Tina Frundt: Courtney’s House Founder and Executive Director
Tina Frundt is the Founder and Executive Director of Courtney’s House. Since it was founded in 2008, Courtney’s House has helped over 2,000 survivors transition their mindset and exit sex trafficking situations. Tina received the Fredrick Douglas Award in 2010 and has served on the White House Advisory Counsel. We appreciate Tina for taking the time to explain the reality of sex trafficking, the tactics used by the traffickers, and how trafficking is inseparably connected to pornography. There is hope, however, as Tina explains how those who are exploited can transition to a life free from trafficking.
FROM THIS EPISODE
MORE INFO ON SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
- How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking
- Episode 3 of our Brain, Heart, World docuseries
- Truth About Porn’s Porn Fuels The Demand For Sex Trafficking video
- Why Fighting Sex Trafficking Needs To Include Fighting Porn
GARRETT: What is up people. I’m Garrett Jonsson and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming, a podcast by Fight the New Drug.
On today’s episode, we sit down with Tina Frundt. Tina is an amazing individual, she’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. She was in the life of sex trafficking for over ten years and she had the strength to transition out and leave the life of sex trafficking. Then she went on to be the founder of Courtney’s House in 2008, which empowers kids to transition their mindset and heal from being in the life of sex trafficking. Tina went on to win the Frederick Douglas award in 2010, which is kind of a big deal.
She’s also been on the White House Advisory Counsel. She’s very passionate about protecting kids from sexual exploitation. I learned a lot from Tina and think you guys will as well. We hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
I have to ask, Tina, did you know that today is is July 11th, which is 7-11, have you gotten your free slurpee today?
TINA: I had no time for fr- free slurpees at all. I’m really sad about it. I’m just going to go randomly there with, is it, don’t people go with like buckets and stuff there. I think I’ll just bring a bucket.
GARRETT: (laughing)There we go. You shoul- you should show up tomorrow, or when- whenever, the next time you have free time to show up then and say, hey, I didn’t, I was able to come on 7-11 so…
TINA: Well I think I’m VIP anyway. So…
GARRETT There we go. Exactly. One thing I did want to mention right off the bat, Tina, is I wanted to talk to you a little bit about and get your take on, um, the Frederick Douglas Award that you were given.
GARRETT: Can you start with that a little bit and kinda talk to what that is and, uh, why you received that?
TINA: So the Frederick Douglass Award, that was through Free the Slaves, um, and that award actually is for someone who freed themselves through slavery and then help free others. And so, um, that’s the award that I received. I believe it was 2011. And to me that award meant a lot to me. Um, because getting out of my trafficking situation and then helping over 2000, now, um, survivors of sex trafficking, it means a lot to all of us as survivors.
GARRETT: Yeah. I, uh, had done a little bit of research on Frederick Douglass actually before hearing that you had, that you were given that award. And one of the interesting things that I learned about Frederick Douglas was the, he was once a slave, he was also at one time he was a free person among slaves, and then he also progressed to the point where she was a free person who was fighting to, for full emancipation.
And so it’s kind of like, I’m glad that you got the, the Frederick Douglas Award because based on the little that I know about you, you are, you are that.
TINA: Thank you. I’m mean, that means a lot because, you know, we currently, we do a lot. Right? So services, and still pushing policy that needs to be changed. So to me, yes, um, we’ve been doing the model for some quite some time.
And when you’re doing your work, I guess you don’t really look up and see that other people are recognizing what you do.
TINA: And so for that, I truly do appreciate that other people were recognizing the work that we were doing-
TINA: And are doing.
GARRETTT: It’s, it’s amazing work. Um, we as an organization, I don’t know how much you know about Fight the New Drug, um, Tina, but we’re an organization that educates and builds awareness. All we do is build awareness. So it’s not, we’re not in the, um, the game of recovery. I shouldn’t say game cause it’s not a game. That were not in that field of recovery.
Um, we’re simply building awareness about the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation. Um, and we base everything off science facts and personal accounts. That’s how we try to build awareness. And our target, target audience is youth.
