Julie Whitehead on How She Became the Sex-Trafficked Mother Next Door, Pt. 2
Trigger warning: The following podcast episode contains discussions of child sexual abuse and suicide. Listener discretion is advised.
Julie Whitehead is a survivor of many years of abuse and sex trafficking. As a survivor, Julie shares her story in her book Shadowed: How I Became the Sex Trafficked Mother Next Door. She also serves on a survivor advisory board for the Malouf Foundation.
This episode of Consider Before Consuming is part 1 of our 2-part interview. In it, Julie shares about leaving her abusive marriage, only to begin being sex-trafficked on the weekends by a man she thought would help her.
Julie bravely shares her story in the hopes that other trafficking victims see that there’s hope on the other side of their experiences.
FROM THIS EPISODE
- Podcast: Consider Before Consuming Ep. 104: Julie Whitehead, Pt. 1
- Julie’s Book: Shadowed: How I Became The Sex-Trafficked Mother Next Door
- Visit: On Watch
This episode is part two of our interview with Julie Whitehead, a sex trafficking survivor and author of Shadowed; How I Became the Sex Trafficked Mother Next Door. If you haven’t yet listened to part one, we encourage you to do so before jumping into this episode.
When Julie was finally able to leave her marriage with her abusive husband, she thought Eric would be her protector, but before long, he [00:00:30] became abusive and controlling and began taking Julie on trips over the weekends to sex trafficker to other men. During the week, she would volunteer at her kid’s school and go grocery shopping. Eventually, Barry Eric’s employer helps Julie escape and supports her throughout her journey to recovery. Julie bravely shares her story in the hope that other trafficking victims see that there’s hope on the other side of their experiences. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Consider Before [00:01:00] Consuming.
Fight The New Drug (01:04):
Going back to kind of this transition from the ending of your marriage with Richard, and you mentioned that was the last time you ever saw him outside of a courtroom. What was kind of that experience of navigating the next little while through those legal proceedings?
Really scary. I mean, I had never, before I stepped foot in the police station to report [00:01:30] him with the domestic violence, I’d never been in a police station before. That was, I wouldn’t say I was scared of police officers, but I had a lot of respect for them, and I typically thought of people engaging with them who were doing something bad. So it was really new territory for me. I was really nervous about it, and I got thrown into it really fast. They threw me in the deep end right away, Richard, I was immediately [00:02:00] given a, well, no, not immediately. It was the next morning I had a court date set for a protective order, and I went to that not knowing what to expect, and they assigned me a legal aid
Fight The New Drug (02:18):
Representative, yeah, thank you. And she’s like, quickly, we have five minutes. Tell me what’s going on. Because she had so many other cases, and I was like, I wasn’t used to disclosing the abuse yet. [00:02:30] I had just barely done that kind of by accident, kind of by default. And so I was like, well, he does this to me. He does that to me. He’s done this, and I listed this whole list of things and she’s like, oh my gosh, we’re going to go after him and we’re going to get more than a protective order, which I don’t know what that would’ve been. And then when it came time for her to speak and tell my case, I hurried and scratched out on the paper half the things, because in my mind, that was [00:03:00] going to make Richard so mad at me and how did I know he wasn’t coming home that night? I told her, don’t say half of this. And she was like, no, you need to let me say this. I said, no, you can’t. She stood up and she just told the basics and I was still enough, plenty to get a protective order. So I got that protective order. He wasn’t allowed, I don’t know. It was like a thousand feet of me. He wasn’t allowed at my residence, at my parents’ residence, and he broke it right away.
[00:03:30] It was such a false sense of protection. I had a piece of paper that said he couldn’t come near me, and I thought just because it was from a judge, there’s no way he’s not going to listen to that. Oh, but he didn’t care at all. He came driving by the house immediately after. The scary thing was I knew he kept his weapons. He kept his guns in his trunk of his car. So when he was driving by the house and just driving really slow and stopping out front, I was [00:04:00] terrified. I thought, if ever this man has wanted to kill me, he’s going to do it now because I got him in trouble with the police. But thankfully, he didn’t ever get out of the car, but he broke the protective order right away. And then I was thrown into going right immediately into trying to find an attorney to help me fight for custody, to help me get a divorce. I was the one that filed for divorce. I did that immediately with the protective order. And so [00:04:30] I entered this whole messy world, never. I feel so bad for anybody who has to endure a custody battle with an ex where there’s confrontation. It was so ugly. My attorneys kept telling me, this is the worst case I’ve ever seen. Wow.
Fight The New Drug (04:48):
And I think I just want to say, I mean so often, and you’ve kind of touched on this, people will think with a domestic violence situation or something, why didn’t someone leave? But I think it’s so telling of the fact [00:05:00] that this piece of paper, this thing that’s supposed to help make you feel safe, he still had the power of making you feel unsafe, of being able to drive by and have the threat of weapons and the threat of custody. And it’s so complex and where you have been a victim of abuse in so many ways, of course, you would feel the ways that you felt and feel like you didn’t want your attorney to say everything they could say because there was still a chance that likely meant your safety was in jeopardy or you could be hurt.
