What do you think of when you hear the words “human trafficking”? Far away Asian countries? Young women? Kid knapping by strangers? Amanda Blackwood is my guest this week to dispel all these incorrect assumptions and define what trafficking really is. She also tells her harrowing story of being trafficked multiple times by people she knew, including her fiancée. Not to worry though, after her escapes, she shares how she healed from such horrible trauma and helps others to do the same. We actually laughed quite a bit while talking about such a dark topic! Join us for an inspirational and educational conversation.
When Amanda finally managed to get away from the man who was trafficking her she was thirty-one years old and didn’t know what she’d gone through even had a name, much less how to deal with the pain of feeling like a broken person, unworthy of love and filled with so much anger. On a freezing cold day in 2018 she saw former trafficked people standing strong and showing their beautiful resiliency on a stage at an anti-trafficking event. At that moment she finally knew what her purpose in life would be.
Since then, Amanda has spoken on a multitude of stages, been interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, sold her art all over the country, been a keynote speaker at international summits, loaned her voice to multiple radio programs, and published over a dozen books. She launched two podcasts – one that focuses on interviewing other authors of trauma, and the other that discusses the long term consequences of trauma and how to fight back for a better life. She’s a trauma recovery mentor, professional artist, accomplished public speaker, and a charity campaigns manager for MMA legend Frank Shamrock through ShamrockWay.org
Amanda lives in Denver, Colorado with her rescue cats and supportive husband who keep her sane.
My primary podcast can be found at
My collaboration podcast is at
I can be reached or my books can be found at the following social media pages and websites:
Amanda Blackwood Transcript[00:00:00] Hello, welcome. Come on in. The water is fine. It’s a 110 degrees out here and I’m going swimming tomorrow. I just had my follow up visit with my surgeon for my foot and he says everything looks great and that I am cleared to go swimming. [00:00:20] And so I’m going over to my neighbor’s house Who has a pool. And so that’s the exciting news for the week for me. The exciting news about the podcast is that we have a wonderful guest, Amanda Blackwood, and we are going to be talking about human trafficking. This is a very dark topic, so no kids in the room, obviously, but. [00:00:50] If this is a topic that you’re sensitive to prostitution and drug use, that sort of thing. You may [00:01:00] want to skip till next week, [00:01:02] She is an amazing lady. I’m going to tell you a little more about her. Trafficking is something that I am very passionate about eliminating and helping people to heal from human trafficking. Mending the Soul, as you’re familiar with, if you’ve been listening to the podcast for any length of time, you know that I’m involved with Mending the Soul groups. [00:01:32] But we also have a Princess Lost, Princess Found, which is for sex trafficked victims. And the curriculum is amazing. That’s why I invited… Amanda to come on the show and tell her story. She has other methods of healing that she’s going to talk about. So let me tell you a little bit about her bio. [00:01:58] From trauma to triumph, [00:02:00] overcoming human trafficking was no small miracle. Amanda Blackwood is an accomplished artist. Author, public speaker, podcast host, trauma recovery mentor, and a survivor of human trafficking. Amanda has spoken on a multitude of stages, international summits, radio programs, and has published over a dozen books. [00:02:28] She launched two podcasts. One that focuses on interviewing other authors of trauma and the other that discusses the long term consequences of trauma and how to fight back for a better life. A portion of every book sale goes to help fight human trafficking. Amanda lives in Denver, Colorado with her rescue cats and supportive husband who keeps her sane. So without further [00:03:00] ado, here is Amanda Blackwood. All right. Please welcome my guest today, Amanda Blackwood. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. [00:03:11] Amanda: Absolutely. I’m excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me. [00:03:15] Diana: This is such an important topic and nobody really wants to talk about it because they don’t think it exists here. We’re in the United States where where we’re recording here. [00:03:27] Diana: And so when you reached out to me, I was so excited. That you were going to come on the show because I have not had anybody that’s been trafficked on my show, but now we’ve talked about trafficking before. So tell us about your background and who you are, what you do. And you wanted to start off with what trafficking is and the different types. [00:03:52] Amanda: Yes. So I live in Denver, Colorado now with my amazing husband and our six, [00:04:00] six cats. I had four, he had two. Now we’ve got a petting zoo. But we have is absolutely beautiful life. I am a published author 13 times and counting still working on more. I have three podcasts of my own now. I’ve got a trauma mentorship that I do. [00:04:19] Amanda: A workbook series. I’ve got all of these different things that I do, but. Primarily, I’m a believer, secondary, I’m known as a human trafficking survivor. And that is who I am. [00:04:31] Amanda: Now, what human trafficking is. So the Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as the use of force fraud or coercion to obtain labor or sex acts from another person. [00:04:44] Amanda: And it’s important to define this and to kind of break it down because if you notice there’s no mention of money. So prostitution does not equal human trafficking and vice versa. Although 95% of all women in prostitution are being trafficked, there’s a huge number of [00:05:00] people that are involved in human trafficking that are not in prostitution. [00:05:04] Amanda: There’s also no mention of transportation. So human trafficking, we automatically, our brains think of traffic as cars on the road. Because that’s what that is to us, but with drug tracking, trafficking with weapons, trafficking with human trafficking, what it is the illegal distribution. When we take out the scenario of transportation, you’re not transporting somebody from 1 place to another. Transportation. [00:05:33] Amanda: Is actually human smuggling and there are a lot of people in human smuggling that are then trafficked, but these are separate issues that still need to be addressed, and not having the act of transporting somebody, not having the active money exchanging does not take away the fact that somebody has been trafficked and there’s also no mention of age. [00:05:54] Amanda: I’ll get into that in just a moment. [00:05:57] Diana: Wow, that’s a great introduction. A [00:06:00] lot of things that you said are very specific definitions that I wasn’t aware of. We kind of put everything in the whole conglomerate under the same umbrella, but they’re not really the same, are they? [00:06:14] Amanda: Right. Exactly. And there’s so