Episode #15 Transcript - Human Trafficking in a Modern, Tech-Driven World


Kelly: Hello, and welcome to the next episode of Thrive Unafraid with Doug Patterson and Kelly Sayre, where we’re gonna have the real conversations about real threats that we’re facing in today’s world to try and give you some real advice that’s actionable. So today we have joining us Kara Smith. Kara began her career as an intelligence analyst in the United States Air Force supporting critical missions spearheaded by the National Security Agency deploying to both Iraq and iga Afghanistan.

Later, she continued her intelligence career working with the Specialized Counter-Terrorism Unit within the FBI before she was recruited by deliver fund, a nonprofit that combats human trafficking. She worked side by side with law enforcement and survivors as the former chief of analytics, where she guided the organization’s strategic analysis and technological development that provided analysts, law enforcement, and private industry with the most [00:01:00] up-to-date practices, methodologies, and tools in the fight against human trafficking.

Her unique analytical capabilities and experience in combating counter-terrorism and human trafficking led her to open her own consulting firm where she provides expertise and guidance to her clients in the field of counter human trafficking intelligence and investigation methodology, curriculum development, and child safety.

And, during her spare time, which I don’t know when you have that… Kara is known to disappear off the grid, love it. Opting for camping and hiking trips in areas without cell coverage, far from the bustling pace of the modern world. So it’s so great to have you here. Kara, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show.

I am so excited because there are so many myths and fears that I hear from the everyday woman with their kids and they just don’t know where to go and I feel like I’m always repeating [00:02:00] myself with no that’s not real. Or please don’t share that video any longer. So without further ado, can you kind of connect the dots that led you to work to capturing human traffickers or working with the analytics side of it, of targeting and, and identifying them?

Is there a distinct moment that you recall saying, this is what I wanna do, or this is my calling?

Kara: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. Oh gosh, how did I end up where I am today? I think it all just falls back on my entire intelligence career. I like to ensure bad things happen to bad people and they’re held accountable for their actions. I am, I’m very much an evil crusher connoisseur.

Kelly: I love this.

Kara: I like to put it right and…

Kelly: Evil crusher. Connoisseur. That’s gonna be my new turn, man.

Kara: I, [00:03:00] I did counter-terrorism for over, gosh, over 10 years. And, I was taking a break because I have two children of my own. And, I was without work for two years and my brain was atrophying and I’m like, I need to get back to work. And I updated my LinkedIn, believe it or not. And, the CEO of DeliverFund recruited me because I happened to be in the right area with the right skillset and he was just really starting to develop out, deliver funds.

And, he’s like, here, you wanna hunt human traffickers? And I’m like, sure. And I’m like, what, what does that entail? Human trafficking, what is that exactly? Because there’s always just this huge cloud of what human trafficking is, and people really don’t know what it is until they’re formally taught.

I had the skill set. I had the [00:04:00] analytical skill set that had the ability to develop our curriculum and work with the methodologies I knew from the counterterrorism world to be extremely effective against combat and human trafficking. And so for five and a half years, that’s what I was doing with Delivery Fund. And I would say about four to six months into the Delivery Fund, I was like, yeah, I belong here. This is something that I really do love doing. And it just all falls back into making sure bad guys are held accountable for their actions.

Doug: So it’s one of those spaces where it’s a real problem. It’s a worldwide problem, but there’s a lot of noise and FUD in this space. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt. That kind of makes it hard for people to grapple with the problem because they’d rather talk about pieces of it than understand what it really is, [00:05:00] right?

And so there’s a lot of misinformation that gets spread about it. I mean, The movie Taken. Right? I mean, how big a disservice to the human trafficking fight did a movie like that do or did it bring attention to it?

Kara: Well, although I do love the quote, I have a particular set of skills because I do, know, taken really, actually damaged. The fight against human trafficking before the fight really even started to get very prominent within the US itself. It was just very much a Hollywood bedazzled version to scare people and to entertain human trafficking in itself.

It happens everywhere throughout the world. There’s different types of human trafficking. It’s not just sex trafficking. It’s not just labor trafficking. There’s child brides. [00:06:00] There’s about seven different types of labor trafficking and different ways. There’s organ trafficking as well, and it’s so broad and it’s such a big problem.

I guarantee it touches every single person’s life in one way or another. I mean, we could get into the whole cobalt mine issue right now and be here for four hours just talking about that, right? So, the problem is with human trafficking, just, down and dirty, it is somebody who is under force, fraud or coercion, by somebody who’s exploiting them for their labor, right?

