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Dr. Stephany Powell

By January 19, 2022No Comments

Episode 61

Dr. Stephany Powell

Director of Law Enforcement Training and Survivor Services at NCOSE

In this episode of Consider Before Consuming, we talk with Dr. Stephany Powell, the Director of Law Enforcement Training and Survivor Services at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. For 30 years, Dr. Powell worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, spending several years in their vice unit. Since her retirement, she has spent almost a decade working with victims and survivors of sexual exploitation. During this conversation, Dr. Powell talks with host Garrett Jonsson about sex trafficking, survivor empowerment, and what it will take to have a paradigm shift in the way we view, help, and treat survivors of sex trafficking.


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Garrett Jonsson: My name is Garrett Jonsson, and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming, a podcast by Fight the New Drug.

And in case you’re new here, 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.

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.

Today’s episode is with Dr. Stephany Powell. Dr. Powell is the Director of Law Enforcement Training and Survivor Services at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has very unique insight into the world of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. In addition to earning a doctorate, she worked with the LAPD for 30 yrs, and since her retirement she has spent almost a decade working with victims and survivors of sexual exploitation. During this conversation we talk about sex trafficking, survivor empowerment, and what a layperson can do to be part of the solution.

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

Well, Dr. Powell, we wanna say thank you for joining us on the podcast today.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Thank you for inviting me.

Garrett Jonsson: And when I say that we are grateful, we are always grateful, no matter who the person is, but I think we are especially grateful when the person has earned the title of doctor, because it, it shows that you’ve put in the work.

Dr. Stephany Powell: [laughter]

Dr. Stephany Powell: Thank you, sir. I, I still have post traumatic stress disorder as a result.

Garrett Jonsson: [laughter] yeah, I’m sure. How long did it take you to earn the title of doctor?

Dr. Stephany Powell: It took me, uh, um, it took me five years, which was pretty fast, about five, five and a half. Yeah, because I did it while I was working LAPD I was in charge of a vice unit. So I literally would get off at like three in the morning drive to school and sleep in the parking lot until, uh, the class.

Garrett Jonsson: Dang. My respect for you just increased.

Dr. Stephany Powell: [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: I always, I always love a good success story and someone that’s had to battle through all the strokes of life, you know?

Dr. Stephany Powell: While raising two kids.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow.

Well, Dr. Powell, I, yeah, that’s amazing. Thank you so much for joining us today and for our listeners to get to know you a little bit better. Can you talk to what you’re up to today? You mentioned you you’ve raised two kids, um, but also professionally, what are you doing?

So professionally, I work for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). I am press, uh, the director of law enforcement training and survivor services at the national center on sexual exploitation.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s a mouthful. That seems like an important role.

Dr. Stephany Powell: I only see it as important, not so much for me personally, but humbly for, uh, law enforcement officers, to be able to really understand the, um, victimology of victims of human trafficking and to have a full understanding of the impact and importance of focusing on the sex buyers.

Garrett Jonsson: Focusing on the sex buyers. What do you mean by that?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Meaning that oftentimes law enforcement, um, will focus more so on the arrest of the prostituted, as opposed to focusing on that are, um, exploiting and buying human beings for the purposes of sex.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. Okay.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Well, and so the, the other side of the job that I do in terms of survivor services, um, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has a, uh, law center component to it. And so when we are working with clients that a lot of our clients have dealt with a lot of traumatic, um, you know, things that have happened to them. And so therefore I help them with resources as they’re plowing through this whole issue of, um, of the things that have happened to them, for them to become my clients in the first place. If that makes sense?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That makes sense. I listened to your talk on trauma-informed care.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: And that was really good to talk about that. Thank you. That paradigm shift that needs to happen.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s for anybody, regardless of whether it’s law enforcement or service providers, to really understand the impact of trauma that, um, that clients have experience and know how to work with them without retraumatizing them. And that is so important when it comes to, um, attorneys like in our law center to be trauma-informed because they have to ask so many questions pertaining to the case, right. Being able to have that patience and understanding, but at the same time, getting to the, the truth of the matter, that is going to be able to help the case without retraumatizing the victim.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. And that can be a very delicate process.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Absolutely, absolutely. And of course, that, that that’s going to include things like memory, um, you know, recalling the situation that they were in. They may sometimes be late to an appointment. They may sometimes be a little cur with you or not talking much at all.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: But if you understand that all of that is trauma related, then you will form more of opinion of, uh, of, of being able to be helpful and understanding and most all patient.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It’s almost like once that understanding is there and you have that paradigm shift, then you, it allows the, the law enforcement to be, be part of the solution and not take it personally if they are maybe not connecting or don’t find trust with that, that specific individual.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Oh yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Garrett Jonsson: I, I want to know, I just, I have this number in front of me, but I want to know if it’s the number and it’s that you worked for the LAPD for 30 years?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes, sir.

