The everyday beginning steps of Human Trafficking

Thank you #BrittanyJones; Channel 12 News, #KFVS

#Torch – Shining a Light on Human Trafficking – SIU Carbondale

Think about that statement for a moment. We are here to ask our friends, neighbors, colleagues, resources, professionals, first responders, care givers, – absorb the power of this horrific statement. This isn’t just an offense busted by FBI  stings and plaguing other countries. This is what you and I see everyday, in communities where the same people do the same things day after day. The beginning steps are the common societal actions and behaviors we have been teaching are acceptable throughout human history. We may not know what the exact list from the experts tells us to look for, but more often than not those first beginning levels of what is and can become human trafficking, enslavement, forced servitude of another human being; regardless of what we want to admit or what we see in the welfare of another person, we need to care enough to intervene early and bring attention to the distress you see in your community. Only rarely do we have the occasion in small communities to be suddenly sold or exploited.

In modern day slavery we don’t just need our justice system ready to take on these offenders and put them away, we need to change our everyday way of thinking about what happens around us. The actions that happen to people we know, people we care about. Not just to our teens and children, but old and young, male and female. If we want any of our social care and justice systems to work, then we have a duty as everyday citizens to take accountability – report offenses that you DO recognize and make certain to do it early. If we do not have educators, medical professionals, law enforcement, neighbors, friends, even family ; those who are the ones most likely to see the signs of distress, then we can not expect to change the possible terrorizing acts which they might be trying to survive in everyday.

You – you are the person who will first see or recognize something that causes alarm.  You have a duty to intervene, to question that person’s welfare, and if you’re unsure take it to an advocate or make some Google searches to understand what signs you are seeing what what it is that might be turning your gut inside out every time you’re around it or see a possible lost soul on the streets, in our businesses, working on our farms, attending our schools, or even when they are coming in for basic mandatory physicals. It’s our time to watch out for the common daily signs of distress.

Understand that I absolutely know what it is like to go through days, weeks, years; waiting, hoping, praying someone would care enough to do something. Someone would believe that I mattered enough as a human being to at least question the multitude of acts and harms they did see almost daily for years. Believe me, I am just one of the millions of adult survivors of these types of daily horrors. When you are inside this type of environment and being dismissed or overlooked by everyone around you, it’s really difficult to believe that you have a voice to ask for help. Young kids, don’t have a clue how to put into words what’s happening until around 16 or so. All they can do is keep trying to get through each day. More often than not – THEIR SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON THEIR SILENCE!!

The common everyday things that happened to me were kind of accepted in Freeburg, just like it is in the rural communities I still see today.  It was just the way we raised our kids and took our rage out on our family. In most communities today, there is always one family the town talks about and judges. My family was that family!!!

There were years that instead of looking at how much they despised my stepfather and what they actually witnessed him doing on a regular basis. Instead of questioning what they witnessed my mother allowing to happen to her little girl, in the condition of her daily needs and care; instead people decided that I should be judged, I should be shamed. Both the adults and the schoolmates condemned and whispered about who I was and the things they heard. They kept their daughters away from our home and refused to let their sons date or hang out with me. In a small community just like what we see in our rural areas everyday; I was that child and teen girl who carried the reputation with boys and adult men by the time I was 13 years old.

It happened at the bar where my mother worked for years. It happened in the private parties with boys I went to school with and who saw me almost everyday. He would arrange it all at our home with a case of beer, giving me solid instructions on how to entice them, then tell him all the gory details when he returned home with my mother. This very known and discussed activity then became private parties late at night in our home, with sometimes 10 or more adult men from the local coalmine. My younger sister trying to sleep in the other room. My mother going in to watch TV in her bedroom; telling me to have a good time as she walked away when his call came in with instructions of what to wear, what to get prepared, even putting the porn movie in the VCR. This happened not because my mother was terrorized or forced to let it happen, but rather because she didn’t want to try and survive with three children on her own, and eventually because she didn’t mind using me as her family caretaker and housekeeper.