many people out there [00:06:18] Amanda: that have been or are being actively trafficked and don’t realize it because it doesn’t look like how it’s being portrayed in the media. [00:06:27] Diana: The most common thing that people think is that it’s only in the Asian countries. It’s in another country. It’s not here. [00:06:37] Amanda: It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere. It is. [00:06:41] Amanda: I think the only industry currently that makes more money than human trafficking is the drug industry and we’re quickly catching up to that. Now, there are more people in human trafficking and forced bondage and slavery right now than at any other point in human [00:07:00] history. If this was only happening in Asian cultures, that number wouldn’t be that high. [00:07:05] Diana: Wow. I know about the Superbowl because we have had the Superbowl here a few times and then we have PGA golf here every year and they are huge trafficking locations, trafficking events. But you mentioned age, so I’m intrigued. [00:07:25] Diana: Everybody thinks it’s just for the young people. [00:07:28] Amanda: Right. Only one quarter of all victims around the world are under the age of 18, one quarter. So here in the state of Colorado in recent years, the youngest person that was saved from human trafficking was three months old. The oldest was in her seventies. [00:07:48] Diana: Seventies. Wow. That’s really sad. Yeah. [00:07:53] Diana: Now, nobody says growing up, I want to be trafficked. That’s what I want to be when I grew up. [00:08:00] Huh. How did you get involved in trafficking? You said that you were 31 years old when you got out of trafficking and [00:08:11] Diana: you didn’t know what trafficking was or that you were trafficked. How does that even happen? [00:08:17] Amanda: So I was trafficked originally three separate times. It’s really easy to manipulate somebody who has already grown up in a household that is abusive and violent in some way. That person who has grown up in an abusive environment is looking for that love and acceptance and there’s something missing in their life with these traffickers do is they worm their way in to this person’s life. [00:08:45] Amanda: They find out what their vulnerability or their weakness is, and they make promises to fill that void. And that’s exactly what happened to me. So the first time I was ever molested, I was only four, it happened throughout my teen years. [00:09:00] I was molested again at 12 by a stranger at a swimming pool, again at 13 by an uncle through marriage again at 15, 16. [00:09:10] Amanda: I was raped at 17 by somebody I thought was my best friend. So by the time I was 18 years old, I had already been running away from home for three years. I had turned 17 years old in the foster care system. I was doing whatever I could to try and escape from this environment that I had grown up in. My mother was emotionally and mentally very abusive. [00:09:34] Amanda: My father was physically abusive. My brother was my molester when I was four, that was my entire immediate family. And I grew up in a military family. So we moved around a lot. We were never around any kind of extended family. I didn’t really get to know my grandparents or cousins and I didn’t really have anybody that I could turn to. [00:09:52] Amanda: This was it. This was my whole world. So when I was 18 years old, I had issues with trying to form bonds with [00:10:00] people and I was constantly looking for, without my understanding of what it was looking for a replacement for a father figure. Everybody needs a father and if they don’t have one, they will create one. [00:10:11] Amanda: So I was dating a man who was more than twice my age at that point. I was 18 and he was in his late thirties, I believe. And this man had ties to organized crime I was not aware of at the time. One day he came to me and said that he was going to send me with his friend on a birthday weekend for his buddy to Las Vegas. [00:10:33] Amanda: We were living in Arizona at the time in Phoenix. The way it was sold to me was that I would get an all expenses paid trip to Arizona and I’d go down there for a couple of days or up there rather and have a lot of fun. My brain immediately went to the rollercoaster that goes around the outside of New York. [00:10:52] Amanda: I had been on that rollercoaster before and I was excited to go again. And instead what happened was we got to Las Vegas. The [00:11:00] front desk was paid extra money to make sure they didn’t ask any questions. I was not given a room key so I couldn’t exit the room or re enter the room. And they were paid extra money to make sure that I could get room service once a day. [00:11:14] Amanda: But they were to drop it off outside the door and leave, they were not to ask any questions. They weren’t to meet me or talk to me in any way. And for a period of 52 hours, this man would go downstairs and gamble. He would come upstairs and rape me. Then we would eat food and he would sleep at some point. [00:11:35] Amanda: And then the cycle would be repeated for a period of 52 hours. We were there. If I had left the hotel room, I didn’t have the key to get back in. He had my ID card. So I wouldn’t have been able to get on the flight to go back home. I wouldn’t have had access to the flight. I couldn’t go to the police and tell them what was happening because 1st of all, I knew nothing was going to happen. [00:11:56] Amanda: Because this was something that was super prevalent in Las Vegas at the time. [00:12:00] This was 1998. I knew that if I did leave without my ID and without any money, without any resources or friends, I would have ended up homeless in Las Vegas. And that scared me more than just putting up with the next 52 hours of what I had to go through because of everything that I had already been through. [00:12:21] Amanda: I kept telling myself, I’ve been through worse. I can make it through this too. That is a dangerous mindset for anyone to have. And now, even now, when I go through any kind of struggles, people tell me you’ve been through worse. You can make it through this too. That’s still a dangerous mindset. It doesn’t mean that you need to go through more hard times and you’re comfortable with it or that you should have to face difficult times. [00:12:46] Amanda: We need to fight back against that mentality. When we got back from Las Vegas. I immediately packed my stuff and I got out of, I could not wait to hit the road. I was homeless for a little [00:13:00] while and bounced around from one place to another, made my way down to Florida. I was about as far from Arizona as I could get. [00:13:07] Amanda: While I was in Florida, my plan was I was going to stay with my dad’s mother, my grandmother. I didn’t know her very well, but I figured this would be a good opportunity to get to know her. While I got surgery done on my knee, I had been injured while at work on a horse farm one day and I needed to have surgery done and she had already agreed. [00:13:26] Amanda: I was going to go down there and stay with her and then recover at her home. And once I was back on my feet, then I already had a job lined up down there. I was going to stay in Florida, get my own place. And start my life over. But what I didn’t know was while I