Yeah, exactly. [00:05:30] Yeah, I didn’t feel safe at all just because I had a protective order because he always had the upper hand.
Fight The New Drug (05:38):
How did that kind of end up playing out? And this kind of brings us into the next phase of things regarding Eric. How did you meet Eric?
So when I got out of the hospital the last time, Richard gave me an ultimatum and he said it like that. He said, this is your ultimatum. You will now be happy and healthy and mentally stable. Or I take the kids [00:06:00] and you’ll never see them again. And anybody who’s been through a clinical depression or anxiety knows that you can’t. I mean, if I could just turn it off, I would’ve done that long time ago and not sure. There’s not so much. Yeah, would’ve been so nice, but I had to pretend. And so that day I went cold Turkey off my medications, which gave me such bad withdrawals. Yeah, I’m sure it was horrible for about two weeks, but I went completely [00:06:30] off medications. I didn’t have any therapy, and I just fought through it and tried to be happy. I wasn’t, but I tried to pretend I was, tried to do the best I could at mothering the children and making him dinner, having it ready when he got home, doing all the things that he expected of me, and pretty quickly realized this is not something I can continue doing.
This is not going to work ultimately. And I don’t know where the idea came from, but I just [00:07:00] thought maybe if I get a job, it’ll be something to distract me and keep me busy. And it was really alluring, the idea of being away from him during the day. And so I thought maybe if I get a job, it’ll be okay. And I ended up finding a job teaching preschool pretty close to my home. And the great thing was they said I could bring my kids with me for free and the kids could attend preschool or just play in the office while I was there. And so all of a sudden I had this [00:07:30] outlet and it was amazing. I give that job so much credit, and the people there that I worked with, they were so wonderful. Of course, I didn’t disclose anything to them, but just having that outlet away from the home was so amazing, and it did give me a huge boost, and I was able to put on this facade that I was okay. I really poured myself into the work. I did such unnecessary things. I wrote all the kids’ names, cute on [00:08:00] the paper, and drew on the paper and made everything monogram, and I just made it so much work, but I focused on it and it was able to keep me healthy.
When I was teaching preschool, there was one little girl that was really particularly just really shy and introverted, and she seemed to have, she had a lot of trouble connecting even with me as her teacher, and she wasn’t [00:08:30] talking to any of her peers. I was really worried about her. And so I really took her under my wing. I just loved her to pieces and just gave her a ton of love and attention. And she started coming out of her shell, and it was a really beautiful thing to watch. While her father, because I was spending so much attention and time with her parents, I got to know them a little bit more than the other parents. The mom stopped coming after a while, so I [00:09:00] was just interacting with her father, and he was just so grateful that I was taking care of his little daughter and for all the love I was showing her and the attention, and then he started having trouble getting her to school.
He said that he was really busy at work and he couldn’t get her. And so he’s the one that actually taught me how to text. I didn’t even know how to text. That’s unfathomable these days. But he taught me how to text on my phone, and we exchanged phone numbers, and he [00:09:30] asked me if I could pick his daughter up in the mornings and bring her to school. This was something I had to do completely covert because if Richard knew I had another man’s phone number, if he even knew I was talking to another man, I’d be accused of having an affair and there’d be trouble. So I was doing this all on the slide, which made me nervous, but I would pick her up and I would go to their house and I’d get really uncomfortable at the doorstep because he would invite me in and I wouldn’t want to go into their house, just [00:10:00] me and him.
And so I’d try to make excuses like, no, I’ll just stay on the porch. My kids are in the car. I don’t want to leave them. And for the most part, that worked. I did end up going in his house once or twice I think, but nothing happened. And he just seemed like a really dotting dad. He seemed like he really cared about his daughter. Then later into the year, he started asking me questions that were more personal, how’s your home life? I just [00:10:30] feel like you’ve got some big stuff going on at home. And I don’t know how he knew, and he was just really in tune, I guess. But he would just say that he felt, he felt like something was wrong at home and he just wanted to be there and be a friend. And I was like, that’s a last thing I need as a male friend, leave me alone.
And he started stalking me a little bit, like coming by the preschool. I’d be there at midnight some nights, and he’d show up knocking on the door and I wouldn’t let him in. [00:11:00] And then I’d be there at two o’clock the next afternoon and he’d show up then too. And so I realized he was following me and watching me. So my preschool or my employer, she had her own worries about it because I guess he had been calling a lot at the preschool and asking to speak to me when I was teaching classes. And she’d always say, can I help you? Can I take a message? And he’d be like, no, I have to talk to her. And he’d hang up. So she actually helped me draft a text to him that said, [00:11:30] your behavior’s crossed a line. It’s inappropriate. I’m a married woman, and I’d appreciate if he just didn’t come back to the preschool. And he left. And I didn’t hear from him for another eight months until I was at the police station and waiting for photos of my injuries from Richard to be taken. And I got a text, and at first I didn’t recognize the number and it said something like, I just know something’s wrong. Are you okay? [00:12:00] And it took me a few minutes, and then I realized this is Eric’s number that’s texting me, and that’s how I got back in touch with him after about eight months.