Garrett Jonsson: Dang. Talk about putting in the work.

Dr. Stephany Powell: [laughter] Yeah. 30 years. And my last five to six years, I was the officer in charge of a vice unit, um, in the San Fernando valley portion of Los Angeles.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow.

That’s a unique experience that you have and lots of experience.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Especially as a female. Cause a lot of times, um, in law enforcement, female, um, sergeants, especially as well as officers are not always drawn to vice because of the, uh, the content that you have to deal with.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And working amongst men, cuz most fi vice unit are men. So you could be the only female vice unit.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow.

Dr. Stephany Powell: But I’ll tell you, um, the vice unit that I had was very diverse in terms of not only gender, but at race as well, but it was really important in terms of my selection of those that worked. My vice unit had to, uh, be very clear on a victim centered approach to be able to, uh, display and use empathy in their decision making.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Um, that was really important to me. Um, because I knew that we were dealing with a very delicate situation, even though we did not clearly at that time cuz we’re, we’re talking, I retired in 2013. So we’re talking, you know, um, early 2000 in which law enforcement was really behind the eight ball as it pertained to a victim Senate approach yeah. To human trafficking. Right? So even though I may not have fully grasped that understanding, it did parallel in the way that I saw policing first place and seeing people as human beings and being able to utilize empathy. But at the same time I understood that. Um, you know, um, I also had to enforce the law if that makes sense?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Wow.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And, and I’ll tell you another paradigm shift for me personally was, um, when I started working, um, vice I, even for me, I had to change my mindset because I just thought everybody that was out there was out there by choice. And back then we were, we were arresting juveniles so my misunderstanding was that everybody was out there by choice. However, until I started talking to the people that I was arresting and then really realizing, um, the true nature component and the results of those that were out there by force, fraud, or coercion. Right? And so when I started talking to them and really understanding it, it was at that time that I also realized that this was not an issue that could be arrested away, that services were needed. So I started working with a organization that was in LA called the Mary Magdalene Project. And those that, um, I did not have to arrest, I would get them services through the Mary Magdalene Project when I retired, they had an Executive Director spot open. And so I became the executive director of um, um, the Mary Magdalene project in which we changed the name to Journey Out. And I did that for seven years after my retirement.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s amazing. So you have 30 years of experience, then you retired and then you did seven more with Journey Out?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes. See, now I’ve been, I’m going on my second year with the National Center and Sexual Exploitation.

Garrett Jonsson: Goodness. You’re a powerhouse.

Dr. Stephany Powell: [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: This is awesome.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Thank you. And I appreciate it. And I I’ll tell you, I think knowing and understanding this whole issue from a law enforcement, um, uh, a law enforcement, um,

Garrett Jonsson: Perspective?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Perspective. Yeah. Thank you. As well as a, um, victim service perspective has really helped me in my, not only in my own decision making, uh, in the job that I do now within cozy, but in, in two others.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Especially law enforcement, because I can stand before them and say, Hey, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t get this either.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: But now that I understand it from these two perspectives, I can see what it is that law enforcement is doing right. And what is that, uh, in the areas said, need improvement because I’m, I’m telling you with law enforcement once they get something, oh my God, they’re, they’re it they’re all out. You know? So once they understood and I’ve, I’ve seen the difference, you know, once they understand the victimization aspect of it, these guys and, and, and women go through the unre in order to, um, assist these victims through their trauma.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. And you lived through a period of time where there has been a very significant change in that paradigm shift. You mentioned that in the early two thousands, the way that law enforcement looked at these types of situations was very different to what you were encouraging today.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Oh yeah. Absolutely. First of all, think about this. It it’s only been a short period of time, right? That law enforcement and they should not be arrest arresting victims of human trafficking, but they should not be arresting, uh, minor victims of human trafficking. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Um, it’s just been just the last few years. Um, the, now that I look back and I think about the 12 year old that I arrested for the crime of prostitution just gives me a real it feeling.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Now that I look back on that. Right? But at that time, it, the, the was that you have a 12 year old in prostitution and prostitution being against the law. However, having said that though, even though I realize while this is a 12 year old, it’s the treatment of that 12 year old during that arrest process, right?