It wasn’t just chores we give our kids today. It was every single day and every moment of my day. It wasn’t just the occasional dusting or vacuuming. It was give her a toothbrush to scrub the corners and keep her here busy until I’m ready to send her to bed. Don’t give her a toothbrush or give a damn if she cares for herself at all.

The men got me drunk, the porn was on the television, they passed me around from lap to lap. They got me high, guiding me for this one do this or that one to do that. Around 3 or 4 am, I might be told to go out to the camper on the back of my stepfather’s pickup parked right in front of our house.

Keep in mind we lived in the center of this small town for six consecutive years when his violent reign of terror and the complete neglect of any human kindness was at it’s absolute worst. This type of exploitation, enslavement, sharing, trafficking happened between 11 to 17 before I escaped. He was at that time planning to put me in a trailer, on a private lot, with a new lock and his own private key so we could have ‘our’ parties anytime. I ran the first chance I got; ran into the arms of a man 7 yrs older who beat me, strangled me, almost drowned me, and left me hogtied in a bedroom for 10 hours, dead-bolted in a second floor apartment while he went to work and out for drinks. I’ve had more weapons held to my head than I can count, the first around age nine. Like many from violent homes I rant into the waiting arms of another violent abuser. All with the aide of what I was manipulated with as a child; years of weed and alcohol to cover up the pain. No matter the suffering I must act like I had always been taught; silent, submissive, even protective of my tormentor.

All of the interactions happened for the price of a case beer or perhaps just a couple of glasses at the bar. This was my value, this was the identity that every single person who witnessed the very worst of these offenses unknowingly or knowingly, helped create in just one young girl. Each had their part and in those so easily dismissed and accepted acts they trained a child to become a human being who lived ‘in servitude of others’ until I was about 45 years old.

The young servitude was taught as I grew up to be the only person in our home expected to answer the ring of that little brass bell for years. Constantly, every single day. No wonder my homework was barely done. No wonder I couldn’t concentrate or felt so different, so socially inept around everyone else. No wonder I could barely exist in your world. The only thing I could think about was how to survive the next damn thing that was going to happen.

During these years I was attacked almost daily.  It was so brutally dominating and fearful, that it wasn’t even safe to bathe or take any time to care for myself. For five years I barely took a washcloth to my face, let alone my body.. I was a kid who attended the same school system, walked around in the same small community, who associated with the same people everyday.  I was covered in filth, my front teeth rotted out and broken, my skin covered in sores; ugly infected rashes that have left me scarred and broken with many troubling health conditions today. They saw years of physical violence; bruises across my back and legs from the leather belt he had sliced up to beat me with. Once I got that beating for putting on a pair of my brother’s button up flannel pajamas because I thought they might protect me from him somehow; like a suit of magic armor he wouldn’t be able to touch me. Believe me, I didn’t dare put them on ever again.

So now I ask you; what types of distressful behaviors do you see happening or going on with one of the people or kids you interact with everyday. What do you see on the surface? What do you think might be happening beneath the surface to control that person in such a dominant and cruel fashion? Now let me ask – Why in the hell is it still happening today, everyday.? Not just here in Southern Illinois, but in every little rural and perceived safe community across the country. For thousands – this is everyday life happening in your backyards. There are enslaved, young and old, both male & female; these are the common early steps that become the larger tragedy of human trafficking. There are at risk kids in every apartment building, rich private home, or rundown trailer park. They are trying to endure until they can somehow find a way  to somehow escape and live like everybody else.

Let me remind you; You might be the only one who sees something, or is courageous enough to report something that might first bring attention to any form of those early controlling, neglectful, threatening, servitude acts that happen. We can’t expect our Social Service workers to just walk in and suddenly take action or investigate something, until we make absolutely certain we are reporting it. Take names and numbers, then follow up to make sure they’re doing their job and holding them accountable. Keep reporting and if they still want listen, discuss it with others who witness these acts or who might be able to help them.  Our leading research & health organizations have data on trauma which has been collected for the past ten years. The ones who are responsible for assisting and investigating are just as accountable for their actions and decisions, as you and I are accountable for what we tolerate and teach through our silence.