Fight The New Drug (12:10):
So how did your relationship with Eric then progress?
So after Richard was arrested, Eric kept texting and he even came over to the house. And I was super nervous and uncomfortable with it because I’m not used to another man. I’d been with Richard since I was 16 years [00:12:30] old, and I was not allowed to look at other men or talk to them or anything. So it was really awkward for me at first. But he just presented himself as such a kind, generous, caring person. And my parents actually sided with Richard when he got arrested. And they were actually, my dad actually called the police and told them they had arrested the wrong person in the scenario that I should have been arrested. And so my parents were wrapped around Richard’s little finger, [00:13:00] and I didn’t have friends because Richard didn’t allow me to have friends. So my world was really small. It was me and my kids.
And to have somebody step into that and say, I’m going to walk beside you and you don’t have to do this alone, it was amazing. I remember thinking, this is my guardian angel for sure. I finally found him. I’ve been needing somebody my whole life to step in and here he is, this is him. And so for two weeks, it was about two weeks, [00:13:30] he was just everything I needed. He’d show up and bring meals, he’d help me get the kids to bed at night. He’d literally stood guard on my porch while Richard would come driving by, and he would stand out there with his arms crossed and be like a guard between me and Richard. And so I was just so grateful to him, and that’s really how it progressed.
Fight The New Drug (13:57):
And then from there, and as much as you feel comfortable, [00:14:00] what did the next kind of several months look like as that relationship changed?
Eric, one day, about two weeks into the relationship, said, I’d like you to come with me to my sister’s house. I just have to grab a few things. She doesn’t live far away, just come with me. And up to that point, I had never left the house with him. I had never been alone with him except in the house. And usually my kids were there too. So it felt really scary to me to go somewhere [00:14:30] with him, but I was so torn. I’m like, why can’t I have a friend Richard’s out of the picture for the most part? I can have a support system, I can have a friend. And so I kind of talked myself into it. I went with him to his sister’s house, which wasn’t far away, and when I arrived there, his sister gave me a really cold reception. She was just really off and not nice at all.
And so my plan was to stay in the kitchen with her while he ran upstairs [00:15:00] to get something. But she was so uncomfortable that I was like, yeah, I don’t want to stay here. So I went with him up to his bedroom room, and I felt really, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. I just didn’t feel right about it, but I kept trying to talk myself into it. Everything’s fine. You’re just paranoid. So I stepped into the room and it was big mistake right then and there. I knew that I had made a huge mistake that would change me forever. [00:15:30] He shut the door, stood in front of it, and I won’t go into details, but he raped me and I took it really hard, honestly. I thought, what have I done? I thought, what have I done? I’ve now done this with this man, and I’m not technically divorced from Richard.
I’m in really big trouble now. The judge is going to think I’m just as bad as Richard and [00:16:00] all these thoughts going through my head about the custody and how this would affect it. And it wasn’t just like they were my thoughts. Eric started telling them also to me. He was like, this will affect, I can tell Richard now that you’re in a relationship with me, you’ll be in trouble. So it immediately just went from an amazing relationship where he was everything I hoped he could be and to turning into this monster [00:16:30] just like a light switch.
Fight The New Drug (16:31):
He still had the same thing over you that happened previously. Was something, a power, something to wield over you, to then control you as well?
Yep. It was the same story just on repeat. And so he told me that I would be taking trips with him. He called them trips to me. That sounded like a vacation. I didn’t know what to think of it. He was a truck driver. He said [00:17:00] that he would be taking trips in his truck and that I had to go with him. And the first one, he said that he needed to go to California and that I needed to come with him. And I was super hesitant, and I was like, no, I can’t go with you on a trip. At this point, Richard had been granted custody every other weekend, and that was just the standard until we could figure things out every other weekend and Wednesday nights. And so the weekend coming up, I didn’t [00:17:30] have my kids and Eric told me, you’re coming with me.
And he threatened to go to Richard if I didn’t go with him. So I was like, okay, well, I guess I’ll just go. Got in the truck with him. We drove to Huntington Beach, California. We stayed at the beach for a while. The weird that happened there, everything was seeming pretty normal up to that point. Yes, he had already raped me and he was holding threats over me, but I was really confused. I’m like, is he my boyfriend now? [00:18:00] Because that’s the only way I knew a relationship with a man, is that that you’re in a relationship boyfriend girlfriend type thing.