So in, in, in, in, in talking to her with kindness and without judgment and trying to find the parents who were nowhere to be found and not wanting to take her to juvenile hall, but just instinctively calling social services, just trying to find other ways to help her out, even though she broke the law. If that makes sense?

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: But now, you know, I am so glad that we have gotten away from that.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: But looking back on that makes the here on my next stand up. Right. And almost ashamed to even say that, you know, I, I arrested juveniles for the crime of prostitution, but that was the time that we were in. We didn’t know what else to do. And that is why training is so incredibly important. So that law enforcement understands, um, uh, the trauma that, uh, these people that they come in contact with.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, it’s really cool that you can acknowledge that implicit bias that you held at one point, and it’s really cool that you have been able to shift your perspective to a more trauma-centered approach. And yeah, that’s just amazing. It’s really powerful that you have lived through that process of that paradigm shift.

Dr. Stephany Powell: You know, and I feel, I feel blessed that I can stand in front of a group of officers and say, you know, for, for those of you that don’t fully understand why you need to understand, uh, uh, the, the, the trauma perspective of those that you come in contact with. I stand before you saying that I didn’t understand it either.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s powerful.

Dr. Stephany Powell: There were no shades of gray, it was black or white. You broke the law, you go to jail, you know what I mean?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And, it was not until I took that time to understand the people that I was putting in, in handcuffs that it really became very clear to me that there was more to this and we could not arrest our way out of this issue.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

A recent example with someone being arrested under the age of 18 is Cyntoia Brown.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: It was that one, they got a, it got a lot of attention, but yeah, that’s a recent example showing kinda what the showing that that paradigm shift is occurring because it did receive some good attention even. Yeah. It was a very difficult situation.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Right. And, you know, even when you talk, when you talk about Cyntoia Brown, you know, I, I, I think the other gap that needs to be filled in this full understanding is the, um, uh, the judgment aspect of it in terms of sentencing.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: That, okay. You, you, you have some people that have, that are victims of human trafficking that have committed felonies. And so instead of just looking at what it it’s like on paper and black and white, when determining what that sentence should be, I think taking into consideration the fact, you know, taking in consideration when thinking about the sentencing, you know, what got them there, what caused them to commit this felony, looking at the trauma that they’ve had to endure as a victim, not only as a victim of human trafficking in its present state, but looking at their childhood and the things that may have made them vulnerable for a trafficker to get a hold of them in the first place.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And when you look at all of that combined and then make the decision on sentencing as a result of that, you may come out with lesser sentences.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And that becomes the justice of it, or no sentencing at all, where you’re able to do time served.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: If, if that, if that makes sense.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It does make sense.

Dr. Stephany Powell: I’m not judge, but I think it needs to be considered when we’re talking about reforming the whole justice system, as it pertains to human trafficking victims, it’s not just police, it’s the prosecutors and the judges that have that, that need to understand this process as well. So instead of, and the trauma approach thing that I love to say is that when you look at somebody, instead of saying, “What’s wrong with you?”, looking at it from the lens of “What happened to you?” And when we look at it from the lens of what happened to you and let that motivate your, um, your decisions, you can’t help, but walk away with a more victim centered approach that is trauma-centered.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It almost, it reminds me of what psychologists, like what therapists have to have for their clients, which is unconditional positive regard. Yes. You know, they, they have to the, the judgment as a therapist, you, you can’t judge your client because you have to understand them. And once you understand them, you, you can’t judge them.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Well…

Dr. Stephany Powell: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: I think it’s important to note that, you know, this is not a one sided conversation. Um, you’ve met with a lot of people. You’ve had tons of experience more than 30 years in law enforcement and then several, almost a decade now, outside of law enforcement, working with victims and survivors. And so what I mean by that, it’s not a one sided conversation is that there are survivors out there who are helping in this process, in this paradigm shift.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: Maybe the most important part of this paradigm shift are the survivors who are speaking out to help those who haven’t experienced the life of sex trafficking, understand the complexities of it.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Mhm. Mhm. Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: I had the opportunity to talk with Tina Frundt, at Courtney’s House.

