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Episode 75: The Fight Against Human Trafficking

In this special episode we take a look at the fight against human trafficking. We talk with a survivor of human trafficking about her experience, her escape, and what advice she has. We also sit down with Ashlie Bryant founder of 3 Strands Global to discuss how she became involved in the fight against human trafficking. Finally, we talk with David Stirling, doTERRA Founding Executive, about how the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation works hard to contribute to the fight against human trafficking.


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doTERRA: According to a 2017 study done by the International Labour Organization, human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar global industry annually. And there are over 40 million people in slavery around the world and in the United States. The fight against human trafficking is one that must happen in our own communities as well as around the world. And that fight is what we're going to talk about today.

On today's special episode of Essential Oil Solutions with doTERRA, we sat down with a survivor of sex trafficking to talk to her about her experience, her escape, and the advice she has for others. In order to protect the identity of the survivor, some names, locations, and identifying details have been removed or changed. In some instances, you may hear a beep indicating information that has been removed.

[Name removed], thank you so much for coming and sitting down with us today.

Survivor: You're welcome.

doTERRA: To start off, can you tell us a little bit about your experience?

Survivor: Sure. I will be happy to tell my story. At the age of 13 years old, my friend mentioned to me that she was dating a guy, and he had a friend that she wanted to introduce me to. I ended up meeting with this guy, and a few days later he asked me to be his girlfriend. Later on, he took me to his hometown. He became—he brought me into the U.S. He was a 16-year-old at that time. When I arrived in the US, he controlled my life. He told me all of what I had to do. I felt like I had no choice at that time.

One day he came and told me that I had to work as a prostitute and that I had to sleep with men. I didn't understand anything at all at that time, so he had to teach me everything.

doTERRA: And can you describe the emotions that you went through during this experience?

Survivor: Sure. I was very angry. I tried to kill myself a number of times. I didn't know what to do. I was scared. I wanted to ask for help. Unfortunately, I was unable to do that because my first language is not Spanish. I speak a Mayan dialect, so Spanish is my second language. So I was unable to ask for help. And he—my pimp, my trafficker—he told me that if I ever asked for a help, the authorities would never believe me.

And I had to memorize a story, in case I was arrested. I had to tell the authorities that I was doing what I was doing because my parents were sick, which isn't true. He just totally got me to work for him as a prostitute who was a 14-year-old at that time.

doTERRA: Right.

A Victim’s Day-to-day Experience

Survivor: OK, so I would like to tell you how my life was every day as a victim of sex trafficking. So my typical day was that between 9:00 am and 10:00, my shift would end at 3:00 in the morning or 4:00 in the morning. It depended on where I had to go. I was taken from place to place.

It was 15 minutes, and I couldn't take more than 15 minutes because I would have to pay—sometimes deliverados thought that they would pay more. So I had to be on time all the time, and I was sold up to 60 times a day.

I would end up with pain, of course. I had to get dressed up in a different way. I had to wear a lot of makeup during that time.

And no one cared how I felt, even if I cried. The people who used to pay for me, they used to beat me up as well, including my trafficker. I have injuries, and now I have to face all of those consequences for something that I didn't cause, something that—it really made me sad. It was that—I had no day off. I had to work seven days a week, no day off. No—no nothing. No weekends, no nothing. Like, you have not time to go out and have fun.

They would watch me. They would make sure that I was there. They locked me in the apartment. And I think that some survivors or some people think that all of the victims are held in a house. I wasn't. In my case, I just was in this apartment, locked.

They would bring me Chinese food, the pimps, and drop it from the window bar. And that's how I would have food. And the deliverados would come, pick me up, take me to different places. Like when you order pizza, they will send it into your house. That's how I was sold. Like, and to see people how they would see a girl, a 14-year-old or 15-year-old, they wouldn't say anything. They wouldn't say anything.

What Society Can Do

So I think that society could change that. Society doesn't want to see that there are victims of sex trafficking around them. We were around them. I was there. They never asked me anything. And of course, it was sad.

Once I was in the store with someone, and I remember that—because I wanted to run away—I told this person, “Just let me go.” And the person said, “Well, if these people see you cry, they will call the police. If the police come, they will come and arrest you and take you away.”

