I'm Gloria Moraga; welcome to the One-On-One podcast. I write about the power of communication.
Including the difficulties, many of us encounter when we try to connect and talk with each other.
Please subscribe, share and comment. My website is gloriamoraga.com. You can find this interview, essential links, and videos there. Gloriamoraga.com.
This episode of One-On-One is pretty special. We are talking about one of the most severe problems facing Americans and people around the world.
Human Trafficking. Basically, slavery in the year 2021. It is the buying and selling and exploiting human beings. For American's, this is not something that is happening over there.
It is here in our country.
My guest is Kay Levesques; Kay and her husband Sean are the founders of Love2hope.
The Levesques' believe communication and education are powerful tools that can fight Human Trafficking.
Gloria: Thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time.
Gloria: Tell me about yourself. Your mission. Your husband and what you are doing?
Absolutely. My name is Kay Levesques. I'm married to Sean Kevesqye, and we have three kids. Connor is seventeen. Rene is fourteen. And Caden is twelve.
We run an organization called Love2Hope; that was established…well it started in my heart back in 2012. I didn't know that Trafficking existed.
I had a sleepless night. I got up to watch television, a documentary was playing, and it was one of the most heartbreaking moments.
I literally had no idea, and I knew then that I had to do something. All I could think about was my daughter. What if that was my daughter?
What would I do? What would I not do? And that set me on a course to become educated, believing that awareness is really prevention education.
Awareness will lead to action, and action will lead to change.
My goal, our goal at Love2Hope, is to educate audiences across the United States on what Human Trafficking is. How it happens, what the process is. What are the warning signs, and what can people do about it.
That was 2012, and eventually, by 2016, we knew we wanted to educate full time. Our family launched a road tour.
We sold our home, everything in it, we bought a fifth wheel and traveled across the United States, speaking and educating audiences in twenty-five different states in two years.
Gloria: Wow! That is a big commitment. Maybe give us a mini-education. What do you tell your audiences? I hear you are very informative but also quite powerful.
When I discovered Trafficking existed, I thought, for sure, that has to be another country kind of thing. I thought that's a third-world country issue. We cannot be in the United States selling Human Beings. That's not possible.
But as I began to research and read more, that is exactly the case.
Human Trafficking may look different in the United States than in other countries, but it is very rampant. The fact of the matter is, it does exist.
And it is an epidemic.
It is the second-largest criminal activity in the United States. It surpasses the sale of Illegal weapons, the buying and selling of Humans.
The average age in America that a girl is first introduced into Trafficking is about fourteen years old, between twelve and fourteen.
It's really important that we speak and educate young people on Trafficking.
You mentioned that you've seen movies on Trafficking; there are some good ones, but a lot of them are perpetuating some of the misconceptions that we have about Trafficking and how it looks in the United States.
For example, we do feel that Trafficking happens primarily through abduction. So we talk a lot about "Stranger-Danger" and making sure we are protecting our kids from the "Shady-White Van" in the neighborhood or don't go to the bathroom without a friend, or stay in the groups when you are in the mall. Those are all really good safety tips.
But Trafficking in the United States takes place mainly through coercion.
Our teens are being lured in, groomed, and tricked into being Trafficked. And that is a whole different ballgame.
All right, tell us how this works? How does a fourteen-year-old get pulled into this? How does it work?
Typically, it's through an older boyfriend. Traffickers are really good at seeing vulnerability in teenagers. And the greatest vulnerability teenagers have is their age.
They are just young. So, teenagers are easily duped. They fall for Romeo, the Knight in shiny armor. Traffickers are looking for some kind of vulnerability within that human.
The number one human need is to matter, to be loved, to be known. And there are unfortunately too many teenagers that don't feel they matter, don't think that somebody loves them unconditionally, don't like themselves, don't like school, don't get along with their parents.
That's called teenagers.
That's just how it works. It's part of life.
So traffickers will find one of those vulnerabilities, and they will move in for the purpose of exploiting that.
They will come alongside a girl and make her fall in love with him. Buy her gifts, take her on dates.
For all the stranger-danger talk, she pretty much thinks she got that covered because this looks like a guy that she knows.
A guy that cares about her, that cares to know her, that she's befriended because he's bumped into her at the coffee shop or at the mall.