I beg you, I beg everyone across the country; it’s time to pick ourselves up by the boot-heels and create the society we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. A society of equality, with true possibility that they can actually succeed in their dreams. To be courageous enough to dream and feel self worthiness. Teach them to believe they actually matter; their life actually matters to the most close knit circle around each and every one of us.

I really want to thank all of you for listening to me here, and the Women’s Center for permitting me to speak at this amazing event. Hopefully you’ll think about everything you’ve felt or heard here today; the empowering energy we have felt together. We really must begin somewhere and this change will take on whatever momentum for community and family wellness that we decide to put into it. We can honestly take accountability and decide whether we will or will not permit harmful and despicable acts among us as a society of incredible human beings. No one deserves this hell for a life. No one should be so easily, casually, or grudgingly dismissed within our communities and closest circles.

When you ask yourself what can I do about Modern Day Slavery, Exploitation, Servitude, Human Slavery, Human Trafficking; please remember to just do something. Look beneath the surface of what you do see. Be the one a shining light on the acts that destroy and cycle through what we see in the common everyday dysfunctions and behaviors that lead our children into danger, our streets filled with crime, a society using deadly drugs and addictions to cover up the pain, mental & physical health problems that might just be our remaining injuries and wounds from the traumas we endured; at least for the ones who actually survive. The ones who aren’t living so isolated and tormented they are driven to complete the acts of suicide, simply because they are suffering but no one is hearing their trapped voices and their rolling silent tears. If we want to be the beginning of a new way, an equal and humane way in our society, then when are we really going to start being the voice of hope and change? Are we going to decide to continue this massive cycle of life altering learned behaviors and distress of others?

Thank you, to everyone who has believed in my voice. You are now my energy and my hope, you are colleagues or resources I depend on to do the very best I can; will those reading this also join us? Today I’m finally starting to believe in my worthiness as a human being. Today I believe in my worthiness of life, without expectation of dominance and servitude.

Be well, Live Free & Really Dream Big because you are the minds and the hearts that will make any possibility of change a reality for the magic that lies within each and every human being on this amazing place called Earth. Always believe anything is possible with you in the active equation of life!!!


Trish McKnight


Butterfly Dreams Alliance NFP

Breese, IL



Your Voice Radio Network

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Who I am today


miracles-happen  “I’m not feeling sorry for myself, so please don’t pity me, it really just makes the situation worse. What I need is to know that something I say or do or write will help you support someone whose been harmed, as well as prevent or intervene when something happens in your circle today.”

Over the past ten years I’ve been on a reality mission to figure out who I am, without focusing on what has been done to influence my past beliefs and behaviors. Learning about the aftermath of my personal war and the influence I have left on those I treasure most. This is not an easy process and one which comes and goes in different situations and challenges as I get stronger and learn more about myself and the actions of others; all resulting in who I am today.

My idea of self appreciation and self worth was never developed because I was put in my place, and lived in the example of who THEY thought I was or the value I carried as a person. Tragically, just in America, we have 3.7+ Million children still living in those same types of environments today. Even worse is that myself and millions of others know exactly who that child might become tomorrow, especially if they are not given help or have at least one positive person who gives them something more to believe in and seek to achieve a greater good.

My stepfather, Malcolm White, was truly walking evil; to me he was and always will be the devil himself. In fact, he used to quote; ‘Heaven doesn’t want me and the Devil is afraid I’ll take over’. I knew in my heart that he would definitely kick the Devil’s ass and de-throne him without an ounce of effort. However ridiculous as it might sound, I am still afraid of his ghost some six years or more after his death. I can still feel him lurking around like an animal after his most favorite prey. I can’t sleep for more than three or four hours at any one time, then suddenly I’m shocked awake and for a split second I’m still in harms way, even though I truly am not.