And I felt like the community, people, society saw me in that clothing store crying. They never came and asked me, “Are you okay? Why are you crying? And why don’t you look at my eyes?” Like, I wasn't—I never made eye contact with people. I always was scared, shy, never talked.

And I think that the community, society, is in front of survivors—these victims. You don't recognize them because you don't know the signs, but most of the time, we are shy. We don't want to talk. Or most of the time, we don't speak Spanish—like me, speaking a Mayan dialect. Most of the time the girls only speak Spanish. They don't know how to ask for help or to speak to someone when someone else is always nearby us.

Why Victims Are Often Unable to Ask for Help

There was something that did happen to me back between 2012 and 2013. I had to go to [name removed] by myself to do the same thing. I had to go and stay in an apartment with this deliverado guy. Then he dropped me off at the bus station, and I didn't know where to go because it was the first time that I went out of [name removed].

And when I arrived in [name removed], I wanted to ask for help. I had with me, like, $3,000–$4,000 in my suitcase. And I was shaky. I didn't know what to do, and I wanted to ask for help from the policeman. Like, “Hey, can you tell me where I have to go to be able to get to this address,” for example. And I couldn't do it.

This police officer might hear this story, and he might remember that there was this girl—15, 16 years old—who was near him, asking like—I wanted to ask for help. I didn't look him in the eyes. I was like shaking, nervous, with a suitcase. I wished that police officer would have asked me if I needed help, even if he would try to have someone who speaks Spanish, and make sure that I was okay.

Probably since 2012, 2013, I would be free. But because of that—at that time I felt like nobody talked that much about sex trafficking, from 2010, 12, 13, until now where more survivors are talking about it. We’re more advocates that want to raise their voice and say, “Hey, human trafficking is near you.”

My trafficker, he used to say, “If you ever escape, I will go and kill your family. And I will pay fifty thousand. They won't care. They can kill a grandma or anything. They will not leave anyone alive. They will make sure. And then we will bring your sister, and she will do the same thing that you're doing. And I know for sure that she will make more money than what you're making.”

Of course, because of that it was hard for me to escape, and I was scared that they would do it. I knew already that he already controlled me, that I was very scared to escape, didn't know where to go and ask for help. I couldn't call the police because I was scared to ask for help—if they arrested me, they will send me back to [name removed].

Then I remember they were saying to me, “Well, if you get arrested, they might deport you to [name removed]. They might not believe what happened to you. They might think you're a liar,” which of course, is something that helped me to be able to escape. It was like well, I will send you and your family to jail.

Finding the Courage to Escape

So once my pimp and his uncle were in the apartment. I was so angry, and I said this phrase like, “One day I will paint. You will never notice that.” They were like, “What?” And they said, “Well, what are you talking about?” And I said, “Well, I already said it.” And then I finally had the courage and said, “Well, I will send you to jail.”

And I remember them, both of them, they were laughing and said, “Well, you will never do it because you don't have proof. They will think that you're just lying.” So because of that, I was like “Well, I promise myself that one day I will go out and tell the authorities what happened to me so this doesn't happen to others.”

And actually, I just went and testified against my traffickers this year. And five of this ring, the family ring, they were found guilty. So I was the first one who went to the authorities and told them what happened. So because I had the courage to tell the authorities what happened to me, they were able to help other victims.

doTERRA: That's incredible. Can you describe for us your rescue and what happened in that situation?

Survivor: Oh, thank you for asking that. I think everyone thinks that someone rescued me, but actually, nobody rescued me. I escaped by myself. In 2013, I tried to escape for the first time, and my trafficker found out. And he brought me into the apartment and beat me up, punched me in my face. I've been in pain for the last seven years. He broke my jaw. I already had two surgeries, and now I have to go get a third one.

And it was hard. So because of that he went to [name removed]. He brought in another girl. I got very jealous. I discovered that he was just using me. He just wanted to make money with my body. He never cared if I was sick, if I was feeling bad, or I had no emotions. I was very angry at that time that I could never talk to others and tell them what was going on with me. So because of that I tried to not escape.

The Power of Survivor’s Sharing Their Stories

But in December of 2013 there was a documentary that came out. It's called Tenancingo to New York, which talks about girls being trafficked from a certain town in Mexico, Tenancingo. And there is a story of this particular survivor. Her name is Maddie Morales.