And then if that person is under the age of 18, they’re doesn’t need to be forced into fraud or coercion. Somebody just has to be manipulating them into an act of labor. And that’s the broad, heavy, 30,000 foot overview. But what happens is [00:07:00] that people here in society, especially within the United States, would very much like to believe a comfortable lie over an uncomfortable truth. So that’s where you see the crazy conspiracy theories on social media and them going viral of children in Wayfair cabinets and zip ties and fentanyl laced roses. They’re just going to steal you. The creepy guy that followed me around a big box store. People will automatically start thinking the most uncomfortable lie they could think. They think that they’re going to get snatched up and taken away. But in reality, and you both have talked so perfectly on situational awareness and knowing where you are and how you’re going to react, people would rather not even be prepared for that and look at what the real situation is.

They would just rather think it’s not gonna happen to them. [00:08:00] And so the uncomfortable truth that these people are ignoring is that it is happening all around them. It literally touches everybody’s life in one way or another. And to protect yourself and your family, you’re going to have to work exponentially hard on communication.

Digital safety relationships with your children. And for a lot of people that’s just way too much work and a little too scary thinking that it could actually touch them. So society tends to lean towards the myths, the unrealistic things that are happening like you would see and take. No, you’re not going to get kidnapped in a place in Europe and be sacrificed for blood rituals.

It’s just not, it’s not gonna happen. Right? Yes. Do scary things happen? Yes. Do situations where people get kidnapped for ransom and other things [00:09:00] happen? Yes. Do minors get taken off the streets here in the US and have things happen to them? Yes. But it’s at such a small scale that’s not what needs to be focused on.

Kelly: Mm-hmm.

Doug: So, you talked about it touches every one of us. So it’s not a stretch to say that if people are wearing blinders intentionally, that they’re enabling the continuation of trafficking. That they’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Kara: Absolutely. And it’s not that they’re meaning to be…

Kelly: Right. I was like, Ooh, go. That one’s, that one cuts deep.

Doug: Well…

Kelly: And it’s true. I’m just saying oof, that’s a new way of hearing it. And that’s what we need. We need to hear some of these uncomfortable things.

Kara: There’s a lot of ways to enable human trafficking by being unaware of… especially with here within the United States. Here, [00:10:00] the domestic sex traffic industry is deeply intertwined and interlaid with commercial sex. That’s how traffickers sell their victims in the domestic sex trafficking industry in the United States, right?

So anything that perpetuates commercial sex is also perpetuating domestic sex trafficking.

Doug: I’ve heard you talk before about Only Fans, for example, and, and the fact that traffickers have, obviously, they, they shift, they move to environments that are enabling them to make money, right? Because that’s what they’re doing this for. And, so you may have a consumer of only fans who doesn’t think that they’re touching the trafficking world, but OnlyFans as a platform, a hundred percent supports the trafficking world.

Kara: They do, and it’s unfortunate the traffickers, they look for the next opportunity to scale their business. [00:11:00] Traffickers like to believe that they’re entrepreneurs and they’re illicit, illegal entrepreneurs. And so when they see something that is working for the world to bring in the money, they’re also going to jump right on top of that and use it themselves.

And, I worked so many investigations with law enforcement, state, federal, and local. I would ride along with them. I would be with them in hotel rooms during sting operations and things like that. And especially post 2020 when only fans became extremely big you started seeing these trafficking victims.

They all had Only Fans. They all started digitally marketing themselves at the direction of their trafficker to make as much money as possible to scale that operation. And so what’s really, [00:12:00] terrifying is that there are, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna point it out specifically, males out there that are subscribing to Only Fans accounts, and they might be subscribing to a trafficking victim and have absolutely no clue that that is happening.

Doug: Because it’s under the false guise of personal agency, right? They present it as their personal account, but in reality, it’s no different than a prostitute working on the street who is under the control of a pimp.

Kara: Correct. And that’s another thing. It’s like the terminology itself of if a prostitute is working under a pimp, she’s a trafficking victim, because prostitution in itself is, the act of exchanging a sexual favor for something of value and being able to keep all those proceeds, right? So prostitution is a willing act by somebody who’s not under force, fraud, or coercion.

So a prostitute [00:13:00] technically shouldn’t even have a pimp if they are a real prostitute. And that’s another thing. Where were we? I will say it myself as a society are enabling it by not enforcing and constricting, specific verbiage, but then that goes down the rabbit hole of verbiage that is so intertwined within our legal structure.

There needs to be a complete overhaul and paradigm shift on so many different levels.

Doug: And emotion as well. It’sconnected to emotion behind those words, but you can’t arguably identify, and we learned this in the CT fight, you can’t arguably identify the correct targets if you don’t use the right language and the right terminology and, and understand the culture that you’re operating in there.

So that’s definitely got some challenge with it.