Um, and so just that the, I just wanted to mention that. So you have an idea of who we are. Um, have you heard of Fight the New Drug before our discussion?
TINA: Well, I looked you guys up after the conference. I definitely look up everything, uh, before I commit to do it. And so definitely I thought that was good. You know, we work with youth, that’s my target population as well. And so I thought it was very important.
GARRETT: And the reason why we wanted to talk to you, Tina, is because we were at the, uh, Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Summit and you were on the panel of like, four women up there talking about, um, your experience and, all of the experiences you’ve had, which your so many, and you just, you spoke with such conviction and I think that conviction came from experience. And can you start by telling us how many years has it been since you got out of the sex trafficking industry?
TINA: Um, so I’d like to say “In the life,” right? The sex trafficking survivors, you very rarely call it sex trafficking, cause that’s not the term, you know, that’s the governmental term, and a term that other people use. Right?
TINA: And so I was in the life, like officially, right, when I was like 9, really, like 13 understanding more, and then I got out and my late twenties.
GARRETT: Wow. So that’s…
TINA: So we don’t have to count the years. How long?
TINA: Just, I got out my twenties.
GARRETT: Yeah, there we go. Well you, you look very young and so a, I won’t even ask, but, up so 13 until you were until late twenties you said?
GARRETT: Okay. So over a decade in the life?
GARRETT: Looking back, what, what made you get into the life?
TINA: I mean, I was 13 so it wasn’t my choice. Um, and really it was started much younger when I was inside of foster care and it was family, right?
So if I was in foster care, there was foster parents who were selling us, right? And just like the kids that I work with today. And then when I was 13, I met an older man that I thought was in love with me, who was 15 years older than me.
And I thought we were in a relationship, and, um, you know, I was sexually assaulted and put into the life of being sex trafficked. So that wasn’t an, um, a choice.
GARRETT: And looking back to how you exited the life, how you, how you got out of the life, how did that occur?
TINA: Well, that’s a longer story. I think when people ask how did someone get out, you’re asking someone how do they get out of a decade of trafficking? (laughs) Right?
So it couldn’t be easy because if it was that easy you would have been able to open the door and get out. And so, what we focus on at Courtney’s House is the transition of a mindset because it’s not about a rescue. I don’t use the word rescue. I don’t believe in the word rescue, because if you rescue a body, you will rescue her body all day long. You transition a mind.
And to transition your own mind and being 13, nine and 10. You were conditioned to do this. How do you change your own mind to stop something that you’ve always been doing since you were a child? So you have to learn how to do things the exact opposite.
And drugs was never my issue cause I’ve never been on drugs. And so for me it was definitely a conditioning your own mind to believe you can fit into a world that you know nothing about but live in every day.
That people judge you in. That you don’t know how to act a certain way because people already have preconceived notions about what you did and what a choice is, that wasn’t true. And so for me it was definitely trials and tribulations and hitting rock bottom 500 times before you realize how to do something different and learn a different skill, how to transition your mindset.
GARRETT: So I liked that. One thing that I found interesting as you were explaining that, that transition of mindset versus a rescue is the mind is a powerful thing. And one thing that we’re learning right now, like there’s science and research coming out in the showing that our brains have what’s called neuroplasticity.
And so our brains are constantly changing. And so, like you said, like for a person to be in, in the life for 10 years or more, it’s like you’re forming your brain in that way. And so I can only imagine how challenging it could be to, to change that mindset. So-
TINA: And here’s the thing that, that you just said, you said. You’re formatting your brain that way. Well, then throw in manipulation of other people, right? Convincing you that you chose this and that this is what you’re supposed to do, your destiny to do. And then throw in people calling you out of your name at all times and then you starting to think that you are these things that they’re telling you you are, and then you try to change that mindset on your own.
GARRETT: Right? It’s almost impossible. So at Courtney’s House, um, do you guys bring in and help with recovery in that transition of mindset, do you bring both male and female or just female?
TINA: So I have always worked with men and I mean boys and girls. Um, so my ages at Courtney’s House is 11 to 24 but then average age of about 11 to 19.
