Uncategorized

Kathy Givens

Episode 73

Kathy Givens

Sex Trafficking Survivor, Co-Founder, & Author

Trigger warning: The following podcast episode contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. Listener discretion is advised.

Kathy is a wife, mother, author, writer, and advocate who survived the life of sex trafficking. Kathy’s goal is to fight for those who are still in the life of sex trafficking, and mentor those who transition out of it. Kathy has developed a trauma-informed restorative care program for adult survivors of trafficking, and she’s the Co-Founder of Twelve 11 Partners, an organization that is survivor led, and survivor focused. In this episode, listen as she talks with podcast host Garrett Jonsson about her experiences in the life of sex trafficking, how her family and friends played a significant role in her exiting the life, and why she thinks that it’s possible to end trafficking for all.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Kathy Givens: Um, and I was instructed to perform sexual acts, and all the things. And that’s when I realized that the photos were obviously being used as a marketing tool, I didn’t know about, you know, Craigslist and Back Page and all the things back then. But I knew that they were definitely being posted somewhere.

Fight the New Drug Ad: Join us this July for our #StopTheDemand campaign, as we raise awareness to help stop the demand for pornography and sexual exploitation. We invite you to educate yourselves, and others on how the porn industry fuels the demand for exploitation, sex trafficking, objectificataion, and more. Learn more, and get involved in the campaign at FTND.org/stop. That’s FTND.org/stop.

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 Kathy Givens. She grew up in Canada, and moved to Texas during her adolescence. After high school she was introduced to a guy who, unbeknownst to her, would become her trafficker. Because of the psychological manipulation that she experienced at the hands of her trafficker, she spent almost an entire year in the life of sex trafficking. During this conversation, we talked about how she entered the life of sex trafficking, how her family and friends played a significant role as she exited the life, and what she’s up to today.

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

Garrett Jonsson: Well, Kathy, we want to say, thank you for joining us today on the podcast.

Kathy Givens: I am excited to have this conversation. It’s a very important conversation and it means a lot to me. So thank you for having me on and for the invitation.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, absolutely. As I was preparing for the conversation, I learned a lot about you and all that you’re up to, and to name a few of your titles, you’re a wife, a mother, an author, a playwright, an advocate, a consultant, a co-founder. And that’s just to name a few, I’m sure you have some other ones that I’ve missed, but, that’s a, that’s a lot.

Kathy Givens: [laughter] It is a lot.

Garrett Jonsson: You are up to a lot. Of all those titles, which are you most proud of?

Kathy Givens: Definitely the family component, the wife and mom.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That’s what I thought you’d say. That’s what I hoped that you would say. [laughter]

Kathy Givens: Yeah, for sure. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Well, that’s cool. Um, this might be considered a loaded question, but at what point are you gonna stop adding titles to your resume? [laughter]

Kathy Givens: [laughter] you know what? That may be impossible because you know, this is a lifestyle just, um, restoration I say is always like a lifelong journey for me…

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: … and so really it’s just me living life to the fullest.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. When you were young, did you sit down and you were like, I want to be a wife, a mom, an author, a playwright and advocate. Was that your life goal to become all these things? Or what’d you want to be when you were young?

Kathy Givens: You know what? I wanted to write that one. I can say. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Kathy Givens: For sure. I wanted to be a writer. I loved writing. Um, and then, yeah, I did. I guess growing up, I did wanna be a wife. I don’t know about the mom thing. Didn’t think I’d be good at it, but Hey, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s such a great, that’s like one of my favorite, um, titles. It’s such a rewarding job.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh yeah. I have, I have kids as well. I should say we have kids and my wife and I, we have kids and man it’s rewarding and exhausting and all of the, all the things in between too.

Kathy Givens: Yeah, absolutely. Well, it’s fun though, right?

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, it’s fun. It’s great. I always say that moments of bliss are not free. And so definitely lots of moments of bliss and you have to pay the price for ’em.

Kathy Givens: Absolutely. I love that. I might, I might use that.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, you have my permission. It’s trademarked, but you I’m just joking. It’s not trademarked. [laughter]

Kathy Givens: [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Well, in your spare time, you run a nonprofit called Twelve 11.

Kathy Givens: [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: And, uh, that is a survivor led and survivor focused organization.

Kathy Givens: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Why are you proud that it’s survivor led and survivor focused?