Kara: Yeah. And , that’s, that was the hardest part about my job with Deliver Fund, was learning a whole new target set. That’s where that was. And then that target set eats [00:14:00] you apart while you’re learning it on a daily basis. Right. And, it gets really frustrating because the target set itself is very front facing.

It’s not deep, dark web secret transactions. It is front facing on the internet. I am two clicks away from opening a browser to finding a trafficking victim. I am another two clicks away of putting on my Spotify and listening to music that’s perpetuating that. I’m another two clicks away from going to a SoundCloud account to listen to a trafficker’s music that I’m targeting, and he’s making money off of the streams, right?

So it’s all right there out in front of you and it’s all perpetuated in front of you and you, you see it everywhere you go once you see it.

Kelly: And is that hard? I guess this is a little bit of a segue, but I feel it’s [00:15:00] important to talk about because you’re saying it’s so front-facing. Is that hard for you to talk about this outside of, a work situation or working with law enforcement? Because you just feel like I don’t even know where to begin.

I don’t even know what to say. And if I told you some of the stuff I knew in a casual conversation with coffee. With a friend. You would stop listening to music, you would stop watching movies, you wouldn’t watch tv. All of these things kind of… I’m just gonna keep this to myself because otherwise people will just think I’m maybe being dramatic.

When in actuality it’s that close, that close to “normal lives”, normal everyday activity. It’s two clicks away.

Kara: Oh gosh. Yeah. It hard, it’s hard talking to people. I totally am a buzz kill [00:16:00] sometimes I don’t even remember where I was, like at a barbecue a couple weeks ago and somebody started using some terminology and I’m like, you just said what a pimp says to his victim, right?

I’m like, that’s how they describe that. And then they’re, we’re all drinking beer, having a barbecue. And they’re like, what? I’m like, what?

Kelly: I’m just trying to educate you.

Kara: Yeah. you find like, well, so in a professional setting, there’s, and in a personal setting, there’s only two types of people, well, there’s three types of people when you’re talking about human trafficking. There’s the ones that want to learn and they want to go, oh, wow I’m gonna, I’m gonna be more cognizant of that in the future.

I might not buy that artist’s music anymore, or, Oh, wow. Now that I hear it, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. Thank you. It’s, it’s, it’s good to [00:17:00] learn. And then there’s, they’re usually the sex buyers. No. Those girls. No, those girls just do it because they want to, they just wanna be put through college or No, that doesn’t happen here.

No, you’re full of it. Stop spreading lies. And I spend maybe 0.2 seconds on them and I move on because you’re never gonna change their mind because they just…

Kelly: No.

Kara: And they literally just had it flip in their mind that they… oh, well, I support slavery. But they’re not going to correct their ways. They’re…

Doug: They need that friction to hide behind.

Kara: That they’ll hide behind it. And then there’s people who, usually that are the suburban, kind of type moms who live in their own little bubble. And they’re like, I don’t really need to know about that stuff, and I don’t wanna know about that stuff. I’m happy with my life and I don’t need to think about anything like that.

And then they just chug along and it’s [00:18:00] like, okay. I’m like, all right.
That’s your prerogative. And then you feel very bad for that person because they might have their own child trafficked.

Doug: That’s no worse for their kids than for that person.

Kara: Yeah.

Doug: Because they’re not doing a job protecting their kids.

Kara: Yeah, and they just wouldn’t, they rather believe it doesn’t happen.

And they’re the same suburban moms who are gonna share the viral posts on social media. So that’s, those are the kind of the lanes. And yeah, it is difficult. but, like I said, I try to spend my spare time away from humanity in general, so…

Doug: So sometimes we’ve talked about the concept of security theater, which is the appearance of doing something rather than actually doing something, and I think those. Social media posts about zip ties or or whatnot, really firmly fall into that security theater space. It makes people feel good, I forwarded this thing and therefore I’ve done my [00:19:00] bit.

Rather than sit there and go, Hey, yeah, we need to have a hard conversation at home about what happens at the Super Bowl. Right? And, when traffickers come to town or, that cobalt mining and what does that mean? Or, those sorts of things.

Kelly: Well, and, and the whole conversation before that you said, and I will be completely honest to me, when it comes to cybersecurity or safety with my kids and their devices, I am constantly overwhelmed because just when I think I’ve figured out all the security settings and all the right apps and all of the things that need to be done, there’s a security update on their iPads, and these are school iPads or, well, I shouldn’t say we, they have one iPad at home that, okay, you can only use it, this is the limits. 

But every time there’s a security update, I’m like, well, what changed? What do I need to look at? Or, hey, have you heard of X, Y, Z app? And I’m like, [00:20:00] no. There was an app Doug told me about and it came up in a situation where there was, I’d say, early teen girls at a sleepover. One had this app and had an either an inappropriate picture was sent or conversation was had, and I was like, I’ve never even heard of this app.