And so because it’s such a young age that I have and we’re very known for that cause that’s our specialty, um, you have to understand that these are kids, right, with already other trauma. And already has eight hundred other things including being trafficked, right? That they had gone through, or are currently going through.
So, it’s a lot of things we have to do within that mindset of also being a family. So at Courtney’s House we use a family model. We are no, no one’s a client here. You know, we’re all survivors. We’re family, we’re brothers and sisters. And we create a family environment in a drop in center capacity. Right? Which is not housing, with longterm services, love, and attention.
And then all the services that you need too, because I think people forget that basically you’re raising children. And you’re taking everything, all that negativity that they learned and then now you have to teach them again the correct way.
And that doesn’t take six months, I wish it did. It just doesn’t.
GARRETT: So how long does it usually take on average? Does that just depend-
GARRETT: -on the individual and their circumstance?
TINA: Yeah, I mean, years, right? Think about it this way. If you’re 11 or 12 years old, how long does it take a child change their mindset? Think about that.
You’re 11. There’s a lot of other trauma. There’s a lot of teenage things that are just going to happen the out the years, including your trafficking situation. So we only do longterm services here.
GARRETT: Right. So going to your experience. Tina, you mentioned that you were with, at age 13 you were with someone that was 15 years older than you and a there was sexual assault involved. How did that transition into him selling you? Can you talk to that grooming process a little bit?
TINA: I mean, let’s go backwards, right? Because I think that when we’re thinking about a grooming process, I don’t think we put pedophiles in the same category as traffickers. And I don’t understand why we don’t. Because they use the same exact tactics. Correct?
So these are not people that you meet underground somewhere. These are people that you meet outside your school and your neighborhood, like I met him.
These are just people that you meet everyday at the McDonald’s, down the street. Those, these sounds like places where pedophiles normally would go to meet people. So let’s just start there.
The other thing that you don’t know, like me as being that child then, I did not know, that no one can just randomly pick you. Let’s just understand that. No one randomly just walks up and go, oh I’m taking her today. That’s the person I’m going to take. That actually doesn’t happen.
What actually happens is, they find their prey, right? And they figure out how they’re going to come into their lives while they’ve been watching them. But the thing is you’re youth, so you don’t notice that someone’s been watching you.
TINA: So first of all, the tone is already set for this. So the grooming process has started before you’re aware of it. Let’s start there. So our kids are traffic like McDonald’s, on Instagram, down the street, in the neighborhood.
I mentioned McDonald’s on purpose because a lot of our youth were trafficked, met their trafficker at the McDonald’s. That’s, that’s a current real thing.
And that was the same thing eons ago. That did not change.
GARRETT: Are, are the pedophiles and traffickers, are they looking and finding these kids on Instagram, or on other social media platforms? And then, looking for those-
TINA: But, they’re finding people-
GARRETT: -looking for those behaviors?
TINA: Right. So they’re finding people all sorts of ways, not just online. That’s just not, yeah, that wouldn’t just be the only place they find somebody. So online, using the same kind of tactics and words, the words are always the same. It has never changed. The words are the same. So whatever you say to someone on the street is the same exact word as you say online.
TINA: So online. Yes, with other friends. So if you have a friend, they’re inviting you over cause their boyfriend’s a trafficker and maybe they don’t know.
And remember there are four dynamics of control. It’s not, pimp controlled isn’t the only one, right? There’s pimp control, gang control, family control and boys.
And each one- And the reason why the categories are important because easy one is traffic a different way. And each one enters a different way. And each one has a different set of rules.
So people always ask me, like, ‘What are the ways?’ but you don’t understand that each dynamic of control has a different way. So that’s the real question, right? The dynamics of controls and the way. Gang control is different. All of our girls who are Latina, and gangs in our area: MS13, 18th Street, Los Locos, right, are traffic through gangs. It can be their friends that recruited them. Other the gang members bring them to parties, sexually assault them, video them and forced them to, um, you know, be in a trafficking situation. So each dynamic of control is actually different. So let’s go over those again. So it was family control, pimp control, boys, and then gang control.