Kathy Givens: To see survivors and overcomers show up in this space to pour out and to give back? It just brings me so much joy. That to me is just a different level of healing…

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: … that speaks volumes to the restorative journey of one that has gone through something like I’ve gone through. Right? Um, it’s like, wow. When we get to the level of giving back, it’s unstoppable then to me, you know, that’s a clear sign that trafficking can end, cuz if it can end for one, it can end for all.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. And man, you mentioned the word trafficking and that’s the focus of this conversation. And I know that oftentimes as we talk about trafficking, we rattle off the legal definition.

Kathy Givens: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And that’s important to know, but also I’m curious to know like, what is like, if you can describe what is sex trafficking without using the legal definition?

Kathy Givens: I love that you ask this question because a lot of individuals that are experiencing or have experienced trafficking don’t call it that. So I’m going to explain it, um, not from the side of the advocate that I’ve become, but from an individual who has experienced it without using the term trafficking. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Kathy Givens: So literally it’s a business structure. It is taking someone’s body using someone’s body for profit. And that’s the simplest term that I can, that I can find. Um, praying on individuals vulnerabilities and seeing it as an asset to use those vulnerabilities for profit and for capital gain, right? And so at all costs, any expense, um, whatever it takes, you’re going to use that asset is many times as humanly possible to make as much money as humanly possible. Um, before that “asset” is no longer needed or no longer can be used. Um, so it’s a business structure. You have the facilitator, you have the individual who is organizing this, right? Like who is making the profit. And so in order to make a profit, they need supply. And unfortunately that’s the victim. And so the victim then meets the demand. And unfortunately those are what we call like buyers. And so it’s this whole system and that’s literally what sex trafficking is.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, thanks for speaking to that. I just wanna acknowledge that sometimes my heart gets heavy having these conversations because of the realities of what happens. The fact that you had to experience what you experienced, and we’ll dive into that later, is heartbreaking and unimaginable. I can’t, I can’t fathom what you had to experience. Now that I’ve acknowledged that, that I’m weak…

Kathy Givens: [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: and that [laughter], and that, um, this is a heavy conversation. I think it’s important to have heavy conversations about this because it’s all about education and if the goal is to end sex trafficking, then we have to face the reality of what, what is happening out there.

This, this might be a loaded question or not a loaded question, but it might require a lot of context, um, from you, I’m curious how you became involved, cuz you’re a co-founder of Twelve 11…

Kathy Givens: Right.

Garrett Jonsson: … and so I’m just curious, like how did that evolve? How did 1211 become what it is today and how did you become involved in that process?

Kathy Givens: Sure. Um, from my journey of overcoming trafficking, I have been really, um, just privileged, like you use that term to, to be able to see and walk alongside individuals that are also in the fight to end human trafficking and combat human trafficking. And so I’ve been able to just, um, participate through volunteerism or work with organizations and agencies that are working so hard every day, um, to combat this thing. And it’s a unique lens that I had the opportunity to view from an overcomer, from a survivor lens. And then, but from like now an advocate lens. And through that process, that entire process, I was able to see some of the gaps, right? That existed in our efforts to combat, to fight human trafficking. And one of those gaps were, um, post residential care, meaning after individuals have graduated from like these programs, these, um, really, really great trauma informed programs, either short term or long term to walk alongside individuals who have experienced trafficking, get them back on their feet, you know, um, get them some counseling and therapy and all the things that they need.

A lot of times after they left those programs, they were, they were kind of left on their own. And this isn’t intentional, but just thinking about the capacity that agencies have, usually the programs are like six to 18 months. So after 18 months, these individuals would be reintegrated back into the community and kind of just expected to thrive in using the skills that they learned from these organizations to like thrive. But it’s so much harder than that, right?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: Like 18 months is not enough time, um, to kind of rebuild and to, to build, period- after you’ve experienced such a crime like that.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: So Twelve 11 was a response to that gap. Like we wanna walk alongside individuals even after they’ve graduated from these programs, but then also walk alongside individuals who don’t even choose to go to programs. The program is not for everyone, but people still need care.

