercare center that was, uh, shoot nine months to a year long. And so that’s how I, um, that’s how I was able to heal and to get out and stay out of the industry.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow. Uh, I’m a fan of endurance events.

Alia: Okay.

Garrett Jonsson: Like I’ve done a couple of endurance events in my life, and I kind of look at life as an endurance event. And when I hear about all of your experiences, I’m like “What a champion.”, like you are a champion.

Alia: Wow, thank you.

Garrett Jonsson: We already talked a lot about the negative impacts that pornography had on you and on your relationships. And at Fight the New Drug, we kind of, we kind of break it down into three areas. We T we call them the, the areas of brain, heart, world, or individual relationships and, and the world. And so I, can’t not ask you this, even though I think it might’ve already been answered. I want to ask you again. Um, how do you think that pornography negatively impacts societies and the world at large?

Alia: Mhm. Again, I think that, that, um, that question was, you know, answered through that way or of pornography is, is something that’s not real. Um, it’s something we’re told is as this is, um, this is the peak of sexual enjoyment. This is the peak of, um, relationships for men and women. Um, and this is what it’s supposed to look like, and this is what we’re supposed to look like. And, and, uh, it dissatisfies us with, with each other, um, both in like the things that we have to bring to each other, the things that we have to do in, in intimate relationships, whether they’re, um, the sexual or non-sexual, I, I think the pornography really rewrites those, those relationships and those expectations of each other, um, in a way that is as nothing but harmful over something that is completely fake. Um, something that is completely ingenuine, um, is narrating like what it’s supposed to be the most genuine, uh, times in our lives and the most genuine relationships.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, I’m grateful for the girl that inspired you to leave the industry, and I’m also grateful for you because you’re inspiring other people. Um, can we talk to you how your life has improved since leaving?

Alia: Yeah, absolutely. Um, and I’ll, I mean, I’ll tell you this didn’t come without a lot of really hard work.

Um, you know, sometimes when a bone is broken and it heals a certain way incorrectly, um, the doctors will come in and they’ll, rebreak that bone, um, you know, in order to get it to set, right, so that you can function well again. And I definitely had to go through that re breaking process in, in an emotional, um, way and able to get out of this. This was not something that was like, “I left industry, and now all of my problems are better and more productive and a healthy member of society.” Not in any sort of sense. There were things that I carried, you know, since four and that were, um, you know, expounded upon and exacerbated by the, by the industry, um, that have that take, continue healing.

Um, but I’m about four years out now. And the life that I have is unlike, unlike my wildest dreams, um, you know, not only am I present in my kids’ legs and getting to see them grow up and getting to watch them become healthy, uh, little humans who are comfortable with who they are, um, you know, where I was at 10 or 11 is nowhere near where my, my oldest daughter is, um, at 11, like she is so comfortable with who she is and so proud of her accomplishments, and so sure of her worth and value in this life that, um, you know, I get to be a part of that and I get to be a part of molding these, these people in a way, um, in a way that my parents weren’t involved in mine and, um, I’m working, you know, I, I was always told that, um, you know, it was told I was too smart for my own good, like in an insult, um, kind of a thing and told to like, not act as smart as I was, and I I’ve gotten to put that to use, and I’m finishing, um, a degree that I had always wanted and, um, you know, looking back master’s programs and wow.

And that’s, I mean, that’s insane for me, like reading things. I was, I was just not the kind of person that could, could keep it together for a couple of days, let alone do something that’s taken four years.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Alia: Um,…

Garrett Jonsson: That’s awesome.

Alia: And then I, you know, I’ve, I’ve also worked for an organization that, um, that works for, that works to, uh, fund the safe houses for minors who have become, um, victims of trafficking and, and really work towards education and advocacy. And as a person who never had a voice growing up and was never had a voice as a young adult or a teenager, it’s amazing to see the way that’s been restored and, um, had gone, like here is your voice, and I’m going to use this voice and I’m going to use, um, your experiences in order to, to change things for other people who are still in the point. Where they don’t have that voice. And those were dreams I couldn’t have even, um, that I’m getting to see now. And, and on top of all of it, I just, don’t, I’m just not as broken anymore. I’m still, there’s still pieces there, but they’re like.

Garrett Jonsson: We’re all broken, right?

Alia: Exactly, but it’s not like a brokenness that’s, I’m not having to put the pieces together everyday.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Alia: They’re like, they’re glued together a little bit, you know, and when one falls out, I’m able to like manage that one and put it back where it goes and, and, uh, and, you know, seal it up until another piece starts to crack. And then I have other people who can come along and help me seal up those cracks. And so it doesn’t get ever to the point where it was, where I’m just a bunch of broken pieces on the floor.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Alia: Now it’s, it’s a brokenness that’s manageable as a brokenness. That’s brokenness, that’s normal for lack of a better word.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

That’s awesome. What is your four year degree in?