Dr. Stephany Powell: [laughter] I love Tina.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Tina is an amazing individual and yeah, she, she brought a lot of information and a lot of awareness and a lot of, she helped me in my understanding of what is sex trafficking and she referred to it as “the life.”

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: Is that kinda how you refer to it as well?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes. I, I, I call it the life.

Garrett Jonsson: Can you talk to that a little bit? Why those that have experienced it, or those who are really familiar with this issue, refer to it as the life versus, you know, sex trafficking or human trafficking.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Well, you know, when in, in calling it the life, you know, my God, when you think about the heaviness right? Of, of, of, of human trafficking and you think of, let’s say someone has been in it from, you know, they’ve been a victim of it, let’s say from the age of 12 to, to 19, right? I mean that, that’s a heavy portion of your life. Right? And so I could see how it’s equated to the life and, and what I kinda like about this conversation that we’re having right now, because it becomes “the life”, but it doesn’t have to be their entire life.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Right? Um, because somebody like Tina, that’s been out of “the life” for a, a, a large period of time, those survivors have gotten out of that portion of their life.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Have to continue on with the rest of their life.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: So I think the life, really the notes a, a, a particular time within their entire life, if that makes sense.

Garrett Jonsson: It’s almost like an acknowledgement to the heaviness of what they had to endure.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and I’ll, I’ll tell you, I think that people that have survived the life, I, I see them as, um, people, people with lived experience.

Garrett Jonsson: Yep.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And so they become extremely important, especially to, um, policing, uh, when they can sit down with that victim, let’s say you have a victim who is, um, planning to testify against their trafficker.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Um, and that, that whole process can be grueling before trial and during the trial and after the trial.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And to have somebody with you that has been through what you have been through, um, can be calming for you. They also can be the go between or the advocate to say, you know, “Look, you know, um…”, if she’s talking to, let’s say she’s talking to the, um, uh, the victim and say, “Hey, this is what’s going to happen. These are the questions that they’re gonna have to ask and why I will be there with you if you want me to, to help you through this process.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: This helps law enforcement because law enforcement has an advocate that they can trust that is going to be in the room that is going to help their victim get through this process with the end result in, for law enforcement, which is put the bad guy in jail.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Right? Knowing what to say to that victim, not to demonize that their suspect, even though they probably have demonized him. Right. Because they know that by demonizing him, that might shut that person down. You need the victim. And so I, one of the things that I did when I went to journey out, and this goes from my experience, you know, we would have victims and we’d get their information, and then we would just send them on their way or give them a piece of paper of places where they could find help. So when I, um, was that journey out, I was thinking to myself, there’s, there’s a better way to do this. Why don’t we get a survivor to actually work with police, not just when they’re doing stings, but whenever they get a victim of human trafficking, we will be on call and they will have a survivor advocate to be able to help that victim from the beginning of the process. But that also is with the understanding that she does not have to testify against her traffic, her in order to receive help. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Because that, that still, that empowers the victim or the survivor because they still have a choice.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Absolutely. And, and after that trust is established once that, that the victim is able to everyone around her, the, the, or her, him, the law enforcement officer, the advocate, you know, and they make the decision, “You know what I wanna get out of the life. I don’t wanna do this anymore. And by the way, I think my trafficker needs to go to jail. I’m gonna do a police report.” She’s gonna call that officer who she has met through this process. And I use the word sheet, and I know that, um, trafficking is not gender binding, but, um, they can call that officer that they have now met because they’re gonna be able to trust them.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: It’s a win-win right. It’s so important for law enforcement to really work with nonprofit, with organizations and work with survivors. And let me just say one other thing is that also it is helpful for the survivor who has been arrested and may have had negative experiences with law enforcement. To now see law enforcement in a different light, that they truly to help.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It bridges some of these gaps.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Oh my gosh. And when you see the bridging of that gap, it’s, it’s beautiful to see. It really is. It is.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That is a beautiful thing. Yeah. Well, during this conversation, you’ve the words force, fraud, coercion. And for some of our listeners, they might not be familiar with why you use those specific words. Can you talk to, like, that’s basically what is the definition of sex trafficking and why those words are important?