So I didn’t really know where I stood with him. So I went on this trip, and the weird thing was at the beach, he pulls out this little T-shirt and it says Little Miss Sunshine on it. It has a little character. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember, but a cute little cartoon series. And he’s like, I want you to wear this. [00:18:30] I’m going to take your picture on the beach. And I thought that was really weird because I thought, this is probably his, why does he want me to wear it? But it was nothing worth making a big fuss about, I didn’t want to make him angry. So I put on the dumb little t-shirt and went and took pictures on the beach, didn’t know what they would be used for, obviously. And then it was late at night and he’s like, okay, now it’s time to go. We have to go meet with my associate. And I was kind of
[00:19:00] Wondering at that point, who meets with somebody night? This is so weird. But I also didn’t know the business, so I didn’t have anything to judge it against. So I was like, okay. And he said it was quite a drive to where we were going. So we get in his vehicle a little while down the road. A lot of things happen, but just to make it shorter, I think that we crossed the US Mexico border. We get to this hotel, he kind of hides me and walks me into [00:19:30] the hotel, and he gives me a drink. I’ll never forget, it was one of the milk protein shakes, and he crushed up some pills and put in it and shook it up, and he’s like, I need you to drink this. And I was like, no, I don’t want to drink that. And he’s like, you need to drink it.
You’re going to drink it. And so he made me drink it. And I remember coming to in the shower of the hotel room or the motel room actually, and he was shaving me everywhere. [00:20:00] I was like, what are you doing? I was humiliated and just terrified, what are you doing? But I was so out of it. Next thing I remember, I wake up in a bed in the motel room with another man on top of me. I remember thinking, if Eric’s here, he’ll kill this guy. This guy’s raping me. If Eric sees this, this guy’s going to get beat up,
Fight The New Drug (20:27):
Right? Because Erica just protected you [00:20:30] not too long before that from Richard outside your home.
And it was horrific to look. And when I finally caught sight of Eric standing in the room, he was taking pictures and I was just sick. That’s supposed to be the person that saves me from this. And I didn’t put it together that he had set this up. I was still confused. I didn’t know where this man came from, but that was the first trip. [00:21:00] And then on the way home, he told me there’ll be more trips like this. And I was like, what do you mean this with you sharing me? And he kind of laughed and he is like, yeah, with me sharing you. And he kind of made a joke about it. And so it was really then that I knew, oh, I’m in way over my head. I’m in something really bad here. He took me on lots of trips almost every weekend.
I would come back during the week and be mom to my kids and go to PTA meetings and [00:21:30] take them to school and grocery shop and do all that. And then on the weekends, we would go on trips and he would traffic me, and we went Idaho, Nevada, Montana, California, Arizona, all around the state of Utah. And it always ended up the same. We were sometimes at a truck stop and there’d be a line of men that he would take me into the showers and the line of men would, [00:22:00] we’d work through, and then we’d go to hotels where men would show up. Eventually, he got me an apartment in Centerville, and he would bring men there. And so it was a nightmare. I tried to escape from him several times. I tried running away from him, but I could never get away. It’s so bad. I don’t even know how to tell this story. It’s [00:22:30] just such a nightmare. And there’s so many horrific details. I saw other women being trafficked. I saw children being trafficked. We were in my community. This was a community I had lived in and I thought was safe. And here I was in this horrible criminal activity that was going on right there in my own neighborhood. And what a shock. I mean, I had no idea this world existed. And then to be part of it, it was just horrific.
Fight The New Drug (23:00):
[00:23:00] Yeah. What did that experience feel like for you in trying to still portray to the rest of the world that things were okay or to your kids that, what was that experience like again, having to kind of live that dual
Life? Yeah. Well, it was familiar. Unfortunately, it was familiar. I knew how to do it. I knew how to portray one thing and have the reality be different.
Fight The New Drug (23:26):
Yeah, just one more thing further reinforcing this is [00:23:30] the way it is to you. Yeah. I’m so sorry. And you’re so brave to be able to share this with us. Now. Again, I just want to reiterate that, did you realize at the time that you were being trafficked, or was there kind of a moment you realized what it was that was happening?
I had no idea what was happening to me. I thought that I had a horrible boyfriend who was sharing me with other people for money. It didn’t even occur to me that this was [00:24:00] something that happened to other people. I thought it was just me. I thought I was just so unlucky that I was in this circumstance when I saw other people that were being trafficked, I was horrified by it and at the thought that, oh my gosh, this is happening to her too. How is this a thing? It was just shocking and horrible. And I didn’t find out until I was several years into therapy, well, actually [00:24:30] probably just the one year into therapy when I started really disclosing all of the information about what had happened to me. And they’re like, oh, there’s a name for what you’ve been through. You’ve been sex trafficked. And it was shocking. It was kind of a relief to know that it wasn’t just by chance, just some random thing that happened to me, but it was horrifying knowing that that was a real thing that happens to other people. Yeah.
Fight The New Drug (24:57):
You had mentioned you had tried to escape [00:25:00] Eric. Was that experience kind of like for you?
Well, there were a couple occasions. So there was one time, I think it was in California, and we were driving, and I really had to use the restroom, and that was one of the things he would always hold over me as he wouldn’t allow me to. And so I was in the truck and I was crying. I really, really needed to go. And he wouldn’t stop and wouldn’t stop. And he finally pulled over how [00:25:30] there’s an exit and off ramp, and there’s that wedge between the freeway and the off ramp. He pulled over on that wedge, and he’s like, go on the side of the road, which he made me do many times before. And I was like, no, I’m not doing it. And I was just in a mood. I was feeling feisty. And I noticed that down the exit there was a Home Depot.