For Malcolm, the violent molesting attacks that began before he married my mother was not enough. His appetite for cruelty and deviate influence progressed to the point I became HIS PROPERTY; my mother, Mona, stepped aside and did absolutely nothing to help me or care for me ever again. I was told to shut up and stop whining. I still hear this from my siblings today on the rare occasion I speak to them at all. For me the only family I had died in March 1989 and I still mourn his death today. I just stopped by his grave last week and thanked him for helping as much as he could. He was just a boy, a boy who willingly lived in our home until he was 22yrs old; but he was a boy who stepped in front of Malcolm’s rage more than once and he stepped in front of the loaded weapons pointed at my head. He would have taken that bullet rather than see me be harmed. For John, I will never have the chance to repay what he did for me, which was the best that had happened until I was 40 yrs old.

Malcolm influenced my sexual behavior with other boys and men within the community of Freeburg beginning around age 11, when he first arranged a special party with a case of beer and about five neighborhood boys who hung with my brother. I was instructed on who to invite, how to dress, and what to encourage and allow these boys to do with me. It is the most shameful and disgusting memory that I carry. I attended school with these boys. I saw them hanging in the park everyday, and I would party with them being my ‘friends’ for the next five years.

It was just a few weeks later he took me to JB Tavern, just two blocks from our house, where my mother worked and all the coalminers hung out. I was fed double shots of vodka with orange juice, so many that I puked the entire evening and next day. We were there for about two hours when Dave and a crew of miners came in to shoot pool and toss back a few beers. I was given a dollar for the jukebox and instructed on how to ‘shake my ass’ as I played the music. I was asked to pick out the cutest guy, and then taken to his table and offered out for a trip out back or in the car; all it would cost is a couple of beers. This was my value if I had any at all, and when he looked at Malcolm and said; ‘She’s just a kid’, I was taken to the car and beaten for being so ugly no one would ever want anything to do with me at all. ‘I was lucky they wanted to ‘f***’ me’. This was who I became and just part of how I was used until I finally escaped, running to move in with the first guy who asked; a guy from thirty miles away who didn’t know anything about me or my family history. I just needed to get away before I either killed Malcolm or he killed me.

At that time I was 17yrs old; he was going to purchase a mobile home and put me on a plat of ground where he would have his own special key to come over anytime and bring whomever he wished. I didn’t care who helped me get away and I certainly didn’t take time to evaluate who he was or how he treated me. As a result of my inability to realize the inner cruelty he had, the following two years would be almost deadly on a weekly basis.

In the influence of my parents, I became the perfect lifetime victim. It didn’t take much kindness for me to open my legs and my heart; for me to seek their approval regardless of the cost, so long as I felt they wanted me. My behaviors became coping strategies. I was fed a case a beer before I turned 10 years old. It was the way Malcolm reduced my rejections or put me in a manipulating and controllable condition. I was given my first joint before I was 12 and to say the least, this is what I depended on to numb the loss and disgust that I couldn’t escape. Lance was the first to give me cocaine, and I even did a few small hits of acid; but it definitely was not for me and the cocaine was too expensive, so my constant state of being was either drinking or high, or both until I got pregnant and left the country. It was a blessing to be removed from all that surrounded me, but the man I married was not the same man I lived with over there. This man had me in the perfect place; I couldn’t escape and had no one around to talk with or convince me that I wasn’t as low a piece of crap as he insisted I was. Our society wasn’t even discussing the acts of child abuse or family violence back then and I definitely didn’t know anything other than what I had been so well trained to accept; it was my ‘normal’.

From 20 to 40 there was a handful of failed and cruel relationships, some more violent and destructive than others, but each a reflection of the only thing I knew. I fought constantly trying to absorb all of the bad so that my kids would never know that type of pain; however, I didn’t realize just how the chaos was affecting them and the example of womanhood I was giving my daughters. Imagine seeing your mom be beaten to a pulp while you’re sitting at the kitchen table waiting for her to come eat dinner with you. Suddenly the perfect plate of food she delivered to him goes flying across the room, and because she wasn’t going to sit on the couch with him, she was thrown, kicked, punched and slammed against walls, the stove, the sink and the door. Finally the fighting stops and she comes into the table, trying to calm your little sister and get everyone to eat as if nothing happened. Imagine the confusion and human value your children learn in our examples of tolerance. How do you think they will grow to see the world and what value they will hold precious about themselves? What will their children learn and how will they behave in school or in the teenage social situations as they develop?