Dr. Stephany Powell: So those, those words are important because those are the words that are used in the Trafficking Victim Protection Act (TVPA), in which, um, an, an adult that has been, um, trafficked for the, for the purposes of sexual exploitation, where they become, um, the trafficker benefits from someone’s exploitation. And so for the adult, it has to be proven that it’s through force fraud or coercion, if they are a mine, um, they are automatically considered a victim of human, of, of human sex trafficking with those elements of, for frost, for fraud, force, or coercion, but in a court of law for the minor, it does not have to be proven.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Dr. Stephany Powell: It’s by their mere age, if that makes sense.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And this is both domestically and internationally, cuz a lot of times people, when they think of human trafficking, they think this is only something that happens on an international level. It does happen on an international level, but it also is happening here in the United States, with United States citizens.

Garrett Jonsson: I think one of the common questions that a layperson might have is what are the fuels of sex trafficking? Like what is fueling sex trafficking?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Oh my goodness.

Garrett Jonsson: It’s a complex question. I know.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Right. There’s so many moving parts to it. You know, when, when you, you say “What fuels it?” I, I think of, of several things that, that does, one of the things is, is I believe our society’s ability to objectify women, right? To see, um, women as a source of entertainment. And when you look at someone, um, in terms of them being an object, it’s easy to put a price on them. And so even society, even though our, to here in America says that that is wrong. We also take a blind eye to it. Right? And so, um, I, I, I think that, that is part of the problem. What fuels that, because what that does is it fuels demand, right. It fuels demand that it is “okay”, and I’m just gonna use men in this scenario for a man to buy a woman or a child for the purposes of sexual pleasure.

Right? And so even as I say these words, you know, listeners and even myself go like, Ooh, right?

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And we take a blind eye, but yet at the same time, when we turn on television or we’re reading something or you hear people in conversation, we have a tendency to objectify women.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: So I think that overall idea of objectification of women or, or even, and, and I know this happens with men and boys as well. So I, I, I understand that. So when you objectify a human being, I think that that helps to feel, um, uh, uh, a human trafficking because people are making money off of it. Um, and so that’s why I think it’s important that when we’re looking at human trafficking, we have to look at it from the lens of demand. The other part of this is that what we do know is that human trafficking disproportionately, um, affects women and men and boys and girls of color.

And so we’re talking about marginalized, um, vulnerable groups. And I think what, what fuels that is, you know, sometimes it’s poverty driven sometimes just in the mere fact that you’re in a marginalized, um, uh, uh, you’re in a, a marginalized group can call cause you to be more vulnerable.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And that vulnerability could be from lack of education. It could be from, um, uh, our justice system. Right? So there are so many things that drive this, um, drive human trafficking, um, and sexual exploitation. And so we cannot look at this through only one lens. We have to look at it from a helicopter view because are so many things that we need to fix. There’s so many things that we need to fix in terms of our mindsets in society, in terms of how we see each other, whether it be how we see each other as a marginalized group, or as we see each other as our objects for the purposes of entertainment and seeing ourselves that way as well,

Garrett Jonsson: Objectification and self-objectification.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes, yes.

Yes. We recorded a conversation with Terry Crews. And are you familiar with who Terry Crews is?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes I am. I applaud him.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh yeah, us too.

One of the quotes from Terry Crews that kind of aligns with what you’re saying in regards to objectification, he said that “…porn changes the way you think about people. People become objects, people become body parts. They become things to be used rather than people to be loved.” And I think it’s real cool. You, you mentioned that you applaud Terry and I think it’s real cool that he was able to engage in openness and, and genuineness and express how porn did change his perspective and increase objectification in his mind.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And you know, the other, and, and, and it goes act to also what we’re saying about society, right? I mean, he was blasted for making those statements. He was blasted for the sexual harassment that he dealt with in the film industry.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: So it goes back to society, really having to change their mindset. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And see these things as totally unacceptable. So when someone comes out and says those things, even for me to have to say, I admire him for having the, um, the, the, the, the, the strength to be able to come out against that. Why should he even have to have the strength to do that? Because it should be automatically accepted.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. The strength should come from society.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Exactly. And so that’s what I’m saying about that helicopter view of there’s so many things that we have to change.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Well, one of the misconceptions that we deal with when we’re talking about human trafficking, and I guess specifically sex trafficking and the porn industry is that the misconception is that there’s two industries that there’s sex trafficking industry over there, and that there’s the porn industry over here. And that there’re two separate industries. And oftentimes we’ll see people who are anti-sex trafficking, but then pro-pornography.