What are you talking about?

Doug: Omegle?

Kelly: Yes. Was that the one where this teen sleepover? And that’s what gets so frustrating as an adult. And I will admit, there’s days where I’m like, and I just can’t right now. But what I can do is a relationship with my children is having the conversations and it’s not, well, who are you talking to?

Well how do you know them? It’s, Hey. Oh, getting curious with them because I don’t want them to shut down. I don’t want them to not talk to me, so I’m gonna pretend like I really care about Mech Arena or, whatever he’s into, or his, Pacific Rim [00:21:00] racing game and ask questions like, oh, can you do chats?

Like is it a private chat? Can you ask questions like that to get information and trying to get them talking with me, is that, would you say that that’s a, and I’m not looking for, oh, yes, Kelly, you’re doing a good job. But I think overall, if there’s one thing that, hey, we get that you can’t be an overnight expert in cybersecurity, but you can always talk to your kids.

Kara: That’s the most important thing you can do when protecting your children is talking to your kid. Being cognizant of their activity online at the bare minimum, having as many parental controls set up as you possibly can. I think the first thing you have to do is when they’re young start when they’re… the first time they have a tablet in their hands. They have to know that you can just [00:22:00] take that from them at any time. I like to say you are the overseeing God of the electronics and the internet connection in your household. One, you’re paying for it. Two, you bought it, you bought it.

Three, they’re your children until they leave your home at the age of 18 and legally are are out there. Right.

Kelly: Right.

Kara: It’s super important to do that. Now people probably are like, why are we talking about kid security? How did that happen? How did we move that along from the trafficking conversation?

I think it’s important to point out that, more than half of the federal trafficking victims that were in cases in 2021, were recruited online and then 80% of them were actually sold online. And so we talk about, speaking with our children, [00:23:00] having a communication with them, talking about electronic safety, having those parental controls.

Why? Because the people who are going to your children are not the strangers in the grocery store. Or the person knocking at the front door. It’s the person that’s gonna be sliding into their DMs and talking to them.

Doug: And spending two hours after midnight, on this chat function.

Kara: And learning that, learning their weaknesses, wanting to become their friend, finding where their vulnerable vulnerability is to fulfill that and guide a wedge between you and your child. And so having that relationship. Being as big of an expert as you can with whatever device or whatever games they’re playing, that’s where it’s important.

The most important thing that you can do is to teach your child to communicate with you about what they’re doing online. So if something doesn’t seem right that they come to you and they say something right away, [00:24:00] and start instilling that as young as possible and there’s no way that you can in today’s society, separate your child from an electronic device. The schools issue them, the electronic devices, and as much as we’d like to think that our school systems are up to date on keeping bad actors and bad things off of their electronics, you, we all know this. We never trust the government.

So let’s go, let’s go ahead and take matters into our own hands. 

Kelly: They’re all human too, and my kids are like, in fact, it happened this year was something, and I forget again what app, whatever, but I got a message from the IT security director at her school saying, Hey, give your kid your oldest, kudos because. She’s like, whether or not, he didn’t snitch, he didn’t say who did it, but he said, a friend of mine said, Hey, you should put this on your iPad.

And my son [00:25:00] said, I can’t, locked down. And the kid grabbed it, did a workaround to get around the security wall, whatever was set up and downloaded it. And my son was like, ah. And he went and turned it in right away. Wouldn’t tell who did it, but he was like, I know that this is not supposed to be on my iPad.

So don’t think for a second to your point that just because the school issued and they have an IT security director, that it’s gonna keep everything safe.

Kara: Yeah, and, and that’s the thing, there’s workarounds for everything. In the military we used to say there’s a waiver for everything. Well, there is literally a workaround on your electronic devices for everything. And you know who’s really good at figuring that out? Our kids, they are so good at figuring it out.

They’re so good at finding the cheat, finding the hack I get from, one of my children all the time, like asking a request to a website, [00:26:00] why do you need that? And he’s like, well, I needed to cheat for the game. And I’m like, no. Figure out the game any way you’re supposed to do it. Stop trying to cheat and I won’t give him access.

Doug: Well, it’s funny, the technology. So, a saying that I like to use a lot is you don’t apply technology solutions or infrastructural solutions to relational problems. You apply relational problems. The technology has to be an add-on solution to the relational aspect of your kids, right? Because if you just have an infrastructure solution and you don’t have a foundation of trust on what you build, they will always be playing whack-a-mole with you and you’ll be constantly trying to kill those workarounds and it won’t, there’ll be no way around it, right?

