Focus on the Family Broadcast

Exposing the Dark World of Human Trafficking (Part 1 of 2)

Exposing the Dark World of Human Trafficking (Part 1 of 2)

Former US Congresswoman Linda Smith discusses the alarming prevalence of modern-day human trafficking, what is being done domestically to protect victims, and how parents and youth leaders can teach the warning signs to their children. (Part 1 of 2)


Drop-In: Oklahoma Tornado

Jim Daly:  Hi, this is Jim Daly with FOF and across the nation our hearts are broken for the folks in Oklahoma. Here at FOF, know that we care about you. And if you’ve been impacted, or your kids are struggling with how to process this, we have caring, Christian counselors who are ready to help.  Just call us at 800-A-FAMILY. And again, our prayers are with you.

End of Drop-In: Oklahoma Tornado

John:  William Wilberforce was a slavery abolitionist in the 18th century and he once said this: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”  Well, this is “FOF” with Focus president and author, Jim Daly.  I’m John Fuller and today, a sobering discussion to open your eyes to a … a modern-day reality of slavery and it’s happening in your own backyard.  And Jim, we enter into this very difficult subject with the hopes that our listeners will choose to do something with it.

Opening Wrap:

Jim: Well, John, right up front we want to acknowledge that this topic is not appropriate for younger children.  And we know that at times when we talk about deeply troubling issues, that we’ll get responses from folks. But like you said, John, we’ve got to talk about what’s happening in the culture, especially with our young people, so that parents do know what’s going on.  And today’s program, as we talk about human trafficking is gonna touch on some very tender areas. But we want every mom and dad to know exactly what’s going on in your neighborhoods, so that you can protect your children from the scourge of human trafficking.

John:  Hm.  Well, we have somebody who is passionate about tackling this subject.  She’s devoted the last 15 years of her life to rescue women and children who are in the bondage of sexual slavery. She’s a tireless advocate on the legal side, to bring victims justice.  And before founding the organization Shared Hope International, she was a congresswoman in Washington, D.C., serving in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999.  We’re talking about Linda Smith and Jim, it is so good to have her join us here.


Jim:  It is and Linda, welcome to “FOF.”

Linda: I am just always excited to be here. I was having a little bit of déjà vu, 10 years ago this spring, “FOF” featured two of the girls that I rescued years ago, nearly 15 years ago.  And uh … they brought the message of foreign trafficking to the Focus family. And now it’s 10 years later.  We’re bringing the message of trafficking of children to the Focus family, but it’s different.  It’s about our own children, middle school children in America.

John: And Jim, I’ve gotta say at this point, uh … for anybody who may be thinking, this is a “heavy;” I can’t stay here, I went home after that conversation. I had the privilege of being in that conversation 10 years ago.  I went home and shared about Linda’s heart and the … the work she’s doing.  And … and my wife ripped out the checkbook right then. (Laughter)  I mean, she … she was touched deeply by what uh … what we heard.

Jim: Well, get ready everybody, because I think it’s that kind of a program where you’re gonna be moved. We also have a very special guest, Briana, one of the girls that Linda helped rescue. And we’re gonna talk to both of these women about the environment.  And Linda, let me turn to you and let me say, Briana, welcome to “FOF.”

Briana: Thank you.  Thanks for having me here.

Jim:  Let me turn to Linda to kinda set the stage. Um … I’m a father of a 12- and 10-year-old boy and when I did the research and looked at the material that you provided, I was stunned, because you’re really talking about mostly girls about that same age that are impacted in this country through human sex trafficking. The numbers shocked me and it … it literally took my breath away, that 100 to 300,000 girls mostly, but children will be sex trafficked in the United States. That is unbelievable.

Linda:  When I first was asked to investigate America, it was after I had looked at several countries and trafficking for the Department of State and Department of Justice.  And I went in thinking that I would find a product of adult women and foreign [woman].  I was shocked to find that mostly what I was seeing was women and girls who had been trafficked at the age of 15 as an … or excuse me, 13 as an average, 13! I had 11-years-olds, 14-year-olds, 13.