People still need support. And so Twelve 11 was founded in response to that. I am a Co-Founder my husband is a Co-Founder. Um, and so together we just took on this mission to, um, respond to that gap and try to try to be the support that people need and support other agencies as well. Like I talked about, the capacity is just almost impossible to walk with someone, um, from the time of exit all the way, like five years down the line. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: It’s, it’s really hard to do that, but people need it. And we saw that because like at the height of the pandemic, especially like people were going back, um, into the lifestyle of trafficking or, um, at risk of being re-exploited, and re-victimized. And so this was like an urgent thing to get this started.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, I have a lot of questions based off what you said. Um, the first question I have is what was it about the pandemic that made it higher risk for people? Um, like how did the pandemic negatively impact those populations that are most vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking or entering the life of trafficking?

Kathy Givens: Sure. So people were losing their jobs left and right. So I’ll talk about the individuals that made it out. So they exited at one time or the other um, and then may have turned their life around and got really good, good jobs and stuff like that, or the jobs that were afforded to them. And then the pandemic hit and businesses were closing down.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: People’s hours were cut. And so these individuals, you know, when your back is against the wall, what do you do? You turn to what you know? Right? And it’s just unfortunate, but that was, that was what was happening. And then for the people that were still in it, the numbers soared because people, again, people were at home bored and were talking about buyers. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Kathy Givens: People were at home bored, so they’d go for a drive. And along their drive, they just happened to, you know, um, encounter an individual that, that had, that was being trafficked.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Kathy Givens: And so traffickers were very aware of this and they pushed their victims out to even make more right. Like to, to do more work and, and forced them to do more, more work because they understood that a lot of people were kind of just isolated.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And when you’re isolated, you turn to, you know, unfortunately some of the negative things, not everything, not everyone turns to positive things. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Kathy Givens: Um, and so that elevated, that increased a lot. And again, a lot of these individuals that were even trying to get outta the life, maybe they were on their way out, like, so kind of just doing this part-time or whatever, you know, just trying to one foot in one foot out. Going to school, getting jobs when those hours were cut or when those jobs were lost, they were stuck. And so we saw an increase for sure. It affected so many people and so many victims and survivors.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That’s kind of unexpected. I think the, a lay person wouldn’t wouldn’t, uh, predict that.

Kathy Givens: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: But it’s like some type of situational exploitation, like where that unpredictable situation happened with the pandemic and then those exploiters are going to do what they do and that’s exploit.

Kathy Givens: Exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: That makes sense. Um, you mentioned that when you were young, you wanted to be a writer, you wanted to be a wife. You weren’t sure about the mother thing. [laughter]

Kathy Givens: [laughter] Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: But, um, I’m just kind of curious, cuz you’ve talked briefly today about how you are a, an overcomer and a survivor of trafficking, but I’m kind of curious in regards to your upbringing, like what was life like for you growing up?

Kathy Givens: It was great. I was born in Canada and to, uh, Jamaican parents, which if anyone has Jamaican parents, they already know like I can like end this interview now and they’re like, “Oh, okay. I get it.” [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: [laughter] What do you mean?

Kathy Givens: They’re like really strict, right?

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, okay.

Kathy Givens: Very, very like, “Hey, you’re gonna go to school and you’re going to be great.” And that’s like it like…

Garrett Jonsson: Oh okay. Yeah.

Kathy Givens: “That’s my, that’s my expectation.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: Um, no dating, no nothing in between, but I loved, I loved my household. I had such a supportive family, extended family, um, in Canada, but my parents did get a divorce when I was very young, however, my mom stepped in to fill in a lot of those gaps. Right? As being a single parent. And she was awesome. She added like, she did a really great job in raising my siblings and I just to be independent and to be strong and to be wise.

And she did a really great job at single parenting. So for me, you know, I didn’t know that that was a vulnerability until hindsight cuz it was, I had a great life.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And then so at around 13, 14 or so my mom decided to move to Texas and literally like the conversation was we’re gonna go visit Texas cuz we had like family members in Texas.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: And so we’re like, “We’re gonna go visit.” She’s like, “We’re gonna go visit Texas and we’re gonna go on summer vacation. It’s gonna be great.” And I tell people, as I share, like literally like this is the longest summer vacation I’ve ever been on. Cause I’m still in Texas. And so my mom decided to stay and um, it just so happened that summer. It was like the end of Texas’ summer. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: And so it was almost time to re to, to enroll in school.

So it was like, “Hey, you’re just gonna stay here.” And so I never got a chance to like say to properly say goodbye to like all of my friends, my community, everyone that I loved my family, my church, like everyone, I just never had that opportunity to say a proper goodbye. And I was always a little, you know, kind of bitter about that. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, for sure.