TINA: And so 30% of our population is family control. And actually I believe if we did the right statistics in the US we would see that family control out outweighs pimp control.
GARRETT: Okay. Interesting.
TINA: In the US.
GARRETT: Interesting, and sad. Uh, the name of our podcast, as you know, Tina, is Consider Before Consuming. And the goal is to give our listeners things to Consider Before Consuming pornography that hopefully as they hear these things and learn more and become more educated about the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation, the goal is that many of them will choose to not consume pornography and, and not participate in sexual exploitation. I wanted to ask you, does pornography play a role with sex trafficking?
TINA: 150%. And let me explain all the aspects. So people are going to have- and it always has. So I’m going to be really honest today. I think when people look back on years of prostitution, they automatically, I don’t know why they think this, but they’re like, oh, this is something new. This has always been this way. When people are really young that have started, right? And that will go back to some of the reasonings why, and the pornography.
So for me, I guess it’s hard, being a survivor, it’s difficult to see things, other people, ways that aren’t a survivor. That don’t understand the real life. Right?
Because you can never have forced prostitution without pornography. Like it just, it goes hand in hand. And, and I say that because everybody, including myself, had either pictures done, videos, pornos, when you’re with a trafficker, and we’re going to take a trafficker and they use all the scenarios, right? So a trafficker and a pimp is one in the same.
So if you’re with him, he always has someone that does the videos too- pornos and make cds and videos to upload them to porn sites, porn hub, black porn hub, all of those. Right? And so you have videos, um, some of our boys, all of our boys were drugged, and, um, then men did things to them while they were knocked out.
And that was also videoed as well and either put on Facebook, or Instagram, or on Porn Hub, or on Grindr, and other sites without their consent. Right?
And then there’s a natural, for some odd reason, thinking that just because people are doing porno and they did that little video, and they’re like, oh my God, you’re doing this because I want to, la-la-la-la, most of them had pimps that are recording those. Right? And that are currently there that are filming these.
So, pornography has always played a role. So everybody I have had, the 2000 in 20 years, and the current 67 active now, all have had some type of pornography, we had a pull down part of their case because it, videos that were made at them. Yes.
The definition, like if you’re going to the books, the definition of sex trafficking is a sexual act, a commercial sex act brought into place by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which case the person is under the age of 18.
You mentioned that these pimps or traffickers will film and then upload that to the internet or distribute that in other ways that by definition is sex trafficking as well because,
GARRETT: -because it has to do with force, fraud or coercion or under the age of 18.
TINA: That is correct. Um, and then I, I don’t want to mislead people and think that that excludes families who are trafficking their children. That also includes family members who are trafficking their children with the videos and the pornography. Correct.
GARRETT: It’s the, the four dynamics, right? It can be gang, boys, pimps, or family that are producing that.
TINA: That is correct.
TINA: Yes. So all of those four forms use that on a constant basis? Correct.
GARRETT: Okay. Um,
TINA: Which makes it hard. So what actually happens on the ground, because I work with such a young population, is that usually, to be- I’m very honest with you, those videos are also dropped. Dropped, meaning, you know, so you’re gonna expose somebody, which also means, to everybody in that school.
So most of our youth are bullied a lot. Even though they were trafficking, they were bullied because the kids don’t see that. They just saw them have sex with multiple people and think that they were enjoying something they weren’t. Right? And so then they’re usually bullied. Most of our youth are put into mental health hospitals. We’re trying to commit suicide because of the bullying.
GARRETT: So sad. I think some people out in the world today, they say, well, “I only look at consensual pornography”. Can you talk to that a little bit? What would your answer be if you heard someone say that they only, they only consume pornography that is ethical and consensual.
TINA: Well, I would love to know like where are these sites at? Where’s these ethical and, and who makes them ethical and consensual? Because someone said it?
Who was behind the camera? Who was the person other than that? Did you meet them offsite and hear their story? Because I would just love to understand what their definition of consensual is. Because a lot of things could appear to be consensual to the naked eye.