And so when he had his back turned, I took off running. I ran to the Home Depot, weaving through [00:26:00] cars in the parking lot. He was following me at that point, chasing after me. I got inside, it was set up weird. The cash registers weren’t right there by the door. There was the carts I remember, and then a restroom. And so I ran right into the restroom. And then immediately I realized, well, now I’ve just trapped myself. But when I testified later, I had the judge ask me, when you ran into that Home Depot, why didn’t you yell and scream and ask for help? And [00:26:30] I, that’s a hard one to explain unless you’ve been there. But I felt like there were times where Eric would tie me up, literally tie my hands, and then there was all the time when I felt tied up mentally and those chains felt so much stronger.
He said that he would hurt my children, possibly kill them. He would hurt my family members. He would [00:27:00] show the community that I was a prostitute. He would go to Richard and help him win custody, which was my biggest fear. And so there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t, plus I was terrified of him. I mean, I knew how violent he could be. He was violent against me all the time. I was terrified to make him angry with me, so I’m not going to go running in there screaming, help, help, help. Sure. And I thought that I’d be in trouble with the police. He told me that I would be in trouble as a sex worker. So it was just really complicated. [00:27:30] But there’s another time up here in Ogden where I jumped out of the truck that we were driving in. It was just not a semi-truck.
It was just a regular personal truck. And I took off running in the same direction as the traffic, and he was chasing behind me in his truck. So I crossed the lane of traffic and started running in the opposite direction. He was flipping around. [00:28:00] We did this several times. I’m running down the street, and I don’t really have anything in my mind except escape. So I wasn’t formulating plans. I’m going to go here or there. I was just run away, just get away. And I ran into an auto parts store on Washington Boulevard. And when I walked in the clerk, he was like, are you okay? Because he could tell I wasn’t. And I was like, no, I’m not okay. [00:28:30] And he said, what’s going on here? And it was just about that time that Eric caught up with me and came through the door, and Eric was like, oh, there you are.
I’ve been worried about you. And I immediately shut up. I stopped asking for help, and he put his hand around the back of my neck and disclosed really hard. And I knew I would be in so much trouble if I said anything, so I didn’t say anything. So there were times like that where I would try to run and get away, and they just always end up with [00:29:00] Eric catching me or me being too afraid to ask for help. And how did you eventually get away? So I eventually got away because someone else saw my situation and questioned it and had a gut feeling that something was wrong. So Eric wanted me to meet with his employer because he wanted to buy his truck from him. And I didn’t want to, I didn’t know what the first thing about [00:29:30] negotiating for a check, but he was like, no, you’re going to do it.
You’re a woman. You’ll have a better outcome. He thought, everyone just thinks that way. And so I met with his employer at an IHOP on a Tuesday morning, and he immediately knew something was wrong. This is what he later told me. He just had a gut feeling that something was really off. And so I sat down and he’s like, do you want to order breakfast? I’m like, no, I’m not hungry. And he said, yeah, [00:30:00] let’s eat something. So I think I ordered toast and nibbled on it. I didn’t have an appetite. And we made small talk for a few minutes. And then he’s like, so what are we here to talk about? Sell this truck. What do you have to do with it? Why are you involved? And I was struggling for answers, and I’m like, oh, I’m just Eric’s friend. I’m just helping him with this.
And his name’s Barry, his employer. He just didn’t buy it. And he finally said, I just feel like [00:30:30] something’s wrong here. Can you tell me what’s really going on? And I just started crying. I was so spent after five months of this, normally I would’ve held it all in and tried to play it safe and acted like everything was fine, but I just couldn’t do that anymore. So I broke down and just told him, no, I’m not okay. And he said, I’ll help you. And that was how I escaped Eric. My trafficker, was because Barry [00:31:00] was willing to step into my story and see that something was wrong and ask me about it. I trusted him. I was hesitant. I had trusted a lot of men, and it had not worked out for me. So I was worried this could be the next bad guy, but I just had this deep sense feeling that I could trust him. I’m so glad I listened to it and followed it because he was the one that helped me get free.
Fight The New Drug (31:28):
And how did he help you get free? What [00:31:30] was that like?
So he let me sleep on his couch for a couple of nights, and he said that he was going to help me move. He helped me arrange with my parents to move back with them, which wasn’t ideal for me given our circumstance, but in light of them or Eric, they were much of better option, better option. So he helped me arrange that. He helped me move physically, move all the stuff over, [00:32:00] and then he kind of just provided a presence. So he was Eric’s employer. Eric was a little intimidated by him, and so Barry let Eric know that he knew that things were bad. He knew that he was treating me bad. He didn’t know the half of it at that point, but he knew that he was treating me bad and that he wasn’t going to stand for it. And so I think Eric just felt intimidated enough to kind of back off
Fight The New Drug (32:27):
How, I guess over time, [00:32:30] how was your relationship with Barry that kind of continued to evolve different from the previous relationships?