She typically will develop a dating relationship with him that eventually turns exploitative.
All kinds of things happen, emotionally and mentally, in a teenager that's in love. Now she does not necessarily understand what she is being asked to do.
But she has bought the dream or the vision of them together.
That is one of the most common ways teenagers are Trafficked in the United States.
That's called "Romeo" or "Boyfriend" Trafficking.
Another type of Trafficking that, unfortunately, happens quite a lot in America is "Familial Trafficking."
That is when a parent or a family member is selling their child to get a fix, pay rent, or get drugs.
That, unfortunately, happens quite a bit in the United States as well.
And, of course, there is online exploitation.
But those are the two primary types of Trafficking.
Gloria: So the people that teenagers, or a young woman or young man love the most betrays them.
Ya. Unfortunately, it looks like that both in the family and when you are talking about that "Romeo" Trafficking as well. Because that girl or boy is truly in love. Then things turn very exploitative.
Gloria: If education is the number one way to combat this problem, what can we do? When you said Human Trafficking is the second most pervasive crime in the United States, I was shocked. What can we do?
Thankfully there are a lot of things. (we can do)
We have to look at not only the supply but what is perpetuating the supply, the demand.
When we look at the demand side of things, there are all these angles to taking on Trafficking.
It's like that analogy, "Babies in the River." I don't know if you've heard that,
Babies in the River, there are people at the bottom of the River trying to rescue the babies that keep falling into the River. But there also needs to be people upstream to find out what is causing the babies to fall into the River.
There are going to be both sides, and thankfully, we need people on both sides.
When it comes to Trafficking, you have to understand the "three-pronged" approach. There's awareness, there's an escape, and there is restoration. And all the things that go in between.
But obviously, we have a shortage of services for Trafficking victims. The safe-houses, there's a shortage, the therapy, and trauma-informed care there is a shortage, the money there is always a shortage that is required to reintegrate and helps heal a victim of Trafficking.
My passion is on the prevention side; what do we do to prevent more girls and boys from being Trafficked? That is through awareness. It's about educating teenagers, and it's also looking at the demand side of things.
And not just educating teens but educating the parents, educating the health care workers, the neighbors; it's a whole gamut of bringing people together to understand Trafficking.
Because there are so many victims who don't even self-identify as victims because they think if they weren't pulled out from under their bed, tied up, beaten, and sold on a ship somewhere in another country, they must not be trafficking victims. So it's helping to develop perspective and language and all of that through communication.
So real simple things you can do, through your home or social media or a platform for bringing awareness.
Bring a speaker in who can talk to you about Trafficking who can teach you about warning signs, who can show you about the grooming process and show you how to have conversations with your kids and when to have conversations with your kids and what you possibly say to them without scaring them, but you are still keeping them informed.
Gloria: What do you say? How do you even describe this?
When I'm speaking to a group of students, they know they are coming to a talk about Trafficking; I just present to them as an educator. I just walk through what is Trafficking, all of the things I've told you. We'll sometimes play a video from Shared Hope International, which is about two ordinary girls who just got caught up in Trafficking and what they look like.
They can see the grooming process and what that looks like. We'll talk about things they can look out for their friends, as far as warning signs.
So it's a seminar, so that is an easier conversation because it's too a group and prepared.
When you are talking about, "what does one Mom say to one daughter or what does one grandma say to say to one grandchild, those conversations can be a little bit uncomfortable for the adult.
Our desire is to make that become, for the adult, a normal, continual conversation. Because our kids are inundated, with a sort of sexually charged normalized culture. (Our culture) Is just normalizing things to them on a daily basis that are really aren't normal or natural.
And so, we see way too much on screens.
One of the things on the demand side of things that is perpetuating Trafficking is pornography.
Pornography is a Gateway Drug to Human Trafficking. It is an epidemic in our home, and it is hitting our kids extremely young.
The average age that a young boy sees and becomes addicted to pornography is nine years old.
Girls are also becoming addicted to porn as adults.
So when we have a young culture seeing and becoming addicted to the sexual pervasiveness and abuse really things that we did not have access to at our age is changing the way they see themselves, the way they see the opposite sex, the way they see sex in general.
It is creating this attitude toward sex, even sexual abuse, that isn't safe. It is not a safe attitude.