Kathy Givens: You know, as a kid, it’s like “What? This is crazy.” And so coming to text, moving to Texas was a big deal. They say everything is bigger in Texas. And um, that includes the expectations. I was in Canada playing with Barbie dolls, and cabbage patch kids. And then when I moved to Texas, it was like, “Oh no, like you have to be in the popular crowd.” Like in, in high school “You have to be in the popular crowd. You’re expected to date. You’re expected to speak a certain way. You’re expected to do this and that.” And I kind of think that that would’ve probably happened if I would’ve stayed in Canada anyways, because it was me transitioning to high school. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And so transitioning to high school, but then transitioning to high school in a new country was like a culture shock.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: It was huge.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh yeah, for sure.

Kathy Givens: I think that just opened up a lot of, you know, insecurities for me, even though I didn’t acknowledge those insecurities, I was really just kind of going through high school, like a chameleon. I called myself whatever people wanted me to be, I just turned into that person cuz I was trying to figure out like who I was.

Garrett Jonsson: Of course.

Kathy Givens: And granted at 14, 15, 16 years old, that’s the time that, you know, teens start figuring that out anyways. Like exploring.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That’s the typical time.

Kathy Givens: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Even without the big transition you had to go from Canada to Texas, like even without that adolescence is tough.

Kathy Givens: It is it’s tough, but it was good. My mom was great. My family was great. I had a really good solid upbringing and nice. I don’t know. It’s just, it was, I have really good memories.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, I have to ask, which has higher expectations, Texans or Jamaican parents.

Kathy Givens: Oh gosh. Jamaican parents. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: [laughter] That combo, that combo together.

Kathy Givens: Exactly, that combo. [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: That added a lot of pressure.

Kathy Givens: Oh my gosh. Yes [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: Well, it sounds like you had a, a great childhood and um, so now I’m curious, like how did you enter into the life of, of trafficking?

Kathy Givens: Yeah. So remember I spoke about my upbringing and not really acknowledging those insecurities and I believe that before I was able to acknowledge those insecurities, someone else did that for me…

Garrett Jonsson: Oh.

Kathy Givens: … my vulnerabilities for me. And so that happened to be an individual that I was introduced to through a mutual friend. This is after high school. Um, and now I’m like in college and with friends and you know how it is, like we all decided to take classes together and stuff. And one of my friends came back and she said that she met this band and they were so cool and they were inviting her back to hang out with them, but they wanted her to bring some friends. I happened to be one of those friends. And so we all, it was like a group of us went to go hang with this band.

And um, it was fun. It was actually fun, you know, that’s I think I paused there because a lot of times when I’m telling my story, people think, “h, okay, that’s when it happened. Cuz you shouldn’t have went.”, but actually no, it was actually really fun.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: We hung out and we did it for about this. This went on for about four months or so just four to six months just hanging out. Um, and then the invitations started to change and it was no longer, “Hey girls come hang out with us.” It was like, “Kathy, I wanna hang out with you, and only you.”, and this invitation was coming from the leader of the band who happened to be the most skillful, the most talented, the gift of charm. You know, he was good looking. And I believe, like I said, he just saw those insecurities.

So those, those months of hanging out was really just a, an assessment of like, “Who is the weakest link in this group?” And I just happened to be the weakest link, even though I came from a great family, I didn’t have a father in the home. My other friends did. Right? I didn’t, I, I wasn’t. Um, as strong and opinionated, I was kind of like that chameleon that was in high school. Well, she never changed. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: he was still kind of trying to figure out her way. And I think he identified that as well.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And so I accepted these invitations, these solo invitations to hang out with him. And again, it was great. It was us just going to his studio and you know, I just was kind of his sidekick, I guess. But in my mind I was like his girlfriend, you know, cuz he was only asking me to do certain things and he would give me, you know, he would shower me with affirmations of like, “You’re so smart and I’m so glad that you’re mine.” and you know, things like that.