It has to start with the building a relationship of trust and care for your kids before you can apply those tools.

Kara: Correct. And that starts with eating dinner together, having time together away from the screens. It starts when they’re young and being able to [00:27:00] communicate with them properly, which, that’s even harder every single day because even now we, as adults we also, we confide in our electronics too.

That’s where we have interpersonal communications with a lot of our friends. I know that Doug and I have been talking on social media for a couple years now, and that’s, that is, the professional communication that we have back and forth. And so, teaching, teaching kids interpersonal communications and relationships and how important they are, not just with family but outside, it’s become harder, but it is so important because people don’t know who to trust anymore because they’re so used to communicating electronically.

Doug: So our listeners, the ones that see the social media posts about the zip ties, what would [00:28:00] you tell them they should be aware of and be concerned about in their day-to-day lives?

Kara: So, not necessarily your social media posts, but, when it comes to your, your own personal safety and your children’s personal safety, the biggest red flag is when somebody really tries to interject themselves into your lives, and they love bomb you, and there’s, they’re just the, they’re sweeter than sugar.

They’re extremely accommodating. They want to become your best friend or your child’s best friend, or they’re getting too close. Maybe they become secretive with whoever their target might be. Right? They’re not sharing everything. Your child is starting to be a little more grumpy when you’re taking away those electronic devices, out of the sorts.

Not just the, oh, I wasn’t finished with the game, but I mean, they’re getting mad, they’re getting angry. [00:29:00] Maybe they are coming home with gifts that you don’t know where they came from, or maybe they came home with electronic devices, changing their passwords on you. You can’t get into their passwords.

As a parent, that’s a hundred percent something you should always have is every single password to every single account that your child has, getting extremely vulnerable and that wedge is driving away your relationship with them. I get the best way to say it is coming across somebody that is too good to be true.

Then it’s too good to be true. It’s coming across a person who has a lot of wealth and they’re showing it off, but they don’t really have a job. You’re like, oh wait, that’s weird. Or they just call themselves an entrepreneur, but they don’t tell you what they’re doing in that entrepreneurial space.

[00:30:00] And a lot of people who like, who traffic specifically in the domestic sex trafficking industry, you’re gonna see them also, saying, oh, I’m part of. I’m part of the music industry. I’m a producer, right? So, that instinct, that red flag, gut instinct. If you feel that you always, you should follow it, which I know you guys have spoken to before.

Doug: And we talk about that a lot. Right? Going back to the book, the Gift of Fear from Gavin de Becker, right? There are, we are built with this fairly good detector that can sense when things are off. And what we often do is we doubt that detector, we get told not to be judgmental.

We get told to not listen to it. And I think what you’re saying is no, you, you gotta listen to that and, and hone that skill set of being aware of what’s happening and, and listening to it.[00:31:00] 

Kara: Absolutely. And I mean, when it comes to the trafficking aspects of that, usually the grooming process in a trafficking situation could go for months and sometimes even years. And so it might be gradual, but it’s gonna be there. But don’t be a frog and a pot of boiling water like jump go, wait, hold on.

Cut off that contact with that person. Take steps to speak with your team or whatever might be going on. Go ahead, get nosy.

Doug: If you can speak to that suburban parent or that school educator and tell them what the real risk is, it’s generally not that drive by in the parking lot after a football game or at the shopping mall, but it’s that multi-week, multi-month building of relationship with somebody who has ill intent and may be doing it online [00:32:00] in order to cause this their target to make bad choices and think for making good choices.

Kara: And, to that educator or to that parent, those that are most susceptible to being trafficked are those that are the most vulnerable. So, and it’s sad, but somebody who has a dual parent household who has that strong family nucleus or family going on, those kids are much less likely to be targeted.

It doesn’t say that they’re, I’m not saying that they’re not gonna be targeted, but they’re less likely the trafficker is gonna go after that kid who is homeless. Right? And they’re in the system, but they’re running away from the foster system, but they’re coming to school to get food because they know they’re gonna be fed there, or it’s going to be the girl that started experimenting with drugs and is [00:33:00] in a fight with a family member, and moved out to live with the aunt, or they’re with the grandma or, or something like that. Or it’s gonna be the gender minority, which are a lot of youth these days are starting to identify that way and they have a vulnerability and traffickers will exploit that.

And so, when we have those, gender minorities or people who identify a certain way, they’re actually trafficked at a higher rate than people who are not falling into those categories. And so the traffickers are looking for ways in and ways in specifically are through, social media, those selfies that are being posted on that open account where the girl is being self demeaning. Oh, this is an awful picture of me today. Trafficker sees that and they’re like, money, and they go right [00:34:00] in and they boost her confidence. No, send another, let me see a girl. Oh, you’re gorgeous. You know what? I bet you I could get you to model that kind of thing.