Alia: So I’m getting a degree in human services, so human services pre-counseling um, so it’s a pretty broad degree. I’m just kinda like psychology, sociology, counseling, a lot of mix of all of those things.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s awesome. Congratulations on that. That’s really cool. What advice do you have for others who are experiencing sexual exploitation?

Alia: Oh, gosh. Um, I think first and foremost that it can end today. Like it can stop now. Um, there doesn’t have to be a plan of how to get out. Like there are so many resources, um, and so many people that are, that are ready and, and willing to help you get out of there. Um, second that there’s, there’s no shame in, um, in leaving. That was something that I, I felt, um, like I had failed, uh, like I had failed this, uh, this life that had been written for me if I left, it meant admitting defeat. Um, and that’s okay. Uh, admitting defeat is the, the best thing that I could’ve done in my life, um, at that point. And, and third, that, that it’s just so worth it. Um, and then, like I’ve said, a bunch of times, my life now is something that I couldn’t have, I could not have dreamed of.

My wildest dreams are nothing compared to the life I’m actually living. Um, and that’s not, that’s not just me. I know I’m not the minority in that the girls that I do know that have been able to leave the industry and have been able to get healthy, are all living, living lives. They never, they never could have imagined. Um, and it doesn’t just stop with us. And I’m excited to, you know, hear someday about how, um, the next, the next girl left and the next girl is living is living the most, um, messy, hard, but fully satisfied life that she could have dreamed of.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, that’s cool.

Well, I just, I want to give you the opportunity to have the last word in this discussion. Is there one last thing that you would like to share?

Alia: So it doesn’t really sit on anything that we actually discussed, but there has been something that’s really been on my heart. Um, just as I’ve been talking to people like in preparation for this. Um, and I think it’s that, um, that matter of choice that we have in, in the industry, um, and we kind of touched on this a little bit with like, “Where is that coercion and, um, and the lack of options.” And, um, I would just really encourage everyone, uh, anybody who gets to listen to this, to just remember that, um, so many of us that came into the industry, uh, while we may have believed that we took that initial choice to enter. Um, there are so many nuances to that, and there are so many nuances to choice. Um, you know, we have a choice to breathe every morning. Uh, that’s something that we could hold our breath for a period of time until we passed out, but we can’t, we, we have this necessary thing in our body.

We have to breed, we have to intake food. Um, things like that. Those are, those are choices, just as much as, um, someone who has a need, uh, who fulfills it in the industry in one way or another. Um, and I was just, I just want to put that on people’s hearts that, uh, things aren’t always as clear as we make them out to be, or as we would hope that they would be. Um, and that it doesn’t just go for performers, but for consumers, for producers, for managers and, um, for everyone as well, that there’s, uh, there’s something that’s led to this point. Um, and there’s something that’s, that’s led to the point that now we’re starting to understand, like “how, how are these things bad for us and how is this, um, how is this, uh, contributing to the brokenness in our world?” Um, and so, yeah, it just, I’m not sure that that was like a fully formulated thought, but I just wanted to try and have something put out there along that lines to leave you guys with seek it, just, just be mulling it over and trying to, um, trying to define that, uh, that choice for ourselves.

Garrett Jonsson: I can’t thank you enough for showing up day in and day out for the past, like four years or five years, you said?

Alia: Yeah, it’s been about four years.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, we appreciate you showing up day in and day out so that we can kind of reap the benefits as well, because you’re inspiring other people. And so, yeah. Thank you.

Alia: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.

Fight the New Drug Ad: How can pornography impact you, your loved ones, and the world around you? Discover the answer for yourself in our free three-part documentary series, Brain Heart World. In three thirty minute episodes, this docuseries dives into how pornography impacts individuals, relationships, and society. With witty narration, and colorful animation, this age-appropriate series shines a hopeful light on this heavy topic. In each episode you’ll hear from experts who share research on porn’s harms, as well as true stories from people who have been impacted personally by pornography. Stream the full series for free, or purchase an affordable screening license at brainheartworld.org

Garrett Jonsson: Thanks for joining on this episode of Consider Before Consuming.

Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug.

Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest and the conversation we had, you can check out the links included with this episode.

Again, big thanks to you for listening to this conversation. As you go about your day, we invite you to increase your self-awareness, look both ways, check your blind spots, and consider before consuming.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.

MORE RESOURCES FROM FTND

A three-part documentary about porn’s impacts on consumers, relationships, and society.

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Successfully navigate conversations about porn with your partner, child, or friend.

A database of the ever-growing body of research on the harmful effects of porn.

An interactive site with short videos highlighting porn’s proven negative effects.