Right? And so I thought that I was in this full-fledged relationship and about a year, this goes on and about the end of that year, he says that he wants me to help him with his record label. Again, no red flags because this is what he does anyways. He knew celebrities. He was already in that kind of life. Right? And so I accepted and the proposal was, “Hey, we have to leave Houston, Texas and go to Dallas, Texas.” which was about four hours away. “And we’re gonna meet some investors that are gonna invest in this record label. And I just need you to come with me because like you’re a part of this team and it’s gonna be our legacy…” and you know, using verbiage like that. And so I accepted went to Dallas. Um, and literally like when we got to Dallas, I used to say that, that that’s when he turned into a monster, but now be through, you know, learning who I am and, and looking back at that experience now I say that’s when my eyes were opened to who he truly was.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: Because I was so blinded by this relationship, this facade of a relationship. And so when we got to Dallas, my eyes, the blinders came off and I saw like he was violent. He was, you know, basically I had no, there was no training, right? There was no like, there’s no talk like, “Hey I’m about to traffic you now.”, or “You’re about to be forced to do these kind of things.” It was like, “Hey, wear this, take this, we’re gonna take pictures, do this, do that.” And it was like an out-of-body experience because everything for me in my perspective happened so fast so quickly.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: Um, and that was literally the entrance into the lifestyle of trafficking.

Garrett Jonsson: So you take these photos and then how did it transition from photos to actually participating in, in trafficking?

Kathy Givens: That’s when I realized, um, when people would come to the hotel room that we were in, after taking these photos just random men would come to the hotel room. Um, and I was instructed to perform sexual acts, and all the things. And that’s when I realized that the photos were obviously being used as a marketing tool, I didn’t know about, you know, Craigslist and Back Page and all the things back then. But I knew that they were definitely being posted somewhere.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: Um, or advertised somewhere for these individuals to, for these buyers, for these men to, to come. Right? And know exactly what I look like and know exactly what to expect. So it was used for that purpose to, um, and again, it just happened really quickly.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Prior to this moment, like all of this happens and then you start realizing like, “Whoa, this is actually happening prior to that. Did you have any idea about what sex trafficking was?

Kathy Givens: No. Not at all. I just thought that I was in a crazy relationship with, with a guy that had crazy fantasies. I don’t know.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: Like I just thought he was just like this kind of stuff. Right. And he was just nuts. Um, I just didn’t think that it was, I didn’t think there was a name for it.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Wow. And during this time, were you able to leave the hotel and have a life outside of this situation? Or were you held against your will there?

Kathy Givens: So it’s crazy because I was not able to leave on my own, but I was taken to like the mall to go shopping [laughter] for, um, the appropriate quote, unquote clothing to fit that lifestyle. Um, I was taken to get my hair done. I was taken to get my nails done, make, make sure I had the right makeup. Like all the things. I was like, it was almost like I was being treated. And in my mind I literally thought, “Oh, this is nice of him. At least he still cares.”, kind of thing. Um, but I was just being, you know, prepped basically.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And then also, you know, people were coming to the room and as they were coming to the room, he would tell me things like, “See, that’s why I’m keeping you here. Not like the other girls…” cuz there were other girls there too that were being trafficked.

He was like, “Um, I’m not letting you out of here. Just, you know, like the other girls I’m keeping you close to me because I care about you.” And in my mind I was, I agreed. I was like, “Well at least, yeah. At least he’s not putting me out because some of those girls went out in the night and never came back. So at least he’s keeping me close because he still cares about me.” And it’s crazy to even articulate that now. But when you understand the psychological hold that these exploiters have on individuals, the psychological abuse is worse than the physical.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And so I was caught up in this fantasy that he, that he cared. And so that ran out, you know, that ran eye. He was like, “Oh…”, at one point he was like, “I’m gonna keep you close in the room.” But then he said money was we weren’t making money fast enough. So he had to put me out. And so yes, I was dropped off out, um, to the, what we call the blade or the track to walk the strip and make money. So I wasn’t tied to the room, you know, when he dropped me off, a lot of people were like, “Well, why didn’t you run then?” But I’m telling you it’s the psychological abuse.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: The fear.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It’s the psychological chains…

Kathy Givens: Yes.

Garrett Jonsson: … that holds someone back.

Kathy Givens: Yep.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It seems like one of the things that exploiters do in these situations based on the people that I’ve talked to is that they, you know, like you said, pick someone that’s vulnerable and then they try to create these bonds, like these attachments with them and then exploit them. And I’m just wondering if like, while you were going through this process, did you begin to think like this was your family? Like, was there comfort in this exploitation?

Kathy Givens: There was because I trusted him. He manipulated me to the point that he became my whole entire world. Like he was, I knew, I just knew that he had my back. I just knew that even though I didn’t understand what he was doing, that he still cared about me that maybe he still loved me. Um, so yeah, there was an extreme level of comfort.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. How long were you in the life for?