Conversations at home start really young, with good pictures and bad pictures. And good touch and bad touch. And conversations about their identity and who they are, and where their value is found.
Unfortunately, the world is sending a message to children. If you are a girl, your value is found in what you can give. If you are a boy, your value is found in what you can take.
So there is this narrative running through the minds of our youth that is creating a culture that down the road leads to either giving or taking.
Right? In really perverse ways.
So the mom and grandma and dad at home are talking to their kids right away about the things they may encounter online, conversations they may have with their friends. Something that they may see on television, and they are helping that child navigate healthy relationships and healthy boundaries.
So it is a constant conversation.
But we still sometimes think, we can leave that to the schools or the churches, and we'll maybe have that talk one time when we take our kid out and tell them how babies are made. And then we are done.
But it just has to be a constant conversation.
So, in addition to that conversation about things that they are up against, you are creating that openness to communicate with you.
If something seems wrong, they know they are not going to freak on them. You can't go atomic.
It's not if you see pornography; it's when. Just come and talk to me about what you see. And I will help you process.
And then we talk to them about personal space. And what's acceptable for touch with certain people. And what it means to just say, no thank you, I don't want a hug.
It can start very young. We do offer a parenting course that walks you through from age two to up to teenagers.
I know your original question was, 'what do we do?'
We increase our awareness. We have continual conversations about Trafficking and sex and porn, and all the things that are happening online.
We give our kids mini-computers, and we don't have conversations with them that we know they will encounter.
We have to increase that conversation.
And then we just have to see the vulnerable.
Traffickers are just so good at seeing the vulnerable. So, we need to up our game. We need to stop living in this bubble of American comfort and pursuing the American Dream, and trying to keep ourselves happy and our kids safe and healthy, and we need to bust out a little bit and step into the lives of the vulnerable.
WE do that by volunteering at the zillion non-profits. They are working hard to break the cycle of poverty or addiction or broken families. Or the broken foster care. All these things can perpetuate Trafficking.
These non-profits are working very hard to stop the exploitation and vulnerabilities, and they need us.
And they need us. Not just our money, but they need our hearts and our hands too.
As we traveled across the United States, we said it to every audience, so I say it to your audience.
If you want to stop Trafficking, you gotta show up in the lives of vulnerable people and particularly vulnerable teenagers.
We are now stationary. My husband is executive director of Youth for Christ, an organization that is doing exactly what we say; they are showing up in the lives of vulnerable teenagers. To give them hope and show them they have a purpose.
We gotta beat the Traffickers in this engaging of the vulnerable.
You hit on something I constantly talk about, and that is communication. It can be so tricky at times. It's not getting easier.
We are talking about conversations; it's earning the right to be heard.
That's why we really want to talk to parents and to teachers because there are not always good parents.
The conversations should be, especially in the home, ongoing.
It's not; let's sit down and talk about something. But if you have older kids, maybe you haven't had those ongoing conversations, you didn't start when they were little, you didn't develop this language, you just can't come out of nowhere and say, "Hey, let's talk about porn."
That would be WAYYYYY out of your comfort zone. Then you might be able to say, I've been attending some seminars, or I heard this speaker, or I watched this documentary. And there is something I would like to talk to you about. And I've never shared this with you before; this might be a little uncomfortable, but I love you, and I care about you, and it would be so good if you would just give me a few minutes to tell you what I learned.
Sometimes a good documentary will help.
I'm trying to learn more about this subject. So you sit down with me and learn about it with me. Can we have a movie night? And let's put this on. It's not going to be fun, but I think that it will be cool.
And that can generate conversations.
So maybe start with a documentary.
Or, if they are readers, have them read a book. And look at the nuances together.
What would cause this girl to think like that? What would cause this boy to become so sexually addicted? And then you can bring it back to some of those things we've talked about; the 'epidemic of porn,' the 'lack of value in our culture.' And you can start laying that groundwork and begin having that conversation.
I also think it's really important that you know the communication preferences of the person you are trying to have a conversation with.
I find that with teenagers, with boys, especially, it's kind of shoulder-to-shoulder conversations that are going to work out. So you are not going to look them in the face and talk to them about pornography.
But you may see on the drive to school, or working in the garden, or maybe you're just heading to the movies and before the movie starts you are not face-to-face, but you say, 'hey, I want to talk to you about something serious.' So that conversation is more natural and comfortable.