John:  Hm.

Jim:  That’s just amazing.

Linda:  But greater … greater than that was when I started looking at the numbers I could get, I went to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and I asked my friend, Ernie Allen, the president.  I said, “Are these numbers I’m seeing true?”  And he said, “I think there’s at least 100,000, Linda and 300,000 of those kids that go missing each year on the walls of Walmart and shown as missing.  They have gone into the commercial sex industry.” And he said, “Much worse than that, Linda.”  He said, “It’s because men are demanding sex with younger and younger girls, actualizing the pictures that they’ve seen even as youth themselves in pornography.”

Jim:  Uh … I mean, it … it breaks my heart to even hear that. And I think for the most part, if you’re just goin’ to work every day here in the United States and this is a global issue, as well, but we’re concentrating today on what’s happening here in the U.S. But you go to work every day and mom and dad, you pack the kids off to school and you know, you come home and you think everything’s normal, but it’s not.  Describe for us, Linda, the industry. What are we really talkin’ about here? What is goin’ on with this scourge and this evil?

Linda:  The U.S. government identified and passed legislation about 2000 and they identified there was trafficking.  And they insinuated it was in America also, but focused foreign. It wasn’t until about 2005 and 6, when we ran investigations in America that we realized that America is trafficking their own children to their own men, that the kids are normally going missing, but they’re not snatched; they’re chosen.  And there’s a whole group of folks out there that would rather sell them than drugs, because the men that buy aren’t going to jail. And the men that sell and sometimes women, are not getting the penalty that they would get in big part from other crimes.

So, many of us have gone about changing that, but that was the culture we found. And so, today the laws are being changed in states where it used to just be a misdemeanor … in fact, in many states it still is, for buying commercial sex with a child.  So, if a …

Jim:  A misdemeanor?

Linda:  A misdemeanor.

Jim:  I … I … I gotta stop you there, because that is unbelievable.

John:  It’s outrageous.

Linda:  In Oregon, if you buy sex with a child, the first time it’s a misdemeanor. You get no time; you’ll get a fine. The second time you’re caught buying sex with a child, it is uh … seven days mandatory si … time. The third time’s 30 days. Now if you don’t bring money in that state for that same crime and you do it at school or in the neighborhood, you’re a sex offender.

So, we’re states, change that law. And the state right next to it, Washington state has changed their law. And across the country, people are changing their laws, but it really is imbedded in you and I. We think some girls are just bad once labeled a prostitute. So, we didn’t even think about why that little girl, who would much rather go to a prom, is being sold to dozens of men a week.

Jim: Well, let’s get to the story of how it plays out in a moment. But talk about the report card that your organization provides on states. In fact, I was disheartened to see that Colorado received a D as its score. That’s unfortunate and it’s something that we need to work on, John, to change in our own state.

John: Yeah.

Jim: But talk about the report card. What does it mean and what are the results?  What are the … the good states that are doing it well and maybe those of us like Colorado, that are doing it poorly?

Linda: In the last two years, we have issued two report cards with extensive research on each state. There’s 40 points of law. We call it “The Protected Innocence Challenge to the States.”  Those 40 points of law say, well, first of all, is there a trafficking act that addresses children as traffic victims? Are the guys that buy the kids, are they a … seriously offenders? And uh … are the facilitators criminals? And the buyers um … or the sellers, excuse me, are they getting tough penalty?  And is that child protected in a case where you prosecute the bad guys?

And so, those 40 points of law are great and each state is given 2 1/2 points on whether they have it or don’t. It’s not an application of law; it’s whether you even have it. And then we graded them and came out with uh … a grade.

John: Uh-hm.

Linda: The first year it was pretty dismal.  Over half the states failed.

John: Wow.

Linda: The second year, 33 states took action.  Two hundred and forty bills were introduced.  Fifteen states raised their grade in less than a year.

Jim and John:  Hm.