GARRETT: Right. What would you say to a person who says that sex work is real work?
TINA: You know, to be honest, here in DC, they’re trying to push the legalization of prostitution here. And so I was in the life without a pimp too. Right? And so there are a few things that people don’t know, and the reality of it.
I would never go that route of answering that question. Because here, that’s kind of a set up. Right? So I wouldn’t go that route anyway. I would go to the facts of being in the life, and what I know is safety, and not safe.
I know as being an African American woman born female, I know that my experiences are different. I know that when I tried to do this on my own, and do- that real pimps are everywhere. I know that I was kidnapped, for real, in real life, five times and put in a trunk of a car because I was working on someone else’s territory and didn’t know it. Or at a hotel that mostly pimps are in. Girls tried to jump me, fight me, have me go- take my money because I was working without a pimp.
So that’s a real rule. Working without a pimp means they are going to constantly harass you, especially if you African American and constantly make you come out of pocket meeting and taking all of your money. That’s a constant thing that happens.
So I don’t understand like what safety is in it for that. Um, I understand that I was sexually assaulted by buyers who also, you know, bought sex from me or rob me and there was no safety component in it. Right?
I can only share the experiences of it being difficult. It’s difficult in situations trying to make money on your own, not looking at yourself in a mirror fully because you’re really for the money. Right? It’s not for the love of it. You don’t love having sex. You don’t think about these people in a sexual way. You’d think about something else the whole entire time, like they had my body, but my mind wasn’t even there.
And none of our survivors- I have survivors that tell me they cried the whole entire time of sex, the entire duration. They didn’t want to be there, but people can make up what they want to make up. When you’re paying for something and you know you wrong for it. You make up anything to believe that, that other person must want it.
GARRETT: In many cases, maybe you’ve been even could say like the majority of cases the person’s kind of saying yes to the money, but not to the sex.
TINA: That is 100% correct. Like if it’s always about the money. It was never about the sex. I wasn’t even present mentally for the sex. I don’t remember it. I don’t say how awesome- that one awesome time that I had, I have never said that in a day in my life because I concentrated on the money to survive. Do you see what I’m saying?
I could not look at myself in the mirror cause I was miserable. Unhappy and sad at the same time. I didn’t know how to turn it off because my whole life, this is what my body was used for. So it was way more of that than, yay, this is fun and I’m trying to make some college money for college. That wasn’t my experience. And it’s not the experience of any of our people here and not one person. And once again, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and then count the time that I was in the life.
I’ve actually never met anybody like that.
GARRETT: Wow. What would you say? I think some people like proponents of legalizing sex work, they might say that it’s empowering to allow this
TINA: Yeah, and people do say that.
GARRETT: That it’s their freedom of choice.
TINA: I mean, you know, and if that’s what they think empowerment is, someone taking their body, you concentrating on the money so you could survive every day and just focus on that, then hey, like that’s their rendition of what they believe it should be.
GARRETT: It all comes down to their definition of empowerment.
TINA: Right. And that’s their definition. But the thing that I would say that would be different, everyone I’ve ever worked with, including myself, and all 2000, all current here, they all said the exact opposite, of not having a soul, or feeling like someone took their soul every time they had sex with them. Or feeling like they’re just chasing money but they’re sad within. Or feeling like the can never get a job because of the prostitution charges and now they’re forced to do something they are not even happy about.
So that’s what I hear more.
GARRETT: That makes sense. It makes my heart hurt. And um,
TINA: And the boys, I do want to quickly say about the boys, because I don’t have any boys that’s over the age of 15. So let’s start there. Okay. Cause that’s the most important thing to me. I have lots of boys. None that’s over the 15.
The hardest part for boys, they’re easy to work with to me, I, they’re easier. Right? They’re much easier than girls. They don’t fight over hair brushes. But what’s harder for boys is they’re stigmatized. And especially boys who are African Americans, immediately people, and they say the same thing, like, “I’m not gay, I’m not gay.”