What should you look for? What are some of the warning signs?
You hit on something there that is very key, that you have to earn the right to say these things to someone. What's the most important message that you have.
So if you are looking for some of the basic warning signs of somebody who is being trafficked or somebody who is being groomed for Trafficking, you are going to look for an older boyfriend, you are going to look at the boyfriend who is giving her lots of gifts. So she is going to have expensive gifts, maybe a jacket or a handbag.
Her hair and nails are getting done all the time. Things that are out of the ordinary. Those could be warning signs for her.
Again, that older boyfriend is working hard to make that person fall in love, right? So that is kind of the grooming process. There might be unexplained absences from school because she might be taking off to be with him.
But then, once the exploitation develops, you can look for physical signs of trauma. Sometimes there is this seasoning point when he, the Trafficker, is abusive. She might seem withdrawn from classmates or adults; she might change her peer group.
Most of the time, teenagers don't change their peer group. The kids stick with the same people throughout high school; if there is a big switch, that can be a warning sign.
A new tattoo. For most people who get a tattoo, the tattoo has a story behind it; they are proud of it, it means something to them.
Traffickers will tattoo or brand their slaves. So you can look for a new tattoo.
If a girl doesn't want to talk about it, or if she feels ashamed or she's trying to cover up that tattoo, that could be a warning sign.
Lack of eye contact with adults, especially men. Changes in dress or behavior.
Those are things you can watch for. If she is feeling really tired in class or if she is over-sexualized.
Those can all be signs of Trafficking.
Glo: If you look at some of the statistics, thirty million slaves in the world. It's trading in human beings; it's forcing them into labor, and sexual slavery, and commercial sex exploitation.
Ya, those numbers are enormous. Thirty to forty million people are caught up in Trafficking in modern-day slavery today.
May of those right here in free America.
It is a huge epidemic.
What perpetuates that, we talked about the demand side is money. Right? It's business. Buying and selling people is business. It's a $150 Billion industry.
The reason for that is, you can sell drugs or sell guns, but then you gotta replace that product.
If I own a human, I can sell that human over and over and over again.
From a Trafficker's mindset, it's good business, the business of selling humans.
Humans are the product.
It's an epidemic.
There are two main types of Trafficking, so when you are looking at that 30 – 40 million people in Trafficking worldwide. They are looking at the two common types of Trafficking, which is Sex Trafficking, which we have primarily been talking about today. And there is Labor Trafficking, which actually makes up the bulk of the number(s).
And then Labor Trafficking as a variety of businesses. There can be Child-Brides, Child-Soldier, Organ Harvesting, Domestic Servitude, those are all types of Labor Trafficking. And that is a huge problem, not just in other countries but in America as well.
We've got to get the information out there. We've got to educate. You can't go into fighting Trafficking uneducated. You can do a lot of damage, thinking you know stuff when you don't. And then you've got to get in your lane. You've got to find out where your gifts are, what side of the fight you want to be on, and then you've got to speak the knowledge that you have. And live the awareness that's you've got.
You've got to live it.
Glo: We are not talking about some boogyman who is coming in from another country; this is here, this is now, this is us.
We want to put everything in a neat package, so, like you said, if there is a quick fix for it, humans will take the path of least resistance. It's less of a problem if it is from somewhere else or from some other city.
In our mind, it's less of a problem, right? We don't have to worry about it because that is what takes place in other countries, or it's foreign girls being Trafficked, but that is not the reality of Trafficking.
Trafficking is families selling their kids. It's older men and women trying to exploit vulnerabilities and grooming and luring kids into things they don't understand. It is in our backyard, it is under our nose, it is online.
The Trafficking victim, well we think, well, if they get caught up in Trafficking, they are probably taken to another country somewhere.
They can be the barista at your coffee shop, they can be the girl checking you out at the counter, they can be the student in your youth group or your school.
We have to peel back and move away from what's easy, and we have to figure out what we will do.
Taking the path of least resistance which is, I'm just not going to do anything and just focus on these three humans, or however many you have in your family, I'm going to keep these kids in my nucleus protected and forget about the rest of the world, it doesn't work like that.
Especially when there is Familial Trafficking. If you think the family is a safe place and let everyone take care of their own family, there are many broken families out there.