I saw that documentary and heard her story. And I said, “Wait a minute. Like, that's similar to my story. That's what happened to me.” And she was telling her story and I said, “Well, I would like to tell my story one day. And I would like to tell anyone what happened to me.”

So because of that, in 2014, I was able to escape. It took me three days before I could go to the authorities. I went there—went to the police station—and told them what happened to me. And I do remember there was this detective who said, “Actually, we're doing an investigation there.” Because of that, it made me feel safe and comfortable since then I knew that I could trust the law enforcement, and I could contact them, and I will be safe all the time.

In 2017—I believe it was like January—I saw a picture on social media, on Facebook, of this pimp with another victim. And I said, “Oh, I got you now." So find out that the picture that he had on social media—it was like hey, I had to call my lawyer, and say “Hey, he's back, and also he's here in the US.” And she was like, “How can you be so sure?” And I'm like, look at this and that. And she reported that to the prosecutor who was in charge of the case.

Then after that, I got a call, and they said well we're going to arrest all of them. And we will call you when we arrest them. A few months later, July, they were arrested. So, some of them got arrested here in the US and the others got arrested in [name removed] and extradited into the US. But it was because of me.

doTERRA: What was going through your head when you realized that you were out of that situation for good?

The Difficulties Survivor’s Face Adjusting to Normal Life

Survivor: Well, actually it was hard for me to recognize that I was free. But at that time, even though I was free, my brain went crazy because I felt like these traffickers would come and take me from the safe place where I was. And I was scared that his family would come and take me out of this place. So because of that, I was very depressed. I didn't know what to do.

Of course, I did have a therapist, but it was hard. I have no family here in the US. I had been alone. So because of that, I had no resources. If I could to talk to my parents—they weren’t able to help me.

So because of that, I tried to kill myself. It was hard for me to go out there and say, “Hey, I'm free now.” It was hard because I thought he loved me. He said to me a number of times, “Nobody will love you as I love you. Nobody will want you because of what you're doing. A prostitute will never find someone who loves them.” So, of course, those words were stuck in my mind. And now I do understand that isn’t true. And I know that there's someone who truly loves me.

doTERRA: So you mentioned, you know, seeing a therapist and working through these feelings of depression and different things like that. Can you tell us a little bit more about your experience with readjustment to freedom and trying to live this normal life after that?

Survivor: Sure. Well actually it was hard because I escaped right before I turned 18, so I tried to go to school. And something that really made me sad was when I went to school they said to me, “You are 18 years old. You can't come to a high school anymore.” So when I went to other programs, they would say to me, “Well you're a minor. You're not a 20-year-old. So because of that you're unable to be part of our program.” So I cried a number of times, of course. And I said to myself, “So what do they want me to do? I have to wait three years. I will never progress.”

A person—as a survivor, of course, I speak a Mayan dialect, speak Spanish, no English. Like, I had no option. I tried to apply for jobs. It was hard. They would say to me, “You need the high school diploma. You have to speak in English.” It was hard.

A Survivor’s Journey to doTERRA

doTERRA: Can you tell us about your experience and what it's been with doTERRA?

Survivor: Oh yeah, absolutely. I would be happy to tell my story of how I came to doTERRA. So back in 2019, I talked to [name removed] and I said, “Hey, like, I need a job.” I didn't know what to do. I had no idea where to go. Utah is a new state for me. And she was able to talk to someone here at doTERRA.

And I'm so grateful that she was able to get connected with someone and that they gave me the opportunity to come and work here. I do remember that when I came it was like, “Well you're here in training.” And I was like, “Oh, what am I going to do here?” Like, of course, I do speak English as my third language. But I had to start first in the Mexican market because they speak Spanish.

And I had numbers of mistakes as an employee, of course. Like, as a survivor, I have sometimes some flashbacks, PTSD, that will come from nowhere. And I would cry, and I was like, “What am I going to do? I don't understand the program.” Like, I was like, “Well, I think I have to learn how to do everything in the right way.” And just to be able, for me, to be able to show myself that I could work here.