was on the Greyhound bus, getting to Daytona beach, my family called my grandmother and said, if you take her in, we will never speak to you again. [00:13:52] Amanda: So when I got to Daytona beach and called at 10 30 at night, her husband, my dad’s stepfather answered the phone. And said, we’re not [00:14:00] coming to get you, you’re on your own, good luck and hung up. [00:14:06] Amanda: I had no idea what I was going to do. I sat down on a curb and just cried my eyes out as anybody would. It’s 1999, so there’s no, Ubers or couch surfing or Airbnbs or anything like that. I only had 5 to my name anyway. I had no phone to be able to call anybody. I had called her using a pay phone. [00:14:26] Amanda: I had nothing. And this young couple walked up and they found me crying on the sidewalk and they said, we’ve got a place for you to stay. And I’m looking at these people like they’re angels. They are here to rescue me. We’ve got a place for you to stay. Come with us. You can stay with us until you’re back on your feet. [00:14:48] Amanda: And I went with them and what they really meant was I could stay with them until they found the highest bidder. Because this couple sold me like a bag of potato chips to some guy named [00:15:00] Esteban. I was locked up in a small room for 23 and a half hours with no food, no water, no bathroom facilities of any kind. [00:15:09] Amanda: And back in the eighties and nineties, when I was growing up. It was this wonderful TV show on that I absolutely loved starring Richard Dean Anderson called MacGyver. Yes. MacGyver could fix anything with a paper clip and a rubber band. You remember? Duck tape. Yes. Yeah. He once plugged the holes of a blown out radiator in a car by boiling water and dropping eggs down inside of it. [00:15:35] Amanda: That stuff sticks with you. So I grew up watching this and I’m thinking to myself I’m locked in this room. What would MacGyver do? And I MacGyvered my way out of the room. Now, I don’t want to go into too many details of all the different things that I tried and I did write about it in one of my books. [00:15:57] Amanda: My first book ever that came out in 2018 [00:16:00] detailed pieces of a shattered dream and getting out of that predicament was. It was life changing for me. It taught me that I was far more resilient and much smarter than I had ever been given credit for. I grew up being told that I was ugly and stupid my whole life. [00:16:19] Amanda: So when I got out of there again, I found myself moving over and over again and just trying to do whatever I could to stay ahead of whatever was breathing down my neck. I was constantly finding myself in these abusive situations with these terrible. Growing up the way I did, I learned that if somebody says they love you, they also hurt you. [00:16:45] Amanda: And if they don’t hurt you, that means they don’t actually love you because you have to have that emotional rollercoaster for it to actually mean something and you become addicted to that emotional rollercoaster. So I was constantly drawn into these situations. I had to learn how to break that cycle. [00:16:58] Amanda: So eventually I made my way [00:17:00] out to California and I decided this is it. This is where I’m starting over. This is where I’m going to live my life. Stephanie was living in Los Angeles. I had learned how to say no and sever these connections with people that turned out to be abusive. I was learning to pick up on those cues a little bit faster. [00:17:17] Amanda: I was paying attention because I had been studying psychology on my own. I decided that while I was there, my, my greatest ambition was to become a personal assistant to somebody important. I figured that was the highest I could ever achieve any real success in life was on the coattails of somebody else, but I was going to do it. [00:17:40] Amanda: And instead I was on alias and will and grace and I modeled for Harley Davidson and I did all kinds of really interesting stuff when I was out there, but I was always looking for something more. I felt hollow inside. There was something in me that was still missing. It was something that still made me vulnerable. [00:17:58] Amanda: And no matter how much food [00:18:00] I did or didn’t eat, I wasn’t filling up that spot. And no matter how many cigarettes I smoked or how many people I dated or how many friends I had, there was always something missing. I was so empty and so broken and about 2004 was when internet dating kind of took off. I decided that’s what was missing from my life was a relationship and I met a man who lived long distance and we decided that since he was so long distance, he had a life over there. [00:18:31] Amanda: I had a life in California. We’re just not meant to be, but we can remain friends. So over a period of seven years, we would get on Skype and he would be having breakfast in Scotland while I would be having dinner in California. And we would talk about our day like normal people would at a dinner table. [00:18:52] Amanda: He was my best friend and I got to watch his daughter grow up. And throughout the seven years, [00:19:00] my life changed so much. I got married, I got divorced. Every step of the way, he was always there. And eventually he decided, we decided that we had fallen in love and he asked me to get a fiance visa and move to Scotland to be with him forever. [00:19:21] Amanda: I was really excited yet. This is what every little girl who grows up watching Disney movies dreams of, right? You could run off to the land of kings and castles. Yeah. Glamorous and talk funny. That’s right. [00:19:40] Amanda: I was really excited. I couldn’t wait to go. I had worked my way up to being a director of public safety and security for six properties in LA County. I had an actual career. I had just gotten an 11, 000 a year raise. I had just gotten a raise for every single one of my employees. [00:20:00] I was doing really well. [00:20:03] Amanda: And the moment he asked me, I sold my car. I got rid of my home. And I left my job. I got my fiance visa and I flew to Scotland. I couldn’t wait to get there. It was January of 2011. And when my plane landed, the snowflakes were as big around as the palm of my hand. And oh my gosh, it was freezing cold. [00:20:30] Amanda: But I was still, I was so excited. I was, I couldn’t believe I was there and this was my home. Now. I loved Scotland. I loved the people. I loved being able to explore and the history and, oh, it was incredible. There were right down the street from where I lived, there was a park. And in this park, there were Roman baths built in 149 AD. [00:20:52] Amanda: And I would go down there and sit on the walls of these Roman baths to eat a picnic lunch. For somebody who [00:21:00] loved history and wanted to learn as much as possible about the world, this was perfect for me. It took him seven years to get me there. It took him seven days to start trafficking me seven days. [00:21:16] Amanda: I thought it was my happily ever after, I had worked so hard to have something to show for my life. And all of a sudden it was just gone. I tried really hard to get out of there very quickly. So at first he had taken away my passport, my driver’s license, my debit card, all that stuff. And he said it was for safekeeping. [00:21:38] Amanda: He was going to put it in his little house safe. And the reason that I trusted him to do this, it should have been red flags, but he was a police officer. So he would know these things. Oh, he would know about safety and security. He would know about the crime rates there in Scotland where I wouldn’t know these things. [00:21:57] Amanda: So I trusted him completely. [00:22:00] And he did take these things and he did put them in a small safe where I didn’t have access to them, but neither did anybody else. So I thought it was okay. When the trafficking started, I realized that’s what had really happened and why he had taken that stuff. So one night when the trafficking was taking place he used to get very drunk. [00:22:19] Amanda: I kept on making sure I kept his whiskey glass full towards the end of the night. I told him, I said, I still have a little bit of money in my bank over the U S and if you were to give me my passport and my debit card. Okay. Then I could possibly go and get that stuff, that, that money out of the bank and give it to you so that we can actually spend it. [00:22:42] Amanda: In reality, what I was doing was just trying to get that stuff back so that the next morning when he left for work, I could get an emergency flight out. The first flight out was over 12, 000. Yeah, it was no way I could afford that. So I [00:23:00] had to look through every single day at every single option all the way through until I could find when I could actually afford and it had 3 layovers to get me back to L. [00:23:10] Amanda: A. I didn’t care. It would have taken me 47 hours. I believe to make it all the way back, but it was a little over 2000. I had that much in my account and with taxes and fees and everything, I would have 11 remaining. I didn’t care, I would go hungry for those 2 days to be able to get back to where I’d come from and get away from the situation. [00:23:33] Amanda: So I bought the ticket, but the ticket was 5 days away from where I was right then. I had to wait the 5 days. It goes back to originally that same 52 hour scenario in Las Vegas, I’ve been through worse. I can survive this too. Again, a very dangerous scenario to be thinking of. Yeah, because during those five days, the abuse continued so much that I ended up with [00:24:00] nearly a kidney failure. [00:24:02] Amanda: I was in the hospital when the flight took off and it was a not refundable ticket. So [00:24:09] Amanda: I started to lose hope at that point. Yeah. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself and I’m completely distraught again. I feel like I’m sitting on that curb in Florida, crying my eyes out. Except this time, there’s nobody coming to help me. And at the time I was a smoker. I have not been a smoker now for a great many years. [00:24:30] Amanda: I’m very proud of that. But I was a smoker at the time. And one day I decided that I was going to get a cigarette and go for a walk. And it was probably going to be my last cigarette. I wasn’t planning on ever returning. I went down to a local church that had been built in the 1600s. And there was a little tiny, very old graveyard right next to it. [00:24:55] Amanda: And one of them. I’ve been swashed by the rain that [00:25:00] most of the stone surface was completely eroded and all you could see with a number 1776 and that’s an American independence. I saw that as a sign, Hey, freedom from English, right? I’m looking for freedom from the Scottish here. So I sat down next to that grave and that person, whoever it was, male, female, I have no idea. [00:25:22] Amanda: Whoever it was, that was my best friend that day because they listened to everything I told them, and they caught all of my tears. It was the only friend I had, but nobody came to find me. Kept on saying, please send somebody to come and find me here. And nobody came. They eventually got, had to give up on that. [00:25:44] Amanda: The grass was wet and my pants were wet, so I had to get up. And I went to the church and I tried the door and the door was locked. So I sat down on the porch. And I remember looking out and seeing the traffic driving by and seeing people [00:26:00] walking by on the sidewalk and thinking to myself, somebody is going to stop. [00:26:05] Amanda: Somebody is going to ask me what’s wrong. I’m sitting here crying. Surely somebody is going to see me sitting on the steps of a church and ask me what they can do to help and what’s wrong with me. That person is the person that I can trust. Somebody’s going to show up and nobody came. Nobody asked me what was wrong because everybody seemed to have this. [00:26:28] Amanda: It’s not my problem mentality. They didn’t want to get involved. Eventually I got up from there and I made my way to the train station and my plan was to commit suicide by train. [00:26:43] Amanda: So finally I dug out that one cigarette that I brought with me and I lit it and I was sitting there on the platform smoking my cigarette waiting for the train to show up and a man walked out onto the platform and he had a cigarette. And he looked at me smoking, he says, boy, have you got light? So I handed him my little [00:27:00] book of matches and he lit a cigarette and I told him, I said, you can keep, I won’t need them anymore. [00:27:06] Amanda: And I wanted him to ask why, but he didn’t ask and I knew I couldn’t make him care. So I just took them back and stuck them back in my pocket. He says, I won’t need them anymore either. I’m quitting. Okay. Me too. And while I was still sitting there, while I was still sitting there smoking my cigarette, A little boy walked out onto the platform also, probably about four years old, and he walked up to that same man and he took his hand. [00:27:40] Amanda: And this little boy looked at me. And he didn’t just look at me. He saw me. He saw me with eyes that made me feel like it was the first time in months and possibly even years that somebody actually saw me. [00:28:00] It made me uncomfortable. He knew me when I didn’t know who I was myself. And I knew in that moment that I could not do to this child what had been done to me. [00:28:15] Amanda: I had my own innocence ripped away from me at such a young age, and it set me up for this long road of disasters for the rest of that time. I couldn’t do that to this child by committing suicide by train right in front of him. And I got up and I started running and it took me about 20 seconds to realize that I was not running towards the train, but rather back towards my prison. [00:28:43] Amanda: And the whole time I was going, I was thanking God for miracles not yet received because I knew that if I was being kept alive in that moment, that there was something more for my life. And I wasn’t going to end there. I was not going to die some [00:29:00] faceless, nameless thing in Scotland. I would get my life back. [00:29:07] Amanda: I started putting together a plan because I had been studying psychology on my own for all these years. I had learned about what we used to call Stockholm syndrome. Now we call it trauma bonding, but I’m old school and just old. So I still call it Stockholm syndrome. And I knew that him being a police officer, of course he was going to know what this was too. [00:29:29] Amanda: He had to have learned some of this