Dr. Stephany Powell: I think it’s possible to hold that perspective. But what I say to people is, do you really fully understand how the two can also, um, interconnect there’s an interconnectedness between the two, because you could have a, uh, someone who is being trafficked into pornography now I’ll tell you what, what what’s interesting about that, because you’re, you’re absolutely right. That person could have any perspective that they want to.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: But their perspective is based on, uh, a very limited understanding, right? Of a, of human trafficking, because a human trafficking victim can show up in any, um, industry, so to speak so they can show up in pornography, they can show up in brothels. People really need to understand that the human trafficking victim can’t show up in those things that are, are considered to be legal. That it, it goes back to what I was saying, that when I saw, um, people that were prostituted, I just assumed that they were there by choice.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh yeah. I get what you’re saying.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And so, yeah. So the same thing happens. You see someone in pornography, the assumption is that they’re there by choice. You see somebody in a brothel that you’re thinking, “Well, they’re there by choice.” And also what, what we forget is that sometimes we think that there’s no trauma that goes in these things as well. Well, just because they’re in front of the camera, there’s no trauma, but there is trauma in all of this. So yes, absolutely. Um, and, and I’ll, I’ll use myself again, as an example, uh, as the vice Sergeant, I was in charge of, uh, of my unit and I dealt with the San Fernando Valley. Now we know that, uh, the San Fernando Valley is supposed to be the, the porn capital, right. Where there lot of movies that are filmed in the San Fernando Valley portion of Los Angeles, I did not even consider that human trafficking victims were in pornography because it was legal.

So unless somebody made a complaint or filed a police report, I would never know. So I never, so I didn’t even think about it. Right? So I was one of these people that, that we’ve started this conversation about until I got to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Now I knew that it was probably possible. And even when I was at, um, uh, Journey Out, I can’t say that it was in the forefront of my mind, if that makes sense. Um, I just thought of it as, um, you know, for, for some that it was sexual exploitation for the it, but I wasn’t really putting the pieces together. My aha moment came when I started working with a National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Um, and they were looking for, um, clients who had been harmed through the pornography industry at and had been sex trafficked.

So I started kind of thinking back, and I started just asking people, um, that were working in nonprofits and they were like, “I hadn’t thought about that either.” And I ended up, um, having the opportunity to interview a young lady who said that her pimp, and this is her at, under the age of 18, that her pimp made her work in pornography. And then it, one thing leads to another. I started running into other women that had the same experience. And for me it was gut wrenching because I thought, how many times did I have somebody in front of me, but never asked the question as it pertained to their victimization while, um, um, working in pornography? How many people did I miss? I, I think it’s a great question. I think it’s something that those that are working with clients need to remember the, a, the, the legal aspects and how, um, human trafficking can intersect into a legal system. And the same thing with, with, with brothels, the women that I’ve, I I’ve talked to and, and, and, and have heard their stories of how their pimps place them into the brothel system. So I think that I I’m so glad you asked that question, because I’m wondering how many of your listeners have even connected that dot those dots, because the assumption becomes because they’re in this legal system, that they could not be, um, victims of human trafficking, because they’re in a legal system.

Garrett Jonsson: It’s interesting that you’re mentioning that people can be trafficked into pornography. There’s a really popular person who is a former performer and her name’s Mia Khalifa. And she was on an interview with the BBC. And she talked about that. How, because she’s very popular people within the porn industry will often reach out to her and say, “Hey, look, I’m experiencing this. What do I do?” And that’s one of the things she mentioned during this interview is that she, she receives emails from people who have been trafficked into pornography.
Dr. Stephany Powell: Wow.