Linda: –simply means when people understand and there’s a standard and part of the legal work is done, which we’ve done, then those legislatures take action.  Until every state gets an A and especially in that part of the report card that deals with the buyer, there would be a market in your state, because $1,000 a night is what Lacy was having to raise for the trafficker. And that would be 10 to 12 men a night, buying sex from this little girl.  But …

Jim: And Lacy was another girl that you saved.

Linda: And … yes and if Lacy and many of the girls that I’ve worked with were not being sold to these men, who are demanding sex with children and young people, if they weren’t demanding, there wouldn’t be a market. There wouldn’t be a victimized child.

Jim: Linda, I want to get … I mean again, you’re saying so many things that just drop my jaw–10 to 12 experiences a night. I mean, that … that, too is just unbelievable. Uh … John, one thing we need to do is to point people to the website and we’ll link to your website, Linda, where people can go to their various states and find out their score card. And I would encourage people, this is a very tangible way to get involved. Um … it’s not that “in your face” kind of activism, but let’s stand up for our kids.  Let’s get every state an A grade, which is what Linda is hoping for. Why don’t we help do that and I hope each of us will. And John, I’m commitin’ you and me–

John: All right.

Jim: –to do that here in Colorado, whatever we can do and we’ll meet with the governor and others to uh … get a better grade and hopefully, that A grade that you talked about .  Let me turn now because uh … I do what us to hear from Briana.  What happened in your case?

Briana:  Well, for my case, um … I am the youngest of five children and I was working um … at a small cafe just outside of my small hometown that I grew up in.  I was in high school, 17-years-old and I had a regular customer who would come into my restaurant. I had no idea that he was um … stalking me.  He was learning information about me that eventually used it against me.

And what he did was just after I had turned 18, um … he sent in two younger uh … guys who were um … college football players and they just wooed me.  They–

Jim: Right.

Briana:  –he um … they knew everything about me, so he was saying, you know, “Oh, we live in Seattle.”  And I’m like, wow. I want to live there. And we were just having this great conversation the whole time and it was like everything was like a coincidence. And he had … we had so many uh … likes that were the same. And it was just like baffling to me, like, wow!  This is such a cool guy!  I …

Jim: So, he was drawing you in–

Briana:  Yeah.

Jim:  –based on the information that was provided him through this other man.


Jim:  Hm.

Briana:  So, they were working together and um … so, essentially the guy who was stalking me, chose me and the young men who came in, um … to befriend me, they were pursuing me.  So, I went up to Seattle to hang out with them and um …

John:  Under what pretense, Briana?

Briana: (Laughing)

John:  I mean, just … just to go to hang out?

Briana: Yeah.  Yeah, well, um … he was very persistent and he gave me his number, because I wouldn’t give him mine.  So, I just thought, what the heck; call him. And he was older. I was 18.  I had just turned 18, senior in high school, going to college while I was in high school. And I was nervous and we just had a good conversation. It went better than I thought it would.  He was telling me that I was too pretty for that small town and come live the life of the rich and famous up here in Seattle. And it was just like, I was just envisioning this glamorous, sparkly world that I had always dreamed of and it was just waiting for me.

And so, I did. I went up.  Um … I told a lie.  I told my parents that I was gonna go hang out with my girlfriends for the day.  And he helped me create that lie.  And um … I didn’t feel bad about it, because I thought, well, I’m gonna be safe.  I’m making adult decisions.  I’m an adult now.  I just turned 18. And I’m gonna be safe and I know that.  I’m driving home tonight.  And I … I knew that I was coming back home that night. But I didn’t.  I–

Jim: What happened?

Briana:  –got up there. I got up to Seattle and um … it was just this beautiful Victorian-style house, you know, really nice cars in the driveway. And it was like, he wasn’t lying.  He is living the life of the rich and famous.  And um … we just were having these long conversations. And um … I got a text from my mom saying, “Okay, it’s time to come home.” And I said, “Hey, can I stay the night with my girlfriend?” And she said, “No, you need to get home. We’ve got stuff we’ve gotta do tomorrow at the house.”

And I’m like embarrassed.  I’m 18 um … and I have to come home.  It’s Christmas vacation. It’s Christmas break. And um … I was thinking, wow, you know.  Here I am, hanging out with these guys and look at little old me.  I have to come home to my mommy and daddy.  And …

Jim:  Now was he feeding any of that–

Briana:  Oh, yeah.