Kelly: Well, and I think it’s important to realize too, is they can be doing this to multiple individuals at a time. And so when we say, well, it’s months or years, they’re not solely focused on one individual for months or years. They’re constantly, it’s a cycle that then they find a new one and they start the cycle all over again because they’re, again, if they would use their entrepreneurial powers for good, they would be very successful.

And so unfortunately, they’re very successful. In not good ways is they’re trying to get, how much money can I make? How many individuals can I groom? Can I pull under my power, under my manipulation, my charm? , talk about Gavin Becker. Charm [00:35:00] is not a characteristic, it’s a verb. Why is this person trying to charm me?

Asking yourself that instead of, oh, they’re so charming. Well, why are they trying to charm me? What’s going on? And getting curious, if you’re, there was a great, New Zealand, just the country. I just shared these videos and I haven’t been able to go further and digging into ’em. I don’t know if you’ve seen ’em, Kara, but they’re doing kind of a PSA and one of ’em is, the child watching online porn and one is a young female who the boy that she’s been talking to shows up at the door and he’s not a boy, he’s a grown man.

And having those conversations and recognizing those dangers, but at least we have to start talking about it and showing parents, well, how do you talk about it? Because I think, similar to the example you gave before where, I’m just overwhelmed, so I’m just gonna pretend it’s not gonna happen here, is then [00:36:00] we’re not talking about it and people might say, I think there’s a problem.

I’m seeing some of the red flags, but I don’t know what to say to my kid. I don’t, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to start and not, and not having the conversation, so I always advise parents with any personal safety, well, ask your kids. Just get curious with them. Who, so who do you talk with on your game?

Who do you chat with and see what they tell you?

Kara: It’s like, oh, how do them? I’m like, well, do they know your real name? You better. They better not know your real name. I’m like, if  them, I would like to go speak to their parents. Please. and give that, give that a the, yeah. Be nosy. It’s… your right to be nosy. And I know a lot of parents are like, oh, I’m so uncomfortable talking about this.

But what’s worse, having an uncomfortable conversation with your child or your child running away from home? Because I’ll tell you exactly what will happen, especially when they’re a teenager and I’ve watched it happen time and time [00:37:00] again. They walk out of the house on their own accord, they leave on their own.

And so therefore, it’s not an endangered child. It’s not an amber alert that’s gonna go out for your kid. It’s a missing teenager. And a missing teenager. And that’s, that’s just the way it is. And there’s, gosh, I think it’s something like 350,000 children are reported missing to the FBI each year.

It’s around there.

Kelly: Oh my gosh.

Kara: And so, there, there’s a good chance they might come back, but there’s also a chance that they might not come back but, nobody’s gonna protect you but you, right? You have to be your own protector and take your own steps and defending yourself. And when it comes to exploitation, specifically trafficking, the best way to defend against that is to be aware and, [00:38:00] prepare for that ahead of time.

So that, Your child, somebody in your family doesn’t fall susceptible to that because once that happens, it’s very rare that there’s a much, there’s enough law enforcement support that they’re gonna be able to help you just based off the fact that they walked out of the house. Unfortunately, and I saw it time and time again, and I’ve seen it many times.

When the family recognizes, I think she’s being trafficked. She’s been gone for two and a half months. The last time I knew she was in Florida three weeks ago, and I’m like, there’s, it’s gonna be very, very, very hard to track that down. And even then, it’s going to even be, it’s gonna be even harder for law enforcement to do anything because the FBI doesn’t even press charges or anything when it comes to sextortion cases or anything like that.

When they’re over the age of 16, [00:39:00] right? There’s just too much going on. There’s not enough law enforcement, not enough resources, not enough jail cells, not enough judges,  so you have to do your part ahead of time, starting from the second and electronic device goes into your child’s hands.

Kelly: I think that’s so important to hear. That’s something that I hadn’t thought about. Yeah, if you’re teen there, there’s a difference. We all, well, if it’s my kid, send out an Amber alert it. It’s not a one size fits all thing. There’s only certain, it’s kind of like if everything’s an emergency then nothing is an emergency.

So there are guidelines for that and how and when it’s used. So understanding that, and again, that’s kind of to me, outsourcing. Your problems or your emergency situation, well, they’ll know what to do. Okay? Yes. And 350,000 kids [00:40:00] a year, I mean…

Kara: Another thing, let’s shift this mindset here when we’re talking, trafficking victims and child sex trafficking, in that term, you’re talking ages zero to 17, right? But the ones that are, don’t hit puberty yet. The ones that are younger that get trafficked, those are familial trafficking events.

Kelly: Mm.