Yeah, thank goodness, right. It was a night and day difference. Thankfully. He was such a good man. He had such a good heart, and he really just wanted to help me, and he walked by me every step of the way through. He went to all the court battles with me. So Eric continued to stalk [00:33:00] me for years, and I had to get a civil stalking injunction, a criminal stalking injunction against him. They were really big deals. We testified. He actually did get in touch with my ex-husband, and I lost custody for a year of my kids. They shared photos of the abuse and tried to make it seem like I was a prostitute, and it was horrible. But Barry walked every step of the way with me, and every time [00:33:30] a new picture would come out or some horrible thing, I’d be like, I’m so sorry. I don’t want you to see this. And he was like, whatever happened to you in your past is your past. I completely accept you for who you are today. So he was really amazing.
Fight The New Drug (33:42):
That’s really beautiful. You were able to testify against Eric eventually. Can you talk a little bit about
That? Yeah, so he was on hold on a customs and immigration. It’s called an ice hold, immigration and Customs Enforcement, I think. And because I was a victim to [00:34:00] him prior, I was privy to that information that he was being held in jail and that he had harmed some other women. He had raped some other women. I think one of them was underage, and we found out. So Barry was looking through the newspaper. I was already gone to Tennessee for treatment because I couldn’t find any treatment here in Utah or in the surrounding states. So I ended up in Tennessee in treatment, so I was there. [00:34:30] Barry was watching the newspaper and the tv, and he saw that there had been a bust on the sex trafficking ring here in Utah, and it didn’t name the assailants in it, but it just said where they were from, and it listed, one of them was from Peru, which is where Eric was from. And so we were like, oh my gosh, could this be him?
Then Barry did a lot of digging and research and found out that he was in fact [00:35:00] being detained, and that he was in the 11th hour of his court hearing. They were almost finished with it, and I said, I can’t live with myself if I don’t tell someone what he did to me, what he’s capable of, and if he does that to anybody else, I could just never live with myself. So we got in touch with the prosecutor and said, I’m willing to share my story. This is what I went through with this man that you’re holding. And the prosecutor took it really [00:35:30] serious. He’s like, okay, we’ll delay the court hearing until you can get here. I flew in three different times and testified two of the times. Eric was just on a really big TV screen from prison and live streaming, and one time he was actually there in person.
And so it was really, really difficult. The defense played really dirty. I had Barry and my two therapists there and a victim’s [00:36:00] advocate there as my support. Eric had his whole family there that showed up. The defense said, we’re going to call Barry and the two therapists as witnesses, so they can’t be in the proceedings, so they have to go into a closed room in another room. And he did that just so that I didn’t have support in the courtroom. Thankfully, I had the victim’s advocate, which she was wonderful. But yeah, they were just really nasty about it. So it was a really difficult process [00:36:30] reliving all of that. It was room full of men. I’m telling these intimate things that have been done. You have to use all the proper verbiage and say, this is what happened, and describe it in detail, really difficult. But at the end, not just because of me, but they had a case on him as well. They decided to deport him, so he’s no longer allowed in the us thankfully.
Fight The New Drug (36:52):
Yeah, I mean, I can’t imagine what that experience was like for you. I also, in reading your book, when I saw [00:37:00] that they brought Richard in as well to testify on Eric’s behalf, I could not believe that. I know. I’m so sorry.
I know they teamed up. They did. Eric came through on every threat he ever made to me, except for killing me.
Fight The New Drug (37:15):
Fight The New Drug (37:19):
Oh, I’m so sorry. In your book, you also mentioned part of your motivation to testify, which is so brave and amazing that you were able to do that, is that [00:37:30] you had a little bit of survivor’s guilt almost for not having pursued a case sooner. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah. So when I found out, well, even back further than that, so while I was being trafficked, there was two times it really sent out to me. There were other times too, but these two are the ones that plagued me the most in my dreams. We went to a warehouse once, and there was a woman tied up on a cott, and she was [00:38:00] blonde, and she looked maybe a little bit younger than me, and there were a bunch of men in the room. And I stood next to Eric and I shuffled even closer to him and leaned on him, and she was looking at me, help me. She didn’t say it, but she was struggling, and I didn’t do anything. In fact, I leaned into my trafficker because I didn’t want to also end up in her position. I feel so guilty about that to this day that I didn’t do anything.
[00:38:30] Now, what could I realistically have done? Probably nothing, but I just feel that I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even try. I was just too scared. And then there was another time where there were two little girls in the backseat of a car with me, and we were all drugged and taken to a brothel in the desert, and they were two little girls, and I didn’t save them. And again, I don’t know how I would’ve, but it still bothers me that [00:39:00] I didn’t. So having had that experience and living with the guilt of that, and then hearing that Eric had abused other women and one minor and had raped them and had beaten them up, I felt like if I had done something sooner, that would never have happened to them. And in therapy, I talk about it a lot, and they’re always telling me, you did what you could do.