–the vision.  Yeah.

Briana:  Oh, yeah, he was validating everything um … any little thought that I had like, you know, oh, you know, I’m 18.  I wish that I could just enjoy myself right now and just stay the night and make this choice. And he was like, yeah, “You’re obviously really responsible.  Um … you know, you’re not in any danger. I can just see how mature you are by coming up here and making this choice.” And um … he was just … he was validating everything.  He was very persistent. He was charming.  He was smooth talking and I’m um … he just really took his time. It’s like we didn’t rush through anything. And um … it was just a friendship that … that I thought was being built.

And so, he convinced me that night um … to move out of my house.  He said, “Well, you want to live up here in Seattle.  Why wait till the summer till after you graduate? Why not now, you know.  Stop answering your parents. Stop having to go home and do chores.”  And I was like, “Oh, no kidding.”

And then I go, “Well, what about school?”  And he says, “Transfer your credits up here.  You’re going to college.” And um … and it was like he had an answer for everything and that’s because they stalked me and they knew everything about me–


Briana: –so they had built this plan of action towards me. And I was just following the steps that they had built for me.

Jim:  Now in this … just to be clear, I mean, you were in the process of really being abducted. They were just using a very clever way of doing it, a very sophisticated way by learning about you, putting people in front of you that … and I … I can only imagine, Briana, thinking back on that, the violation of that to–

Briana:  Uh-hm.

Jim: –you, because your heart is opening up.  You’re–

Briana:  Yes.

 –you’re befriending this person.

Briana:  Yes.

Jim:  You’re trusting this person.  You’re thinking, this is my first step into adulthood.  And this is actually kinda normal.

Briana: Absolutely.

Jim: But it was really very abnormal.

Briana: Yeah, I think every child wants to be free and that was a good point that you made. A lot of people think that sex trafficking is this abduction or this kidnapping. And I had heard about this before this encounter happened. And um … the way I envisioned it, was one of those big old blacked out vans.

John:  Uh-hm.

Briana:  And you’re thrown in the back and shipped off to Mexico.

Jim:  Right.

Briana:  I didn’t think that it was this handsome guy who had everything in common with me and um … was presenting a life opportunity to me that was too good to pass up. And the way that it happened, it wasn’t like crazy, I can’t believe this.  It was like wow, finally, you know. Every … it’s like, this is what I’ve been looking for, for my life and it was just … you know, I had all intentions to visit my family and go home for Christmas.  And I mean, nothing was gonna change with … with my relationship with my family.  Of course, they were gonna be a little upset I thought, but um …

Jim: So, what happened that night? What was the big disconnect?  You decided to move out of ho … your home and … ?

Briana:  Uh-hm, I did, yeah. I um … I decided that he was right, that I was really mature for my age.  I had two years of college under my belt and um … I was ready to be an adult and live on my own. And uh … he offered to let me stay with him until um … until I had enough money to get an apartment of my own.  He said, until you can afford a car, I’ll be your driver.

John:  Hm.

Briana: And who doesn’t want that, you know, somebody driving you around in a Mercedes. I did.  Um … so, it was just this wonderful fantasy that you could … would dream about. And um … it was all coming true.

Jim: What was that first moment where you realized this is not reality?  The crushing moment where you … you went, uh-oh; I’m in trouble?

Briana:  That didn’t come for a long time. Um … he continued to gain and hold my trust. And it wasn’t until we were going to … it was a couple days later and he said, “Do you want to go to Arizona with me for a Christmas vacation? I’m going down to see my niece.”  And I … Arizona?  Here I am in Washington state. It’s raining. It’s cold. Of course, I want to go to Arizona.

So, I was … “Yes, yes, when are we leaving?”  And he goes, “Tomorrow.” And I (Laughing)–

John: Hm.