stuff, but I had an advantage. He didn’t have, I was on alias and will and grace. And I had done all of these amazing things in Hollywood and I learned how to act. [00:29:45] Amanda: So I started leaving these little breadcrumbs and just kind of little things here and there along the way over the next several weeks, over the next two long months until June rolled around. [00:30:00] And I told him, I said, I can’t believe I’ve been here for five months already, but I’ve only got a six month visa. [00:30:08] Amanda: And if I overstay my visa without us actually getting married the way that we said that we were going to when I first came out here, if I ever stay my visa, I could get kicked out of the country and never allowed back according to UK law. And you could lose your job as a police officer and we wouldn’t want that. [00:30:26] Amanda: So if you send me back now. Then I could stay in California for six months and then return and I could come back in time for Christmas. And wouldn’t that be nice? It would be our first Christmas together. The whole time I kept on filling up his whiskey glass, of course, within two hours he had purchased round trip flights for me to be able to leave, go back to California for six months and return in time for Christmas. [00:30:57] Amanda: It was sneaky. It was very [00:31:00] sneaky. And I did get away from him. I did take that flight out. And it was this moment of absolute freedom. I had no idea how much he would pursue and attack me for years after that, but I got away from him personally. Just because somebody gets away from their trafficker or their abuser doesn’t mean that it stops there. [00:31:27] Amanda: I remember looking through the peephole one day because I heard a whole bunch of noise going on outside and I couldn’t figure out what it was and I looked through the little hole in the door and I saw him banging on the neighbor’s door. He had my address off by one number. He had come all the way over from Scotland to find me. [00:31:47] Amanda: And I don’t know if he was there to kill me or to try to drive me back or apologize to me. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to see him again. Every job I got, every friend I [00:32:00] made, he started sending photos and videos of me being raped and molested to these people. I lost jobs. I lost friends. He sent this stuff at one point to a roommate of mine that was my best friend. [00:32:13] Amanda: She couldn’t understand how something like this had been non consensual. So she started telling people that I had been a high priced call girl. And it destroyed our friendship. I’ve lost so many jobs over this. Eventually, it’s like, you know what? He’s going to keep pursuing me here in California. I can’t stay here anymore. [00:32:35] Amanda: So after 14 years off and on of living in California, I finally packed up and left. It was the longest I had ever lived in one state in my entire life. And he from thousands of miles away, forced me out. And I packed up a rental SUV with my cats. And I drove to Colorado. I decided I was going to start over in Colorado and [00:33:00] get as far away from every other place where I had been as I possibly could. [00:33:06] Amanda: And I got out here, I got a new job, I got a home, I started feeling stable and in 2019 he attacked me again. Same guy? He put up, huh? The same guy? Yes. Same guy. So he took these same photos and videos and he put them on all these different pornography websites. And he made me famous. He included my social media information for people to be able to find me and follow me. [00:33:37] Amanda: Included any kind of personal information he could find for me including phone numbers, old addresses. He did whatever he could to damage me as much as humanly possible, and I didn’t know how to handle this at first. But I had been to an anti trafficking conference the year before. That’s when I learned what human trafficking actually was and what I’d been through actually had a name. [00:33:58] Amanda: Until then, I had no [00:34:00] clue that I had been through human trafficking. I thought it had just been abuse. When I learned the truth, it kind of broke down some walls for me, and I started really working on things. But when this happened in 2019, I regressed. I reached out to a couple of different anti trafficking organizations, one of them called a light paired me up with pro bono legal help to be able to reach out to these these pornography websites and have this stuff pulled down. [00:34:29] Amanda: The other one was an organization that helped me by finding me a therapist to be able to talk to. Now, the first therapist, I’m not gonna lie, I traumatized this poor woman so much that I’m pretty sure she’s left therapy completely and has decided that is not the life for her. But the second one was amazing. [00:34:52] Amanda: I learned from my mistakes from the first one. And the second one, I told her, first off, do not come at me with [00:35:00] prescription medications. I don’t want a bandaid. I want a shovel. I want to dig to the root of the problem, figure out what it is and get it out of me. And second of all, do not pull any punches. [00:35:14] Amanda: Do not walk on eggshells. Do not treat me like I’m something fragile because if I was going to break, I would have broken already. And through these resources, I started to regain a sense of stability, a sense of who I was. I had already been going to church at that point since the moment I moved to Colorado. [00:35:33] Amanda: I had a friend that was an audio engineer, and he was teaching me how to do it. And it really got me involved in the church, and it was such a great thing for me to have this. But the pastor at that point had just retired, and I was looking for a new church. And I felt like I was floundering again, and when COVID hit the next year, everything was just turned completely upside down. [00:35:56] Amanda: I couldn’t find a church. I didn’t have that sense of [00:36:00] community. I was still in the therapy. Thankfully, I don’t know if I would have made it without having those resources available to me. By November of 2020, my therapist said, I don’t know that there’s much more that we can do. We’ve dug out all the roots. [00:36:15] Amanda: You, you’ve got them laying before you and you know what to do with them. So what are your next steps? What are you going to do? And I said, I think I’m ready to write my book. She said, Oh, that’s fantastic. She said, I’ll check in with you in January and see how it’s going. We’ll get through the Christmas season first. [00:36:33] Amanda: If you need me, I’m here for you. Otherwise, I’ll talk to you in January. When she reached out to me in January, she said, how’s it going? I said, I’m great. She said no. How’s the book going? I said, oh, it’s done. She said, wait, is this, did you, is it a short story? What is this? What is this? [00:36:50] Amanda: You’re done. You work two full time jobs. You can’t have written an entire book. No, it’s 350 pages is, and it’s complete. [00:37:00] She was flabbergasted. She says, now, what are you going to do? And I said, I don’t know. She said, I want you to try painting. Now you’re a creative person. It’s like every time I’ve ever tried to paint, it ended up looking like a multicolored