You couldn’t have [00:39:30] done anything anyway. But yeah, it definitely motivated me to want to, that’s why I had to tell what he was capable of and what he did, because I just didn’t want it to happen to anybody else. And I still, even though he was deported, that’s great. I’m glad he’s not on us soil, but I still worry about what he’s doing over there. What’s he doing to women over there and girls. So I regret that I didn’t start a criminal case against him, but [00:40:00] I also know my reasons for not doing that. I was just too depleted, and I don’t think I could have done it. I don’t think I could have done anymore. But
Fight The New Drug (40:09):
What does it mean to you to survive?
That’s a good question. I feel like it kind of changes all the time. Based on where I’m at right now, surviving to me is equivalent to [00:40:30] thriving. And I can’t say I’m thriving right now. I’m not a hundred percent there, but I’m working toward it. And that’s my big goal right now is to be able to say that I’m thriving. I’m definitely living a much better life than I was, and I’m healthier than I have ever been. Mentally. I’m stronger. I still have a long way to go, but I think I’m on the path towards thriving, and for me, that’s what surviving [00:41:00] means.
Fight The New Drug (41:00):
Yeah, that’s amazing. Why did you decide to write this book and share your experiences?
Well, it’s kind of weird. Ever since I was really little, I wanted to write a book. I just knew I wanted to be an author. So that plays into it just a little bit, just for the fact that that’s something I always saw myself doing. And then after going through this experience and I was talking about it to a group of people and [00:41:30] they said, oh, you should share your story. I actually asked the question, what can I do with my story to make the greatest impact in the fight against sex trafficking? And they said, share your story. And so it was kind of this moment where I’m like, oh, that’s what I’m going to write about. That’s the story I need to tell, and that’s the story I need to share. So it was kind of like a meant to be kind of thing.
Horrible that ends up being the story, but that’s what it was. And [00:42:00] I just felt like I had to just kind of with the testifying in court, I just felt like I had to put it out there to warn other people. And it may be somebody that’s being trafficked, that doesn’t know they’re being trafficked, that will read it and understand what’s happening to them, or somebody who’s surviving trafficking and trying to get better. Someone who’s been through domestic violence or childhood abuse. I mean, I think there’s a lot of people that could relate to different parts of it, and hopefully they just see that somebody [00:42:30] made it through and that there is hope on the other side of it.
Fight The New Drug (42:35):
And thank you so much for sharing your story and writing this book, and I do think there’s such a ripple effect that can come from hearing true stories from survivors and individuals who have experienced this. And also I think there can be a lot of hope in someone hearing your story or maybe who has been in one of these situations similar to what you’ve been in, to know [00:43:00] that what life looks like for you now is hopeful. Can you tell us a little bit about what life looks like for you now?
Yeah. I mean, I am married. I married Barry actually. He’s my hero. And we’ve been married a good number of years now. We got back 50% custody of my kids. It’s no longer applies because they’re grown adults now. But that was amazing to win back custody, and it was a hard battle that we had to fight to [00:43:30] do it. I’ve been in therapy for seven years. I probably always will be in some form of therapy, and I’m totally okay with that. I think that’s just fine. It helps me a lot. And yeah, I have this beautiful life. I’m just trying to find a way to exist in this beautiful life with the bad memories that I have and the trauma, the triggers and that type of thing. But that’s what I’m [00:44:00] learning in therapy. So definitely on my way.
Fight The New Drug (44:03):
Given where you’re at now, having done some therapy, continuing on in therapy, and your relationship with Barry, both of you as parents, what does it mean to you now? Or what is your experience now of being a mom?
Well, I think everything I’ve been through definitely makes me more cautious. I worry about my kids endlessly. I mean, we all do as parents anyway, but I have [00:44:30] additional because of the things I’ve seen and have gone through. But I also see how beautiful it is to see their lives. And I’m not a perfect parent, but I’m doing the best I can with them, and I’m hopefully giving them a better experience than I had. And they know that I’m always going to be there for them and that I’m always willing to listen. And Barry too, he’s so good with them. I think that [00:45:00] it’s made me appreciate my role as a mother more because I understand how bad things can go wrong when you don’t have the parenting that you need and deserve as a little kid and all the way through adulthood, I mean, you need your parents forever. It’s really sad to me that I don’t have my parents in my life anymore, but I have Barry’s parents who are wonderful to me, and I find strength in my other relationships.
Fight The New Drug (45:30):
[00:45:30] Given that at the time that you were being trafficked or even abused and you were in these situations where these men had power over you that prevented you from being able to ask for help, aside from kind of an accidental doctor seeing a bruise or the situation you were in with Barry where he just caught you at a time that you didn’t have the fight left in you to resist. Are there things you wish someone [00:46:00] would have done along the way or times you wished someone would’ve noticed something or spoken out, or is there something you think other people could have done that could have helped you sooner?