Kathy Givens: So that three months turned into almost a year of my life just being out there and I lost completely lost sense of time. Uh, it wasn’t until I exited that, I realized how, you know, how long I was actually gone.

Garrett Jonsson: I personally have never experienced this. I’ve never experienced trafficking. And I speculate that the transition out of the life of sex trafficking might be arguably the most challenging transition in life.

Kathy Givens: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: And I’m just wondering, first of all, like, do you think that’s a fair statement being that you’re a person who also is a mother, which is also one of the most challenging things in life, would you say that?

Kathy Givens: I do.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah?

Kathy Givens: Yeah. I agree with that wholeheartedly.

Garrett Jonsson: What are some of the most challenging and unexpected aspects of transitioning out of the life of sex trafficking?

Kathy Givens: Well, the first thing is understanding who you are as an individual, the individual that has just gone through this, it is really hard. And people think that, you know, the physical aspect of being trafficked, you know, once you get people out of that physical, that danger, right? Then they can just be normal again. Like “You’re free now, you can just live life.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: But that’s not true because there are so many things that you have to like learn again, you have to learn who you are again, number one, you have to try to process “What the heck just happened to me?”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Right? Um, it’s so hard and, and that, that alone step one can take years. [laughter] Literally.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And then you have to figure out how to move in society again, like, you know, live and adapt to society, your com your community, your surroundings.

What does that even look like? Because honestly, from the lens of a survivor, when I first came out, I was like, “You guys don’t know what happened to me.” And that’s what I would say every day. And I was screaming from the inside, but no one would hear me obviously. Yeah. But when I would have conversations with quote unquote, regular people, it was like, “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve been through.” You, you know, you have no idea what I just got out of what I’ve just been through. And so it’s so hard. So I think the defeating, those psychological change that you talked about earlier is if not the most difficult, definitely one of the most difficult things.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: But because restoration and you know, is a lifelong process. It’s not an event. Right?

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Kathy Givens: The process of exiting the lifestyle of trafficking is not an event. So it, it, it’s not, it can’t be, you can’t rescue someone from that. Right? You can’t rescue anyone from that.

Garrett Jonsson: It’s like, no one can do it for you. No one can do it. Like we can, there can be facilitators…

Kathy Givens: There can be facilitators, but it really is on the person. Right? Cause even to like, so individuals have like hotline numbers and stuff like that, agencies have hotline numbers and stuff. And um, these courageous and amazing individuals go out to like where there are trafficked individuals and they give them like a number. And if they call that number and they agree to leave, they’re like, “Yeah, we rescued…” no, actually that individual had to, it took a tremendous amount of courage for that person to say, “You know what? I’m gonna call this number.” Knowing that I may, there may be some consequences not knowing what, maybe on the other side of this number, not knowing, you know, where they’re gonna take me when they say that there’s a house that can help me. Or there are people that help me that can help me not knowing who those people are. “I’m going to be so courageous and show up for myself and call this number.”That is someone getting their, their self out or even to make a choice to say, “Okay, I’ll trust you. I’ll trust you. You say that you have this amazing organization that can help me. I’m going to trust you. I’m going to make that choice to go with you.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: That’s a partnership at that point.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, I like that. Thanks for talking to that.

Kathy Givens: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: So how did you exit the life?

Kathy Givens: For me? It was crazy. I used to say that “You’ll never believe how I got out. It’s like a movie.”, but then I started hearing other survivors and overcomers and I’m like, “Oh, we’re all like movies.” [laughter]

Garrett Jonsson: This, this is typical. [laughter]

Kathy Givens: [laughter]

This is so typical. Um, every story is just so unique, but for me there was an individual. Um, there was a person, a young lady that was being trafficked as well in this kind of ring or this kind of group that, um, my former trafficker had. And she had, she struggled with, um, a mental disorder. Um, and so she had, she was really activated at one point, um, to the point of what I used to call like a “mental breakdown”, I know that’s not the right term, but like she was really acting out, um, because she was off her medicine or she was, I think really, I think what activated her was we would have secret conversations behind the trafficker’s back. And she confided in me how, you know, how she used to dream as a little girl of being like a singer. And she had all these goals set up for herself. And then she realized, you know, I would speak to her, like “We can’t, we can’t do this. Like, this is not our life. Like you deserve to do all the things that you used to dream of as a little girl, it’s not okay that we’re doing this. You know?” even in my own stuff, I was just like, we gotta get outta here. And I think that kind of activated, like just set something off.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It was like a spark of motivation.