Garrett Jonsson: So it just aligns with what you’re saying, and it’s powerful too, to get all these different perspectives. You’ve talked about the different marginalized groups and the complexities there that can make people more vulnerable to becoming victims of sex trafficking. What other, you mentioned as well, maybe you mentioned this, or maybe I’m just thinking you mentioned it, but did you mention childhood abuse, childhood neglect and those types of things?

Dr. Stephany Powell: I may have just, I, I, I mentioned that in terms of, in a general sense of vulnerabilities and placing them at risk, but one thing I, I, I will add to it, um, when we talk about victims and human trafficking and, uh, their vulnerabilities, which allows a trafficker to pick up a, on that and know exactly what to say and that’s that coercion piece. Mm. Um, and it makes it easy for them to, um, figure out how they can coerce this person based on finding where, what they feel is a weakness about them. Yeah. So finding that weakness about that person makes it easier for them to be coerced. Having said that one thing that I found while I was at Journey Out was that, and this is no exaggeration, about 80 to 90% of the clients. There were victims of, um, child sexual abuse.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, wow.

Dr. Stephany Powell: So you you’re already setting them up in a vulnerable place. So they’re, they’ve already dealt with trauma before they’ve even met their trafficker.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And so, um, uh, uh, again, people need to understand who this person really is. And a lot of their, their vulnerability, a lot of, um, their hurt and brokenness occurred before they met that trafficker, which set up that, that perfect storm for them to meet that person and to coerce them into, uh, getting into “the life.” And let me say a Journey Out, um, that journey out, we were seen anywhere between 320 to 360 clients a year. This is a different 360 clients every year. So it’s not the same. So we, I give you that statistic of how many of them unfortunately experienced child abuse. That’s pretty significant. Which, which, when you, when you talk about that, I think about the prevention piece, because I, I think that the prevention piece is important and that prevention piece doesn’t start when, um, a child is in middle school.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: You know, it, it starts with, with the parents and the adults that are around that child yeah. To be able to protect them. So they’re not running away from home because of molestation, because they’re not running away from home from, um, physical abuse and running into the arms of a predator that says that they’re going to help them.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. And then that coercion comes in.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Right. It leads them so vulnerable and at risk for this. So, you know, if that’s one of the causes, then that’s preventable. You know, the other thing that’s preventable is teaching our, our kids that they are enough. You know, you are enough in terms of who you are, as opposed to having to measure themself in a world that presents itself artificially in the first place.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Right? Because that too is a vulnerability and makes one at risk for, for, for human trafficking.

And then the other prevention piece is the peer pressure aspect of it. Um, where, uh, someone where, where, where you set boundaries, um, and being able to set those boundaries and not fear feel forced into stepping over them.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Now I know all these things that I laid out, people may say, okay, that’s really pollyanna. But if we look at it as being pollyanna and never able and feeling that we will never be able to attain those things, as it pertains to prevention, then we do nothing. If we see that we have to do something, that’s when we start, not only on this road of making change on individual levels, but on a society level as well.

I’m 64. And I remember when my parents smoked.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Because smoking was socially acceptable. Right now you walk into somebody’s house, you can’t find an ashtray.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: So who would’ve thought back then that smoking would’ve been considered socially unacceptable. Just like driving drunk. So I think, you know, this idea of prevention is possible, but we need to go past us having the conversation and absolutely looking at it from the helicopter view of how do we prevent it in our society. How do we keep those, not only from being forced into entering into sexual exploitation, but how do we keep people from buying other people? And once we see that as socially unacceptable, that’s when we can begin to make the change.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That’s powerful.

Garrett Jonsson: I have two questions that we’re about to finish the convers, but I have a couple more questions if you’re, if you’re still okay on time?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: So the first question is regarding how people can use pornography as a grooming tool.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Hmm.

Garrett Jonsson: Can you talk to that a little bit?

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes. So I have had survivors who said that their pimps/ trafficker would have them look at pornography as a training tool of how they should be with their clients in terms of teaching them, um, proper sexual acts that will help to make money for that pill. Um, but also I have had survivors, people would lived experience, talk about how the sex buyer would on to play out scenarios and fantasies that he saw in pornography. So it, it, it does play, uh, to an extent into, uh, human trafficking and prostitution and sexual exploitation.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, the other question I had was what are some other ways that a layperson or us as anti-trafficking advocates and organizations can be a part of the solution in helping that societal shift happen?