It has nothing to do with being gay. It has something to do with these men raping them, and them not getting enough help and services. There are not enough longtime services for boys to talk about masculinity, and talking about being raped and that it’s okay.
And that’s what I see the hardest part with those scenarios of them saying it’s empowering because if you asked the boys is not empowering. And people judge them, and assume something that they’re not.
I think it is hard. And I want to say the African American community does this cause I see it and it makes me sad. And they see it. A lot of these cases don’t go forward because of some of their parents know they were a victim but actually don’t want to pursue the traffickers because people are going to think they’re gay, their son is gay. Or the public is going to make an assumption of that they were weak. Do you see what I’m saying?
TINA: And I think that’s the harder part with boys, um, in a scenario. So, you know, they don’t feel, the boys I work with don’t feel like it’s an empowering and they want to do it.
Um, sometimes they continue to do things because of the stigma that they put on and they think that’s what they are, or that’s all I have or that’s what I have to do or I can’t talk about it. And so they become angry and angry with them themselves.
We don’t talk about boys enough, being trafficked. We don’t talk about boys. And I was seeking help for sexual assault and we don’t talk about boys enough in those videos of pornography that all of our boys have been in.
GARRETT: So sad. One thing that I wanted to ask you, Tina, is I saw on Instagram, um, that you guys recently went to Instagram and talked with them. And can you talk to that a little bit about what was discussed and why you went and met with Instagram?
TINA: Oh, I can only say a little, but there is a lot to come and actually Instagram was the second. youTube and Google was the first. We met with them in February.
TINA: And then you- and then Instagram this week. And the reason why we met with them (cough )excuse me.
GARRETT: No, you’re fine.
TINA: The reason we met with them was really because I don’t think they understand the biggest problem that they have on Instagram with a lot of the child sex trafficking, and adults being sex trafficked, and then selling, you know, in the lives.
So we wanted to have them more aware of what was going on. Our youth, actually, in our program, made some wonderful fact sheets, showed us some things to show them how they are being solicited by grown men online.
They’re sending pictures of their penises and asking them for sex.
And that is about, all of our survivors, right? Everyone is getting this. They don’t know what to do. They were coming at us asking, what do I say? These people are blocked but they keep following them. An Instagram was unaware.
So I do want to say that Instagram did listen more than I thought, and did ask for our advice more. And because of that there hopefully will be some things in the future that we’ll be doing together, hopefully soon.
GARRETT: That’s one of the frustrating things about technology. It’s like we’re playing catch up trying to figure out how to deal with all these, um, these, these things that are happening so quickly because of technology. And one of our goals that Fight the New Drug is to decrease the demand, and, and that comes in many cases that comes through education.
And so we’re grateful that you took time out of your busy day, Tina, to, to educate us further on the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking and its links to pornography. Um, we just want to thank you, Tina for taking the time to make this happen.
TINA: Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate this.
GARRETT: Oh yeah, we, we appreciate it. Um, the last thing I wanted to ask is why is it called Courtney’s House?
TINA: You know, I wanted, um, a name. Right? And so I think it’s really important to understand that when youth are talking about us, they’re like, “Hey girl, you go into Courtney’s House?” and it sounds like a name,
GARRETT: That’s cool.
TINA: and you can talk about it in front of people.
TINA: So I think people are kind of, selfish at times. They think about names for them, but not what will make kids comfortable saying in public. No one in public wants to be like, hey girl, you tryin to go to Oasis of Hope? Like, that’s a lot. (laughing)
GARRETT: (laughing) Yeah, That makes sense. That’s clever. That’s strategic. I like that. I hope the best for you, and Courtney’s House. And uh, hopefully next year if you go to the, uh, the Summit again, I would love to say hi to you again in person.
TINA: Of course. I would love that and I hope we can come back on the podcast.
GARRETT: Yeah, absolutely, Tina. Um, what I’ll do is when we release the podcast, I will let you know so that you, uh, have that on the radar so you can kind of check it out.
TINA: Thank you so much.
GARRETT: Um, Tina, thank you. You are amazing. We’ll end there.
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 non-legislative nonprofit 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.
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