Kathy Givens: Yeah. It was a spark of motivation and it kind of triggered her to understand, like she was, she had to face her reality. Because living out there in the life you’re, you’re, you’re pretending it’s a facade. Right? Um, so I think her having to face that reality kind of sparked something and he, you know, she started to act out like physically and they were fighting and she was screaming and bringing too much attention to the room. Let me just summarize and say that.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: She was bringing too much attention to what was going on.

Garrett Jonsson: She became a liability for the trafficker, kind of thing?

Kathy Givens: She became a liability because, yeah. And so his thought was just to have her like get her into a hospital there and just leave her. And um, I convinced him that we should bring her back to Houston because that’s where her medical team was. Like people that understand what she’s dealing with and have been walking with her, um, for years they understand. And so we need to get her back there and he, he agreed to it and I believe that he agreed to it because they also shared a child together. So he’s this big, you know, music mogul to his family and to like all of the people that think, you know, that don’t really know who he is, but then he’s this big, big time trafficker to kind of like this other crowd that he to.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And to compromise that, to compromise those two and to, to, um, to make it like revealed to his family and her family, what he was doing would just cost him everything.

And so he was like, “Yeah, okay, fine. We’ll go back to Houston. We’ll get into a hospital. And then me and you will come back out or we’ll go to Kansas…”, or I forgot what city he was gonna go to next with me, um, who we got, we got back to Houston, crazy ride, got back to Houston, got her into the hospital. And then I, we were in a hotel room, um, just me and him. And he was pretending like he was my boyfriend again. Right? Just nevermind all the things that he just put me through. He was just like very attentive, very caring and speaking to the psychological bond, the trauma bond. I only wanted to be around him, you know? Um, and so I was like stuck to him like glue, but I think I started to have my own, um, kind of reality check because I was back in my hometown and I had to see streets and freeways and highways and landmarks that were familiar to me.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: and they were disrupting my facade. They were disrupting who I had become to try to protect myself from my reality.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And so I started freaking out as well. And then, you know, he allowed me in the midst of that breakdown to contact my brother and my sister-in-law who again, just thought I was away for a job. And they came and got me from the hotel room and they knew something was off, but they didn’t know it was trafficking. They just thought, okay, Kathy is out here with her boyfriend, her boyfriend called us because he called he got on the phone and was like, “Yeah, I don’t know. I just feel so scared for her.” And he was that loving person, right. To them.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: And so they came and got me and I just, I never went back since I always say that just to be very clear just because they came and got me doesn’t mean that I had exited the life of trafficking because if given the opportunity, I would’ve gotten back.

Like I said, he wanted to pick me up the next day to like travel and I would’ve been up for it. I would’ve because my moral compass compass was completely broken down. My identity was stripped away. I just thought in my mind that I belonged to him. And so I would’ve absolutely gone back, but he underestimated the, the strength of my support system. So it was my family and my friends and those around me that disrupted his plans. So they were like, “No, Kathy you’re like skin and bones.” And I was mute. Like I wasn’t talking to anyone. Oh, wow. Um, and they were like, “Yeah, you can’t, you can’t go back with him. You’re you’re not, you’re not doing this. We don’t even know what happened to you, but you’re not going back.” So they didn’t even have any information to like call police.

Cuz I wasn’t talking. They didn’t know. It was just, they stepped in, in a big way. And that’s what kept me from, they stepped in long enough for me to kind of come to my own, like, “Okay, what just happened? Maybe he’s not a good boyfriend?” You know, they stepped in long enough for me to try to process some of those things on my own. And that’s what kept me out of the life. Not the fact that someone picked me up.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: So when we look at people that run back, we have to, we have to understand that that trauma bond is real.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. I’m just wondering if shame is one of the things that holds a person in the life that keeps them stuck in the life. Because if I speculate on your experience, I would imagine, and tell me if I’m wrong, that you started to question yourself because you’re like, “How did I end up here?” Like is shame one of the chains, one of the psychological chains that holds a person stuck in trafficking?

Kathy Givens: 100%. Yes. The shame that you have for yourself. But then you’re always wondering what people think. It’s like walking around with this label that says, you know, “You don’t know what I’ve been through.” Like “I’ve been through…”, you know, “I’m dirty. I’m a part of this secret society that no one knows.” And it’s, it’s like the fear of being judged.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: Like, how do you explain that? How do you explain that? You know, even as an adult, we won’t even talk about children, but even as an adult, like how did I let this happen?