Kara: I’ve never, in the five years, five and a half years that I worked at Deliver Fund. There was not one case of a minor under the age of 10 that was trafficked by a stranger that abducted them ever. I never saw it. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, I’m just saying I never saw it in five and a half years across…

Kelly: So that would be an outlier. That would be an outlier.

Kara: And so those children trafficked by their own family members at like 67% of them are their own mother trafficking them for drugs for the most [00:41:00] part, and then it will be, usually it’s like an uncle or it’s a coach, or it’s somebody very close to them in the family.

Then when they get over the age of 12, specifically females, when they start developing and they can be passed off as an adult, they’re being sold on front facing advertisements. Illicit advertisements, right? And so the trafficking itself and how it’s happening and the fear that as parents that we have of.

The kid being snatched away in the big box store, we focus too much on that and then we don’t focus on, yes our teenagers are gonna be manipulated by the stranger and taken away. Going back to the missing children’s number, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Endangered runaways.

It’s one in six that are most likely being trafficked on those numbers. And the age primarily of that is 14 to 16 [00:42:00] years old. It’s not, that smaller one. But because of thinking and fear, when we hear trafficking and we hear children, we automatically go, oh, my child’s on a field trip today without me.

Right? And so in your brain you’re like, oh, what’s gonna happen to them there? Right.You have to not be worried about that and be more worried about when they come home and they’re playing Minecraft and who they are talking to there.

Doug: And I think that’s a point we wanna make. We’re not doing this to scare our listeners out there. We’re doing it to increase awareness and to, to show you that you have some control in hands, that that will help you address what’s actually the highest level of threat your child’s likely gonna face, which is that online engagement with, with strangers, and so that you’re better prepared to deal with it, not to make you more scared.

How much has the news around the Jeffrey [00:43:00] Epstein case changed the national dialogue on trafficking at all?

Kara: I, the Epstein case, I hope it made, I hope, I really hoped it made people aware of what trafficking looks like, especially if you watched the Filthy Rich on Netflix. I was just like, oh, this is fantastic. They’re showing how it happens. The girl gets manipulated, she becomes a recruiter.

More girls that are vulnerable come in and I feel like the focus on what trafficking looks like and how it happened was very much overshadowed by Epstein and his connections and everything else. So, I hope the slight bit of awareness was brought forward, but it’s also been detrimental to bringing awareness to people because then they think, oh, all billionaires are trafficking women and this and that, and they think that trafficking situations are really rich [00:44:00] people with big elaborate underground networks and other things when it’s really, yeah, no, if you go five miles that way, I could find you a trafficking victim in a hotel room. And it’s very much more, compartmentalized individualistic traffickers that are the entrepreneurial mindset, but, the way that it happens, the mindset, the manipulation, the exploitation, fulfilling a need, paying for college educations or, hey, I gave you a hundred bucks today, but I’ll give you two 50 if you bring me another girl.

That’s exactly how it happens. It’s textbook. The only difference between Epstein and the traffickers that are out there right now, running girls on the track and downtown LA and Houston and all those places is that Epstein had a massive amount of money and resources at his hands.[00:45:00] 

Doug: So it’s like any industry, right? It’s not the big players out there that drive the industry. It’s all these mom and pop traffickers that are in every city in the country that are, are trafficking sexual victims, that are trafficking labor victims, that are, that they’re out there and it’s a growing business, not a shrinking business.

Kara: It’s the fastest growing illicit business in the world. Trafficking falls under, he always forgot if it’s guns or drugs, but it’s in the top three and trafficking is number two. and it’s the fastest growing business that exists out there because humans are a resellable commodity. I mean, traffickers know that they can resell them over and over. Drugs and guns, one, and you’re done right?

But with humans, they’re [00:46:00] easier to sell and put out there and they’re easy to replace. And there is unfortunately always gonna be a demand. There’s always going to be a customer. You’re not going to get rid of the purchaser. I wish we could. I know Texas is trying, they tried making the… it’s illegal… It’s a felony offense now to purchase sex. But the best way to go after traffickers themselves is to cut them off the head, the trafficker. Then there aren’t any more victims. And I think, when I did work for Deliver Fund, that was the best part about that organization is that they assisted in going after the trafficker and going after the problem.

And it’s a really hard, a hard fight out there, but it is possible to make a dent in it.

Doug: The, [00:47:00] we, we talked about how the first thing parents can do, or educators can do is, is look internal at their family, at their school, at their, their neighborhood and, and help kind of harden those walls in essence. Right?  But folks wanna also support those that are in the fight against this.

And there’s a lot of celebrity and noise out there in various aspects of this. Are there places you would direct people to, that are probably the best places to support folks in this fight?