Dr. Stephany Powell: You know, and, and I can’t remember off, off hand, but I loved the, uh, the term “real men don’t buy sex.”

I thought that was perfect. You know, it’s, it’s teaching our, our boys and men that women are not objects that you buy that they’re human beings with feelings.

Um, I think that that’s so important and, and teaching are young ladies that you don’t have to be an object. You don’t have to feel like an object in order to be accepted or in order to be loved.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It goes back to that statement, you are enough.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yeah. You’re enough. Yeah. You’re enough. I, I just, I think that if we can, part of that, that shift in cultural belief is that, um, you know, “real men don’t buy sex” So I think it goes back to what is a real man and a real man is one that, uh, uh, generates concern for others that has the ability to love outwardly without shame, that has the ability to show emotion and it’s okay. And I think that, you know, in society, we need to teach our young boys that, and that comes from Mothers too, you know, uh, Mothers teaching our boys that it’s okay to cry.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: You know, it’s to cry, you can have strength, right. You can have emotional and physical strength at the same time and still be a man and still be a gentleman.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. I love that.

Dr. Stephany Powell: And that’s what we need to teach. And I think once we teach that, and that starts to become, um,

Garrett Jonsson: The norm.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yeah. Once it becomes the norm. Then that’s what makes the rest of this easy in terms of where we want to go, in terms of demand.

Garrett Jonsson: There we go. That’s the solution. I love it. We’ve acknowledged how survivors play a critical role because of their lived experience, they, they play a critical role in being in, in this solution. But I, I think that we should also talk to people who are currently being exploited, but want to exit the life, but have a little bit of hesitancy to do so because of the daunting task that faces them of exiting “the life”

Dr. Stephany Powell: Mhm. Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: Can you talk to some of the resources available to help someone the life?

Dr. Stephany Powell: So there, there are resources that are out there, but there’s not enough of them. Okay. We’ve got to put more money into these resources. And so for instance, one that wants to get outta “the life”, um, in a perfect world would be a, that does not have any other support system, you know, does not have family or friends that could really help them. Because once you get out, you gotta find a job. If you are fighting, um, a long arrest record, finding a job is going to be hard.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Dr. Stephany Powell: If you have a felony, finding a place to live is going to be hard as well, right. Getting on section eight with a felony is not gonna happen. So there’s so many obstacles that are in the way we have to look at what those obstacles are. And we got to get rid of them in order for that person to be able to push forward.

When, when exiting, we got of whether they’re a human trafficking victim, or it, it it’s someone who is prostituted. Once they want to get out of the life, we’ve gotta take away these barriers to make that easier for them, because we’re also dealing with someone that is, um, more than likely has dealt with trauma. And so, um, they’re gonna need eat counseling in the psychological help, be able to deal with their trauma in order to be healthy enough, to make decisions. We’ve got to find them, um, housing, um, jobs, um, education, uh, some of them, their, their, their education stopped at the time that they were trafficked, um, that arrested development if they were taken at the age of 12, but they’re 23, they’re probably still making decisions like that 12 year old. So there has to be a psychological component to it.

And when I talk about jobs, I’m not saying find them a job at McDonald’s. That’s not a, there’s nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s. But what I’m saying is that’s not a life-sustaining career. So sometimes in order for them to get certified for that, that, um, life sustaining career, that arrest record can stop them as well. So we’ve gotta take away these obstacles. There are so many people that are working on all these things that I talked about and there’s organizations that have been successful in all these things that I’ve talked about, but it’s not enough. We still need more. So there needs to be money put into, uh, nonprofit organizations to help that person out of “the life.”

Garrett Jonsson: We need all hands on deck.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Yes, indeed.

It is absolutely just like you said, all hands on deck. We talked about a lot of things in this podcast, and there’s gonna be some things that resonate with you, follow your heart, the things that resonate with you, follow your heart, get involved. We need you in the fight.

Garrett Jonsson: Dr. Powell, I just wanna end. I know I’ve already said thank you, but I wanna say it again. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Dr. Stephany Powell: Thank you. And thank you for all that, that you are doing as well.

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

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