Briana:  –I’m, “Oh, okay. Well, I better return my dad’s car.” So, on my way down, I called Evan and he was a friend and I said, “Can you help me uh … return my dad’s car and move out?”  And he said, “Yeah, sure.”  And so, I hung up the phone and continued driving. I was a couple hours away and unknown to me, when Evan hung up the phone, he picked it back up. He called his dad and he said, “Something’s not right.  Briana’s going to Arizona tomorrow for Christmas vacation. She’s moving to Seattle. Uh … she’s got these new friends.” And his dad had learned of sex trafficking at a Rotary meeting um … from Shared Hope and he just knew something–

Jim: So, he knew the signs.

Briana: –was wrong.  Yeah.  He understood the signs. And so, he knew that I could be in danger. And so, he called a police officer and … who was also trained as um … to understand the signs of trafficking. And together, they formulated the plan of action which was um … who can we get out here to intervene? And um … that ended up being Linda.

So, I show up at his house and he starts asking me all these questions and … about these guys. Why do they have these nice cars?  Where do they have their money at? And of course, I was very responsible and got the answers to those questions.

John:  Hm.

Briana:  Um … not knowing that they were making up the answers and not knowing that I was being fooled and manipulated. Um … so, I was getting offended at my friend for–

John:  Questioning you.

Briana:  –yeah–

John: Sure.

Briana:  –judging my judgment. And um … so, I was like, you know what.  I don’t … I don’t need your help.  I’ll figure this out on my own.  And when I went to leave, uh … his parents and my parents were there.  And it wasn’t … it wasn’t, “Oh, no, um … this must be bad.”  It was “Oh, no, they’re trying to stop me–

John:  Uh-hm.

Briana:  –from going.”

Jim: Right.

Briana: And this is exactly what I’m trying to leave, this little bubble that I felt like, you know, I was a child in …

Jim:  Sure.

Briana:  Yeah. So, we all go inside and then somebody comes in the … the room and (Laughing)–

Jim: Someone you don’t know.

Briana:  –somebody I don’t know. Um … I thought maybe it was um … like a psychologist or somebody that worked at a high school.  I … I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I didn’t need to talk to anyone, that I didn’t have any problems.

And uh … my mother actually recognized her and she said, “Congresswoman Smith?” And I thought, congresswoman?  (Laughing)  I thought, what’s next? Obama’s gonna walk in the door. (Laughter) What’s going on here?

And um … she introduced herself as um … a woman who was an expert in getting girls to recognize a sex trafficking situation and recognize that they are in one. And so, she said, “Can I just take you?  Can we go somewhere and just talk for a minute?”  And um … I wanted anything to get out of that room, so I took the opportunity to get out of the room and out of that pressure. And um … we went and talked and it was a few hours, was it … yeah.  It was um … probably four hours that we just sat and had a conversation.

And um … I kinda went over the last few days with these guys and I kept thinking, these guys aren’t traffickers. That is such a horrible thing to say about my new friends. But once she started getting into um … the conversation about girls who she has rescued and what they have been through and she started telling me stories of girls and what they have experienced and it was like, one after another, something from each story happened in my life in the last three days with these guys.

Jim: So, it’s a predictable pattern–

Briana:  –Yeah.

Jim:  that they were … yeah.

Briana:  Yeah.  The manipulation tactics and the way that they pursued girls. They’d buy them nice gifts. They drive nice cars. They are very persistent on the phone and … and getting–

Jim:  They’re interested–

Briana: –girls …

Jim: –in you.

Briana:  Yes.

Jim: Linda, this is the pattern, isn’t it?  And this is what we want you, mom and dad to hear. Thank the Lord that Briana was saved. Um … you know, it was traumatic and I know you didn’t go into all the detail and there were some very difficult circumstances that you faced.  Uh … but you were literally snatched out of that situation…..

Briana: Yeah and what I found out is that, my vacation to Arizona that I thought was gonna be a vacation with this new friend of mine, um … he actually had sold me to a pimp down there.

Jim: And Briana, that’s what was happening at the home there in Seattle.  You were brought there, seemingly just to hang out for a time in Seattle, but what they were doing was sizing you up–

Briana:  Yeah.