This is our human conditioning and it leaves an ugly mark on all those affected. It distorts our value of ourselves and how we treat others. Some might become extreme protectors and put the needs of others higher than the needs of themselves and their happiness. Some might become lost in drugs, alcohol, or even deviate attacks on others. Some of those like me get so lost they can’t get out and are emotionally wounded forever; these are those prone to submissive and self harming behavior, that which commonly ends in suicide or overdose ending in death. They can’t hold productive steady employment and have chronic health conditions which studies are finding are actually early onset conditions that first show up as Juvenile Fibromyalgia or Early Post Traumatic Stress; conditions that hold trigger reactions before the person is old enough to realize the effect at all. The overall economic cost to society, becomes the taxpayers burden because of these invading health and emotional conditions that cause a reduction or inability to sustain in self supportive life development. Most have difficulty in learning skills or the development of healthy, productive life skills. After all when did they have time to concentrate on homework or study for that big test?

Personally, I’ve got so many injuries and health problems my body and my daily life are a mess. The cost of my constant healthcare in pain management, medications, various procedures, circulatory and pulmonary progressive diseases; I’ve been on disability since 2007. I would have to say that the worst of my conditions today is the permanent spinal cord trauma which has caused elongated cystic sacs to grow inside of my central canal, a condition called Syringomyelia. This alone causes wide spread severe pain, but add in the intense Fibro & Head Trauma and you’ve got a disastrous mess. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, so please don’t pity me, it really just makes the situation worse. What I need is to know that something I say or do or write will help you support someone whose been harmed, as well as prevent or intervene when something happens in your circle today.

Victims and Survivors need to know that their suffering and their voice matters to someone; that someone cares enough to help heal the wounds and make us stronger so that we can provide a better life for ourselves and more importantly our children. We need the law changes to prosecute these types of repeat heinous offenders. For most of us, we will never be given a chance at justice, because the laws of our past allow absolute minimum time to report or press charges; in Illinois these offense statutes allow only ONE YEAR after victim’s 18th birthday. Hell, I didn’t even know what the word trafficking was and definitely feared this couple so much, along with the condemnation of those around me; my life was something so destructive and disgusting I couldn’t tell anyone what happened to me at all until I was around 35 years old. Some knew that my childhood wasn’t pleasant, but no one, including myself, really knew just how evil and tragic it was.

We are NOT our parents, and we do NOT have to live in the sorrow, pain, and pattern of harm or victim they taught us. We have a choice today and we can actually use the strength of amazing survivors who are finally able to discuss what’s happened; use their courage to speak up as a precious gift. This is a strength beyond measure they cling to and can use, not just to help themselves, but to influence how we help and how we can truly save the life of someone else today. You can be the one to step in and take the bullet; you can stop the bleeding and help stitch up the wounds of our kids lost in the pattern of destruction, crime, drugs, and harm they are trying to survive today. Please don’t sit on the sidelines and judge what that person should or shouldn’t do, because until that same personal violation is against you, then you can never know how it feels or the damage it causes. You may be stronger than they are and bounce back with no problem, but you may watch someone else slowly disintegrate so horribly that it becomes their own extinction.

Today I use my past, all of it; my behaviors and my pain, my bad choices and the influence I’ve seen continue in my children and grand children’s lives; I use all of this hoping that somehow I can help empower one other survivor to believe they absolutely matter. Hoping that I can inspire one victim to get help for themselves and their family. Hoping that I can change the offensive behavior of someone who has been harmed, but reacts and attacks others in their pain. We DO NOT have to harm others or devalue ourselves, because on this amazing planet; every life and every breath taken truly matters and we all have the power to do something about it.

Be a Hope-Line & save a life

Thank you for reading & I do hope you’ll share

Love for all,


Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery

Author: ‘My Justice’     mj-2  

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