snowman, three globs on a page. [00:37:15] Amanda: I am not a painter. And she said, I want you to try anyway. So she sent somebody over with paint brushes and canvases and acrylic paints, and within three months I had sold my first work of art. It went to the organization that paired me with a therapist in the 1st place, they made prints of it and sold the prints to be able to afford more therapy for other survivors of human trafficking. [00:37:41] Amanda: Is that one of them behind you? That is the one that I painted within 5 months. It, this is a print of the original. The original is hanging in a home for human trafficking survivors in Chicago, Illinois. And the Chicago Tribune wrote an article when this was unveiled [00:38:00] at their brand new home for survivors. [00:38:02] Amanda: And they had a great big ceremony. I wanted to go out there for it, but I just couldn’t swing it. It was amazing. [00:38:09] Diana: It’s a very peaceful painting. [00:38:12] Amanda: Thank you. It’s called Carry Your Own Baggage because we all have to carry our own baggage through life before we find a safe place to set it down, and the best place to set it down is at our Lord’s feet. [00:38:23] Amanda: Yes. It took a long time to figure that out, a really long time. So I ended up using one last page in the book, adding just a little bit more before the book was published in April of 2021 is when I got baptized. So the very last page at that time was of my baptism. My book was published on my 10 year anniversary of freedom from human trafficking, which was Oh, June 19th, 2021. [00:38:59] Amanda: And [00:39:00] in July of 2021 is when I met the man that’s now my husband and the audio, one of the audio engineers for my current church. He supplied me with what I needed in so many ways. And it was just, it was so perfect. That this year I did a revision of my book and now the book ends with our wedding photo. [00:39:25] Diana: Yeah, that’s exciting. That there’s a happy ending. Yeah. I wanted to swing around to your view of God through all of this and obviously you have a faith now, but what was your thoughts about God going through all of this trauma and then. When did your relationship with God become personal to you? [00:39:55] Amanda: I think it started when I was very young. So in our [00:40:00] family, we would say prayer over dinner every night, not over breakfast, not over lunch. It was just dinner only when we were all together and only when we were at home, I felt like this wasn’t enough. I wanted to know more. Who are we praying to? Why are we talking to somebody who’s not here? [00:40:18] Amanda: I don’t see anybody else in this room. So when I was about nine, I started running away from home on Sunday mornings and sneaking off to church. No, most kids run off from home and try to get away from going to church at that age. I wanted to know, I was curious, and I had this fantastic pastor. It was the unbased church, so it was either Catholic services or non denominational services, and I went to the non denominational services. [00:40:45] Amanda: When I, when my parents found out, I got in a lot of trouble and I was constantly punished for it pretty much every Sunday because I didn’t stop. Just because they told me to stop going. My parents didn’t want me going to a non denominational service because they thought that I would get the wrong message. [00:40:58] Amanda: They were Methodist and they wanted [00:41:00] me going to a Methodist church, if any church at all, but that wasn’t an option. We didn’t have a Methodist church on the military base and they weren’t going to take me to a church. So I kept on fighting and going anyway. I kept on, I lied to them many times about where I was actually going. [00:41:17] Diana: Yeah, I have a very similar experience with my conversion, sneaking off to church, which is funny that I found somebody else as a teenager who would sneak off to church. [00:41:29] Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And I tried for years to get the rest of my family to go to church. But they just wouldn’t do it. And finally, my brother he was old enough, he went and joined the military. [00:41:40] Amanda: So it was just my parents and I kept on begging and begging, please can we go to church? And for a little while we did, but that didn’t last. And I went to a Methodist church when I was 19. And I was trying to get along with the church and there was something that seemed off there. [00:42:00] It just didn’t seem like the right fit for me. [00:42:03] Amanda: It didn’t feel like home. It didn’t feel like that church that I had gone to when I was a kid. And when I ended up having a pretty severe medical crisis at the time, my father had come out to visit me and he went down to my church and said, Hey, my daughter’s been coming to this church for the last couple of years now. [00:42:21] Amanda: And she’s going through some stuff right now. My, my wife and I, we have to go back to our homes and our lives and we have to go back to work. And I was just wanting to know if somebody from the church could maybe step in and check on her maybe once a week, just go by and see if she’s doing all right. [00:42:36] Amanda: And the pastor looked my father in the eye and said, don’t worry about her. The Lord takes care of his own and turned around and walked away and not one person ever came to check on me. And I didn’t know about that until my dad had reached out to me afterwards and said, hey, has anybody come by to visit you lately? [00:42:55] Amanda: No. Why were they supposed to? So I [00:43:00] really struggled with that. I didn’t know if I really had a place in church I already felt at that point like I was such a damaged person that Maybe there was a reason that God was preventing people from coming to check on me. I felt like everything was my fault I felt like the abuse was my fault. [00:43:19] Amanda: I felt like if people didn’t wanna be around me, that was my fault. Maybe I was annoying. I didn’t know. I had no clue, and it wasn’t really until I was here in Colorado, I was 36 years old, five years out of trafficking and looking for a home and knowing that friend of mine that was an audio engineer at the church, that was when I found a place where I belonged. [00:43:45] Amanda: Those people genuinely cared about me. They wanted to know where I was, if I didn’t make it to church one day, Hey Bill, where’s Amanda? Is she feeling all right? Where’s she at now? Can you send her our love? Nobody had cared for me [00:44:00] like that before, even my own family hadn’t really cared for me like that before. [00:44:04] Amanda: It was incredible having that kind of an outreach and that’s why I was so devastated when my pastor retired and I couldn’t find another church to go to until I met my husband. Now, I’ve always had that deep rooted belief in me. I knew that God existed for a while. I thought God just forgot that I existed. [00:44:24] Amanda: He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t forget about us. He was with me every step of the way. He was that child on the platform that prevented me from killing myself. He has always shown up. He was that voice in my head that said, what would MacGyver do? [00:44:48] Amanda: He was my paperclip and rubber band. He can fix anything. [00:44:51] Diana: . Love it. Your story [00:44:54] Diana: is incredible. It’s a lot for one person to deal with. [00:45:00] Now, we’re going to transition to the healing part. You went through some therapy, as you say, found some good therapists finally but when abuse happens, we we get a lot of bitterness to the people that abused us. [00:45:19] Diana: And when we are believers, the Bible tells us that we need to forgive. But you have a different viewpoint. Forgiveness isn’t what people think it is it? [00:45:32] Amanda: Right. So if you were to accidentally step on my toes, you would say, I’m sorry. And my automatic response by conditioning would be to say, Oh, it’s okay. [00:45:46] Amanda: Forgiveness is a pardon. That’s not what forgiveness is at all. That’s what we have been made to believe it is because that’s what we have been. That’s what we’ve grown up experiencing.