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Kathy Givens: How do you explain that to someone?

Garrett Jonsson: We need to get rid of the stigmas because the stigmas are unhealthy.

Kathy Givens: It’s super important for the community. So to be accepting. So we need to, we really need to work harder on not putting all of the onus on the survivor and the victim, but really preparing our communities to, to under, to acknowledge that this happens among us.

Garrett Jonsson: I love that. And that’s one of the important steps is removing the stigmas from the communities and increasing acceptance and empathy.

Kathy Givens: Yep, exactly.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow. Well, as we come to the end of this conversation, I’m just wondering if you have a call to action for us as an organization, as Fight the New Drug?

Kathy Givens: Just to keep doing what you’re doing. I love that you, um, you are incorporating this with your mission and vision of what you guys do. Like trafficking and pornography obviously there is an intersection that goes hand in hand. You can’t talk about one without talking about the other many, many individuals are trafficked through pornography. And so, um, really elevating these conversations and making it makes sense to people. So even like when you said, “Hey, I don’t want the federal definition of trafficking…” but allowing me space to speak the truth, right? To what it really is from the raw perspective of overcomers and survivors. So just keep doing what you’re doing and I value it and I honor it. So thank you.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. And then what about for our listeners? Do you have a call to action for them?

Kathy Givens: Yes. Get involved. [laughter] you have to have these uncomfortable conversations. Um, if you don’t have uncomfortable conversations, then you’re, you’re being complicit. And I love what you said about, you know, your weakness earlier on in the conversation. I think that that’s amazing. You, you acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable and you don’t know what to do, but you gotta start somewhere. So my, a ask for the community and for the listeners is to find out what organizations exist in your community that are fighting trafficking and working to end trafficking, call them and, and attend a webinar, see how you can volunteer, get involved, get the material and the resources that you need to facilitate these conversations in your families and with your children and in your community, your own, um, circles. Right? And so that you can get involved.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. And then we also want to know what we can do to support you?

Kathy Givens: Follow all of the work that we are doing @Twelve11Partners on Instagram, and LinkedIn, and Facebook, and all of the things and just follow us and, and you’ll, and keep updated on all the work that we’re doing. We really walk alongside, um, overcomers of trafficking. So our ask changes daily because we do not have a cookie cutter program. It’s seriously individualized.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Kathy Givens: Um, so if you just follow us, you’ll be updated. Then you can follow me @KatGivens, and all of the, the things, um, that I’m involved in, in bringing and spreading awareness, uh, to everyone.

Garrett Jonsson: Awesome. Well, I love that you take an individualized, like more custom approach to that. So that’s awesome. We’ll include the links to all the things you mentioned in the episode notes so that the listeners can easily find you. Um, I just want to leave you with the opportunity to have the last word during this conversation. So if you have anything that’s, you know, unexpressed thoughts, we’d love to hear those before we come to an end.

Kathy Givens: Sure. Trafficking does not discriminate, right? There’s no one, uh, particular group or demographic that it, that it targets and it targets vulnerabilities- ot necessarily people. It looks for vulnerabilities and it targets them. But if we equip our communities to be more aware and to accept that wrong happens within our own communities, right? Then we are equipping ourselves to fight trafficking. And like I said earlier, if it can end for one, because it ended for me. So if it can end for one, it can end for all. So it is possible to end trafficking.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, Kathy, thanks for joining us today on the podcast. I mentioned it already, but I, I want to say it again, like these conversations mean so much to me and to us as an organization and you are a powerhouse you’re you’re, you’re amazing.

Kathy Givens: Thank you. Thank you so much again for having me. I appreciate it.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Fight the New Drug Ad: Help us #StopTheDemand for pornography and sexual exploitation. This July during our #StopTheDemand campaign you can support our efforts to create and share educational resources that educate individuals on how the porn industry fuels the demand for exploitation, sex trafficking, objectification, and more. Plus, when you donate $50 or more during the month of July we’ll give you an exclusive Stop The Demand tote as a free gift. Donate today at FTND.org/donate. That’s FTND.org/donate.

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

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

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

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

MORE RESOURCES FROM FTND

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

Fifteen research-based articles detailing porns negatively impacts.

Tees to support the movement and change the conversation wherever you go.

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

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

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