Kara: So something that I highly suggest always is to do your research on the nonprofits that you’re supporting. So focus on where you wanna be effective in the fight and how you wanna help. Do you want to help law enforcement and make sure that they’re properly trained? Do you wanna make sure law enforcement has the proper tools?

Do you wanna help with education and understanding in the human [00:48:00] trafficking hotline? Right? Do you want to help survivors? And there’s so many nonprofits out there for survivor groups, but always do your research on them. Make sure that the way that you’re supporting ’em, whether it’s through your time or through your money, that it’s being used in the way you want it to be used.

When it comes to statistics, I’m always a big fan of Polaris. They are the ones that are in charge of the human trafficking hotline. If you wanna learn about trafficking and you wanna make sure that statistics are correct, I would always go to them. But when it comes to supporting a nonprofit, you’ve always just gotta go do your research.

Are they working here in the United States or are they working overseas? Are you wanting to fight overseas work? What does that entail? It’s just is always dependent on where you wanna put your backing. Me, personally, I like [00:49:00] to vote, right? I like to hound my politicians and see what their policy is and how they’re going to make a difference, because that’s one of the most effective ways that you could fight trafficking is, voting in politicians that are actually going to take action in the fight against human trafficking in the way that you want it done as well.

Sharing that information properly online, that’s also important.

Doug: Maybe. Some of the flashiest or sexiest things that are in the space out there aren’t the most efficient uses of funds or the most efficient ways of targeting the fight. So be aware of the celebrity around it and look at who’s actually in it for the long haul, doing the hard work.

Kara: Yeah. If you, if you see somebody that’s endorsing victim rescue by an organization and not law enforcement. Just run the other way. If you come across organizations that say, we rescue [00:50:00] victims, it’s like, no, you don’t. You can’t… it’s not even possible. The only way to possibly rescue a victim is if law enforcement comes in contact with a victim and provides them options for services, but victims themselves can’t just be rescued. They are the most deeply traumatized and hurt individuals I’ve ever come across in my life. They’ve gone through so much and those that are rescued from human trafficking is because they rescued themselves. They’re the ones that had the power within themselves to reach out and break out of that exploitation cycle. So, those shiny buzzy keywords that you see coming out of nonprofits and different things always question that. Also, those, videos and things out there of pedophile hunters, I can only ask, please stay away from them because the people that are not law enforcement [00:51:00] that run these pedophile chat operations, one, they’re breaking the law in most states.

Two, they’re teaching these people how to hide from law enforcement. Three, the information that they’re acquiring and they’re making videos and chasing ’em down in the streets. It’s not gonna be able to be upheld

Doug: It’s not evidentiary. Yeah, it’s extrajudicial. It’s not evidentiary, and it doesn’t go after the targeters.

Kara: Yes.

Kelly: This is so good. This is such good information.

Kara: It makes us feel good to see those guys get taken down on that Facebook video, but all you’ve really done is just made it to where that guy goes home that night and he literally lights his entire electronic footprint on fire and then there’s no more evidence and he disappears into the shadows and he does it again in a month.

Doug: You’re giving them the TTPs and they can adjust and fly. Well, I know we’re running out of time. We’re so grateful for you to be here. We’ll have your website up and all of that in the show notes. But in the meantime for folks that wanna follow you, they can [00:52:00] follow you on Instagram @CaratheHuntress.

So Cara underscore the huntress. And I will tell you this, Cara will make you feel uncomfortable, but you will learn because she will force you to confront some uncomfortable truths rather than sit with your comfortable lives. And so we’re grateful for that work that you’re doing.

Kara: Thank you so much.

Kelly: I love that closing, Doug. Good job.

Doug: Well, I didn’t say the Stay Sharp, so go ahead, Kelly.

Kelly: Well, and I just wanna say again, thank you for coming on. Yes. And, I’ve been taking notes as you were talking, you mentioned the human trafficking hotline, so we’ll add that to the episode key so that way people have it. They can get that information and we’ll wrap up, that’s what I love about our episode keys.

For me, when I listen to podcasts, it’s usually I’m walking or driving, so not a good time for me to be taking notes. That’s why we have an episode keys so our listeners can go back. Get the highlights and, you [00:53:00] know, links and important numbers. So we’ll link so people can follow your page because yes, when I have a question about something, I love seeing your post because I’m like, okay, well I, I’m not sure.

So, I’m gonna go to someone information, a resource I trust that’s going to give it to me straight and real and be the myth buster. So thank you so much for all that you do, and I’m so excited to see where you go from here. And to all our listeners, thank you so much for joining the, we appreciate you.

We wouldn’t be here without you. Please continue to download, share this episode with all of your friends because everyone needs this information. And as always, Stay Sharp.