[00:46:00] Forgiveness doesn’t rely on an apology. First of all, forgiveness is learning that everything that you’ve been through is a reflection of them, not a reflection of you. [00:46:17] Amanda: Forgiveness is taking all of that anger and that animosity and that hatred and that vitriol gut rage that you have for everything that this person has done to you and saying, I don’t care that much about it anymore. I’m just going to let it go. Let God deal with this. This is not my place to deal with anymore. [00:46:40] Amanda: I am away from there. I don’t have to deal with this. It’s not mine. And people often talk about righteous anger. There is no passage in the Bible that ever talks about any kind of righteous anger. We are not called upon to be angry. We are called upon to [00:47:00] forgive our neighbors. We’re called upon to forgive our trespassers and that is the true mark of forgiveness. Now We can think all we want that our lives would be better if we received an apology from the person that abused us But why in the world but we put our own mental health and our own Physical safety back in the hands of people who already broke that trust and are already damaged us in whatever way. We don’t need their apology. [00:47:28] Amanda: We don’t need anything from them. We’ve gotten everything from them that we’re going to get from them. Hopefully. It’s okay to let it go. [00:47:38] Diana: Doesn’t that doesn’t mean when we forgive somebody that we’re going to let them continue to abuse us. [00:47:45] Amanda: Right, right. You can absolutely walk away from them. Now, I have forgiven my family for all of the things that we have done to each other and all the attacks that they have launched at me, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be allowed back into my [00:48:00] life to do it again. [00:48:01] Diana: Exactly. But that bitterness and anger is not going to live rent free in our brains. That’s for sure. [00:48:09] Amanda: Exactly. Yep. All that’s doing is giving them control over us still. [00:48:15] Diana: Yeah. It just makes us sick. Yeah. And now we’ve talked about a lot of stuff, but how do we recognize hidden dangers in our lives? [00:48:29] Diana: Avoiding getting into these kinds of situations. You had mentioned that you had started to see the signs and you woke up and you were paying attention. How would we do that in our life? [00:48:42] Amanda: A lot of it for me was educating myself on what it looks like and it can look like a whole lot of different things. [00:48:49] Amanda: At the. Time, I thought that what I was going through was just called domestic violence. But the reason for that in my brain was because a lot of the same signs that you would see for domestic violence or a lot of the same [00:49:00] signs that you would see in cases of human trafficking. So somebody is being emotionally manipulated. [00:49:06] Amanda: Somebody who was bubbly and outgoing is suddenly becoming very closed off from the world. They’re no longer making eye contact. Now they’re looking at your feet rather than your face. You start to see these personality shifts in somebody. Now, when you see these personality shifts, you have to ask why. There’s something going on. [00:49:25] Amanda: This person is not okay. It could be that they’re just going through a hard time. Maybe they’ve just lost a loved one. It’s okay to ask. But if they say there’s nothing wrong and it’s fine, there’s something deeper going on and they’re afraid to tell you. Another sign that people could have noticed when I was in Scotland and just didn’t was the constant what I call the revolving door. [00:49:50] Amanda: There were people coming over. Constantly in the evenings, he would get off work as a police officer. He would come home and almost immediately he would have what he [00:50:00] called guests coming over that. I would need to entertain. It would happen 567 days a week. It would happen multiple times in a day. It was never the same person twice. [00:50:11] Amanda: When you see repeatedly people coming over and like clockwork staying for one hour or two hours and then leaving and then somebody else coming in and then leaving and then somebody else coming in and leaving constantly, it could be a drug house or it could be a human trafficking scenario. This is very common. [00:50:30] Amanda: A lot of people that are trafficked out of their own homes. It’s the majority of people that are trafficked more than 85%. Are trafficked by people they know and trust and love. People with a sense of authority over their lives, parents, grandparents, boyfriends, girlfriends. In my case, in the last one, the fiance before that, it was basically landlords. [00:50:54] Amanda: They had this authority over my life. They were giving me what I needed [00:51:00] at that time with the first one I had, I was seeking out a father figure. He became that with the second. I needed a place to live. They offered me that. With the third. I needed a cure for my loneliness, and he gave me that. Every single time [00:51:18] Amanda: they kept preying on whatever need I had to manipulate me. That is the probably the biggest thing to watch for. And if somebody is emotionally manipulating you into doing something, listen to those red flags that are going off. Listen to the hairs that are standing above the back of your neck and get out while you can. [00:51:38] Diana: Very good advice. Have you heard of the book gift of [00:51:41] Diana: fear? [00:51:43] Amanda: I have not. Is this what I need to read? [00:51:45] Diana: Gavin DeBecker, he wrote a book, The Gift of Fear, and it’s all about trusting that spidey sense that you have, God gave you certain signals in your body that can sense danger and [00:52:00] what we do, especially as women we discount those. [00:52:03] Diana: Oh, he’s just trying to help me carry the groceries inside my apartment, what a nice guy. He was hiding down at the bottom of the stairwell in the dark and that’s kind of fishy, but, oh, but he’s helping me with my groceries. And then we’re discounting that. No, I can take my own groceries in and thank you. [00:52:26] Diana: And we wind up getting in trouble because they take advantage. And the book is about listening for those signals and not being so nice all the time. You have permission not to be nice if they’re crossing your boundaries. If something doesn’t feel right, you have permission to leave, right? [00:52:48] Diana: Oh, I love that book. It’s one of my favorite books, The Gift of Fear. Yeah, definitely. [00:52:53] Amanda: That sounds like a well written book. I’ll have to check that out. [00:52:56] Diana: It’s fantastic. So I want you to tell them about your [00:53:00] resources and all, you have a lot of stuff on your website to help people and your books. [00:53:05] Diana: I’d like you to address somebody listening that may be going through this sort of situation. Okay. What would you tell them right now? [00:53:18] Amanda: First of all, we have grown up hearing constantly that phrase. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And it’s a lie. Is absolutely a lie that was an aphorism coined by a man by the name of Frederick Nietzsche in the 1800s, who then later died in an insane asylum. [00:53:36] Amanda: I think we can let go of his teachings now. This man was not of his right mind. He also went through a lot of traumas of his own and didn’t know how to deal with them in a healthy way. It is not the abusers or the abuse or the past or the traumas that have made us stronger. It is God [00:54:00] giving us the will to survive and teaching us to dig deep and dig out those shovels, not the band aids to get to the root of the problem and to get out. [00:54:10] Amanda: You have it in you to get out of this situation and to get the help you need. But not knowing what resources are available to you is the same as not having resources. Find the resources available to you. If you need to call 9 1 1, call 9 8 8 and be paired with a therapist and somebody with lived experience to be able to help you get out of the situation. [00:54:32] Amanda: Reach out to anti trafficking services, reach out to domestic violence services reach out to shelters that can take you in an emergency situations. There are many services out there available to you in a pinch. You can find longer lasting resources while you’re there. Find these resources and utilize them. [00:54:52] Amanda: That’s why they’re there is because they want to help you. [00:54:56] Diana: We have a lot more resources now than we did in the 80s and [00:55:00] 90s, huh? [00:55:02] Amanda: Isn’t that the truth? Oh my gosh. Nobody was willing to talk about this stuff in 98 and 99 when this all happened to me the first time and second time. [00:55:10] Diana: Yes. We have the internet. [00:55:12] Diana: We have resources. And Amanda will help you any way she can and so will I. Tell them about your resources that you have offer. [00:55:24] Amanda: So I have the two main podcasts. One of them is called The Survivors, where I interview other authors of trauma who have stories of resiliency and overcoming. It’s a great way to be able to reach out and find some a story that you can resonate with and really kind of find hope from. [00:55:43] Amanda: There’s another one that’s called Growth From Darkness, and it’s the same name as my workbook series and my website. It’s all about the trauma reactions, what the long term consequences are of not fighting back against them and how you could retrain your brains to fight back against those to have a healthier life. [00:55:59] Amanda: [00:56:00] I have a workbook series I’m working on by the same name. The first book in the series is about the trauma stages going from denial to anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They mirror the stages of grief because we have to grieve for the person who would have been. Right. We have changed. [00:56:19] Amanda: We’re not going to be that person anymore. We have to get through that grieving process before we can continue our journey of healing. The second book in the series is about those trauma reactions. I have amassed a list of over 60. You can find the ones that Actually correspond with what it is that you’re experiencing and feeling, learn more about it, find out what the long term consequences are and find different healthy coping ways of retraining your brain. [00:56:44] Amanda: The third book in the series is not out yet. It’s going to be about building healthy boundaries. And the fourth book will be about how to support a survivor for all those people who know somebody who’s been through something like this and have no idea how to reach through to them and to help to get them through this [00:57:00] tough time. [00:57:01] Amanda: I do have a trauma recovery mentorship that I have. I do one on ones with people. I have a module series where people can go through it themselves to be able to help get through it. I also have a group mentorship and one of my classes was actually earlier today. [00:57:16] Diana: Lots and lots of tools [00:57:18] Diana: and resources and expertise from somebody who knows. [00:57:23] Diana: This was an awesome conversation and thanks for being so transparent and sharing your story. I know it’s not easy, even though you’ve probably told it hundreds of times at this point. It is like living through it again, almost, I would like to invite you to come back on the podcast anytime you want to promote new books. [00:57:44] Diana: I have a feeling you’re going to do more books. I just, I can just tell. [00:57:49] Amanda: I just published the 13th book on June 1st and that’s all since the first one came out in January of 2018. So on average, it’s been two books a year [00:58:00] since then. But my most recent one is actually a cookbook. It’s called surviving in the kitchen recipes for life, love, and a full stomach. [00:58:06] Amanda: I’m very proud of that one. Love this book. That’s awesome. I love it. Oh, you have a picture. I do. Thank you. Awesome. [00:58:18] Amanda: This one was a lot of fun to write and have fun. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And one of the trauma responses that we have is a need for control. You can control how much flour or sugar you put into a recipe. So having that sense of control by learning to cook or learning to paint or learning to write you, you can kind of retrain your brain to have this creative release of letting go of all of your trauma, all sense of control over at least something in your life. [00:58:49] Diana: I’ve never heard that perspective. That is amazing. I I’ll have to get the cookbook now. [00:58:57] Diana: Definitely come back and[00:59:00] again, thank you for sharing, sharing so much of these gold nuggets that I think the audience got a ton of value today and some steps that they can take to get out of the hole that they’re in, the darkness. Certainly hope so. [00:59:18] Diana: Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you wanted to mention? [00:59:22] Amanda: Just dropping books over here. [00:59:23] Amanda: I can’t think of anything other than to thank you for what it is that you’re doing and for the platform that you give to people who have these messages of hope and overcoming. I love what you do. [00:59:36] Amanda: I [00:59:36] Diana: love to meet folks just like yourself, make new friends and collaborate. If you need a podcast guest, I’ll be glad to come and tell my story on your show now. [00:59:51] Amanda: Absolutely. I’m always looking for new people. [00:59:54] Diana: I will let you go, but thanks again and God bless you. [00:59:59] Amanda: God [01:00:00] bless you too. Thank you so much.