Absolutely. I think about that a lot. So I’ll tell you just two quick experiences. One, I think we’re in Montana. I can’t be sure, but it was snowing really hard. And Eric had let me up to the passenger seat, and he wanted me to look for the white line on the side of the road so that we didn’t drive off the road. [00:46:30] It was such a blizzard we couldn’t even see while I was up there. He just started just berating me and treating me horrible. He kept smacking me against the side of the door, and I had these moments. They were rare and few and far between, but where I would just have enough, and that was one of ’em. I just had enough and I just opened the door and jumped out of the truck, took off running. There was a car coming the opposite direction, and I was waving my arms and screaming, help, help.
And they slowed down. But about the [00:47:00] time that they slowed down and reached where I was, Eric caught up with me and started dragging me by my hair back to the truck. The car just drove off, and I think about them a lot. I don’t have any hard feelings because I think that would’ve been a scary thing to see on this kind of deserted highway in the middle of a snowstorm that would be disturbing. And I’m not sure what I would do, but oh, how I wish they would’ve just made a phone call to the police. [00:47:30] I don’t know what would’ve come from it, but I can only imagine it would’ve ended things sooner. And then there was another time at a truck stop where we went in and I was drugged and we were walking through and the clerk said, don’t bring that in here.
And that he referred to me as that. That was horrible. And then to let the abuse continue just right under his nose happening in the back shower room, he didn’t call anybody. I don’t know [00:48:00] if this is something that’s so common to him that he doesn’t even get upset about it, or did he just not really know what was happening? But people can absolutely be more aware that trafficking’s happening and what it actually looks like, because a lot of times we think, oh, they’re just kidnapped off the side of the road and they’re never seen again. They’re locked in the cellar. That’s not true. I went grocery shopping. I was with my kids. I went to PTA meetings and I was being trafficked on the weekends. [00:48:30] So I think if we can just get people educated, then they’ll know. If they see something, they’ll know at least report it. At least make a phone call. You’ll never be in trouble for reporting something. I think a lot of people worry about that. The people will be so offended. What if it’s not? What if it’s none of my business? Or what if I get in trouble for reporting something and it’s not wrong, or
Fight The New Drug (48:52):
Fear of taking their time or something to
Make the report. Yeah, no, the police have said multiple times, I’ve heard them say they would rather [00:49:00] respond to a hundred cases that were not anything wrong than to miss one That was. So yeah, definitely awareness is key
Fight The New Drug (49:09):
Because so many people probably observed a situation with you and thought that doesn’t seem quite right, and they could have just made a phone call. Yeah, I think that’s really good advice. I do want to mention also because the proceeds of your book do support a cause that is working to address trafficking as well. Do you want to talk about that a little
Bit? Yeah, so I do a lot of volunteering with [00:49:30] the Mullo Foundation. They’re located in Logan, Utah, and they fight sexual exploitation on every level, but one of their focuses is trafficking, sex trafficking. I have donated all the funds from the book sales to go directly to them because they do such good work with survivors. They also have a program that I’ve helped them develop and work on. It’s called I Am On watch.org, [00:50:00] and it’s a training series that takes about an hour. It’s free, it’s online, and if you take it, it will show you real survivor stories and it will give you ideas of what you might’ve seen, what you might’ve noticed, how do you been there, where you could have intervened, and what you could have done to help. And so I think that’s a really big training if people will take that. Again, I am on watch.org.
Fight The New Drug (50:24):
Yeah, amazing. Thank you so much. It’s so inspiring and so encouraging to get to speak with you [00:50:30] and to see your strength and resilience. Is there anything we haven’t talked about yet that you wanted to share?
No, not really. Other than maybe just a message to anybody who’s surviving domestic violence or childhood abuse or heaven forbid, trafficking. I felt really alone. And a lot of people say that, and you’re like, what does that mean? But I felt like I was the only one. How could I [00:51:00] be? So how could I have such bad luck to have gone through all of this? How could all this happen to me? What is stamped on my forehead that makes people treat me this way? And it’s a really complex system that these abusers have. They have their methods, they have their way. I always think there must be a handbook out there somewhere of how to be an abuser because they all do it the same. I mean, it’s different, but the same basics. [00:51:30] You’re not alone. It doesn’t mean anything about you because people treat you this way, and it just means that you’re strong enough to survive it and that you can survive it, and there is hope on the other side.
Fight The New Drug (51:41):
You are so amazing. Truly, it was such an honor to get to talk with you and to be able to share your story on our platform however we can. And if there’s ever anything we can do in the future to help you or help share resources you’re working on or anything, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Okay.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that. [00:52:00] Of course.
Thanks for joining us 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 a non-GI 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 [00:52:30] and the conversation we had, you can check out the links included with this episode. If you find this podcast helpful, consider subscribing and leaving review. Consider Before Consuming is made possible by listeners like you. If you’d like to support Consider Before Consuming, you can make a onetime or recurring donation of any amount at FTND.org/support. That’s F-T-N-D.O-R-G/support.
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