You have to get away from your safe family and into the life of someone from a broken family. And you might be their only hope. And you've got to love them.
Glo: Lovely, wonderful. Thank you.
How are you? You seem very purposeful. And you are living a purposeful life. You sold your home; you sold your stuff. How are you and how is your family? And how do you keep doing this?
Thank you for asking. People ask me this all the time. How do you speak about something so dark so often? I'm reading and going to seminars.
When I first discovered that Trafficking existed, I took in information way faster than I was emotionally capable of receiving. Way faster. I gave myself secondary trauma; I was in a state of depressed paralysis for quite some time because I couldn't wrap my brain around the stories and the darkness and the depravity of man. And the loss of innocence of children.
It gets so dark, so fast, from things that you can't even speak about.
I had to learn that because something is uncomfortable doesn't mean you don't need to know about it. Because something is hard for you to take in doesn't mean you get to say, 'well, that's too difficult for me to understand.'
But we do have to guard our hearts. Guard your heart; it's the wellspring of life, right?
We have to protect our hearts, and we have to be aware of our own triggers; we have to get self-care and do things that put us back in a positive frame of mind.
Yes, look at difficult things, study difficult things but also study beautiful things and positive things. For me, that is God's word. And the truth and hope of that.
So when people ask me how do you spend so much time in the dark? For me, I spend so much time in the light and the truth of God's Word and who he is, and there's hope at the end of all of this. The hope of eternity.
We aren't on the road anymore. I actually miss it quite a bit. We did come off the road, spent two years traveling, and spent three years living in a camper. The five of us in 250 square feet had its challenges for sure, but it was beautiful doing what we felt we were supposed to do.
Gloria: Your website is?
Gloria: Love2Hope. Okay.
I'll tell you a story quickly about that. Love2Hope was named by my son, who at the time was seven years old. He named the Ministry we had been talking about.
We felt the Lord was calling us into ministry, and we were talking to our kids about what that might look like.
My little seven-year-old says, 'Well if I was going to name a Ministry, I'd call it Love2Hope.'
And his older siblings said, 'what does that even mean? It's stupid.'
But we just loved it. Because if you love, you love people well. That's why there is a little circle in our logo.
That's really where it's at.
Trafficking is an epidemic because our world has lost its sense of value.
It really is about loving well, about seeing the vulnerable.
We live in this cancel culture, right? Nobody can even share their opinions about being X'd out because somehow it was offended. We are in this self-preservation and attacking mode. If we can break that down and love people well by serving them, developing relationships with them. Then that brings people hope.
And when you have that, you don't have room for Traffickers who come in and tell you a bunch of lies; you just don't. There are too many people in their lives speaking the truth and showing you the truth, and that's where it's at.
So we are working Love2Hope; I am the primary speaker of Love2Hope, I do most of the educating. My husband is executive director of Youth for Christ.
So there is synergy with the stationary, and there is patience and persistence with the awareness side.
For the most part, we don't say no to the request to speak. We don't charge to speak. We are entirely free.
We have people who donate to us to continue to offer free information, so we can be national speakers and well-educated and offer information on a topic where we could charge a lot of money. But we don't, but we believe it's important that people hear about this. And we don't want money to be a barrier.
We think it's important that we talk about these things, and we feel we can empower to understand and make a change.
Glo: It's wonderful you took time out to talk to me. I cannot tell you how even right there, your last tips on how you stay energized and how you stay positive were just a wealth of information for people who want to do something but don't know what to do. And who is afraid of dark topics.
The world is dark. There is a lot of stuff out there, and it can make a person feel depressed, it can make a person feel afraid, make a person feel apathetic, and why bother because people are bad.
That is reality. On the other side of that, some people are doing good things, and organizations are engaged in the fight. Goodness in the world and hope in the world. And it's really important that we understand the darkness and that we help the light.
Thank you so much.
Thanks for your time.
Glo: For more information on Human Trafficking and what you can do, you can visit the Levesques' website: Love2Hope.com. And Share Hope International has a wealth of information on this issue.
I'll include the links on my website, gloriamoraga.com.
I am Gloria Moraga. Thank you for listening. Please subscribe.
I need your support.
Be safe and talk to each other, One-On-One.
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean App.