Jim: –and in essence, bidding on you–

Briana:  Uh-hm.

Jim: –with those other men in the house.  Is that right?

Briana: Yeah. They were seeing how … how trustworthy I was and how um … it’s gross to think about what they were looking at and looking into for my future…

[Music Bridge]


John: What a sobering statement from Briana to uh … end our program here today at FOF.  Jim, what an eye-opening um … at times repulsive conversation to have. I’m so glad though that we could have our guests here to talk about this.

Jim:  John, I hate having to end here, because there is so much to Briana’s story and we’ve barely gotten to what each of us can do to help.  And uh … we’ve simply run out of time. So, we kept recording and we’re gonna share the rest of the story next time.  Please, please stay tuned to hear that. I think this is perhaps one of the most important programs that we can share.

One thing that Linda talked about at the beginning was this state report card, which ranks states based on 41 different points on how they’re doing related to this issue of sex trafficking. Uh … her organization, Shared Hope International has published one for every state. So, may I implore you to go to the web and look at those report cards.

And if your state is doing poorly engage it. Do something about it.  Write your legislature in that state to say, we need to do more.  And we’ll post information on how to strengthen the states’ laws to protect these girls and boys.

We’ll also have a list of warning signs that will alert you to whether or not a girl is possibly being trafficked.  As we heard in Briana’s story, it was only because her friend’s dad learned the signs and then taught them to his son, which is wonderful

John:  Uh-hm.

–and that led to her eventual rescue. As a parent, you can make a difference to protect not only your child, but the friends of your children. And uh … I would encourage you again, learn those signs and share them in your parent groups.  Talk about it.  And once again, can I urge you to go online and become informed.  When it comes to this issue of human trafficking, knowledge is definitely power.

Closing Voice Track:

John:  Hm … well, that’s well said, Jim and we’ll have all of those resources, as well as this CD or instant download of this conversation at .

And today has highlighted one of our goals here at FOF. That is, to bring to light cultural issues from a … a clearly biblical perspective. And if you’d like to stand with us in this mission, let me ask you to become a monthly supporter of our work. We rely on your generous donations and your regular support allows us to plan for the coming months and to continue to be a voice for the voiceless in our world. And we’d appreciate your monthly support, so much so in fact, that when you donate, you’ll have an opportunity to choose from a few different thank-you gifts. And we’ll send that as a reminder of your partnership with us.  Donate online or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY: 800-232-6459.

Our program was provided by FOF and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, I’m John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back tomorrow for the continuation of this important conversation, as we once again, turn our hearts toward home.

Today's Guests

Recent Episodes

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Overcoming Abortion and Becoming a Force for Life

Abby Johnson shares how a series of small compromises, over several years, almost derailed her life. As a teenager, Abby sought the attention of men, which resulted in her first pregnancy and abortion. Believing that Planned Parenthood helped poor women get real health care, she became a model employee of her local center, until she witnessed an ultrasound-guided abortion. She was devastated. Abby encourages her audience to be counter-cultural and boldly fight for the lives of pre-born children.

Promotional image for Focus on the Family broadcast "Nurturing a Love for the Bible in Your Kids"

Nurturing a Love for the Bible in Your Kids

Danika Cooley shares practical ideas to equip parents to help their children develop a strong foundation of faith and nurture a solid relationship with God by studying the Bible together.

You May Also Like

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Overcoming Abortion and Becoming a Force for Life

Abby Johnson shares how a series of small compromises, over several years, almost derailed her life. As a teenager, Abby sought the attention of men, which resulted in her first pregnancy and abortion. Believing that Planned Parenthood helped poor women get real health care, she became a model employee of her local center, until she witnessed an ultrasound-guided abortion. She was devastated. Abby encourages her audience to be counter-cultural and boldly fight for the lives of pre-born children.

Promotional image for Focus on the Family broadcast "Nurturing a Love for the Bible in Your Kids"

Nurturing a Love for the Bible in Your Kids

Danika Cooley shares practical ideas to equip parents to help their children develop a strong foundation of faith and nurture a solid relationship with God by studying the Bible together.