I think my last grade in school, it was probably sixth grade. My last time being in school, it's like ten years now, more than ten years. So it was hard coming, adjusting myself, being around new people, the new culture. I had to adjust myself. And I'm so grateful to be able to be here because I love how doTERRA treats their employees, which I never have seen in any other company like that before in my life. Or maybe there's others, I don't know, but I do love doTERRA.

Thanks to David Sterling, I'm working here as a survivor. Probably, people might say like, “Why is this girl working here at doTERRA, which—it sounds like she's not in college,” because most of the people who work here, they're in college, which I'm not. And I do remember one time someone asked me, “Where are you going to school?” and I said, “Well actually I'm not in school now.”

Gaining Opportunities to Grow

And, of course, that sometimes used to make me feel sad, but also I used to be happy and proud of myself as a survivor because I said, well if, as a survivor, I'm here and improving myself—and the program, I know that it will take me months, but I will be able to make it through, where now I have the opportunity to speak in English only. I don't speak Spanish anymore. I’ve moved into a different market now, and it's just like a growing experience now for me.

I knocked doors before into other places, and they didn’t take a chance to give me an opportunity to work for them. And now for me to be here is an opportunity to be able to grow, learn, and show people that survivors, we can do it. We can learn. And we can show the community that even though we probably don't have, like, a high school diploma, if they could just give us a chance, just one opportunity to be able to work for you, I bet we could show you that we could do it. And probably we will show you more than what you’re showing us.

doTERRA: And so, you know, I think this is something that people have recognized as an issue, and they've started setting up some different organizations to help with these readjustment periods that, you know, you felt stuck or you feel like there's no one there to help you. What was it that came into your life to finally help you start to build up again?

Survivor: Well, so there was another nonprofit [name removed] that helped me since I escaped, and they were the ones who provided me mental health and some services, but they're limited. Like, services for survivors of sex trafficking are limited. So they tried to help me with all of what they could. And I'm so grateful for their help, of course. I found some jobs. Of course, it didn’t work out. Society judged me a lot. So because of that, I was scared to come out and say like, “Yes, I would like to build a future for me.” It’s hard when you don't get the tools.

doTERRA: Right.

Survivor: Like, how do you expect a survivor to come out and have some skills when you don't give training, when you don’t give them an opportunity to get education?

doTERRA: Absolutely. We really appreciate you coming and sharing your story with us and sharing your courage and the progress and incredible things that you've done with your life. Well, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being here.

Survivor: Yeah, you're welcome. Thank you.

doTERRA: We also spoke to Ashlie Bryant, founder of 3 Strands Global, about her journey to becoming involved in the fight against human trafficking. Ashlie, thank you so much for being with us today to talk about this incredibly important topic.

Ashlie Bryant: Oh yeah, you're welcome. I am so honored to be a part of this podcast today.

doTERRA: Can you tell us a little bit about what the mission of 3 Strands Global is?

Ashlie: Yeah, absolutely. So 3 Strands Global Foundation mobilizes communities to combat human trafficking through prevention education and reintegration programs. But really, we focus in on three areas that, we call them our 3 ps, like three strands. It is prevention education, prevention through employment, and prevention through engagement.

doTERRA: That's amazing. And how did you become aware that human trafficking was such an issue here in the United States?

Why Ashlie Fights Against Human Trafficking

Ashlie: Yeah, you know this—I really appreciate this question because for me it's a personal response. For me, I actually, in 2001, we adopted our daughter. And that happened to be overseas, and the human trafficking incident happened while we were in that process. But as we fast forward to 2008, in a sleepy suburb here in California, just near Sacramento, my good friend's daughter was trafficked.

And she was hanging out with, yeah, she was hanging out with about 20 or 30 other 17-year-old high school friends. And what they didn't know was that a trafficker had befriended the group and hung out with them for hours on end and got to know them and worked the crowd to figure out who was most vulnerable, according to him, in the crowd. And unfortunately, my friend's daughter was the one that he pegged as the most vulnerable.

And so, he offered to take all of them home. And in offering to take them home, they all jumped into his nice car, and he took kids one by one home, but he didn't take my friend's daughter home. He took her back, unfortunately, to his parents’ house where he was living, and he raped her there.

And then he sold her on Craigslist to a trafficker in the Bay Area, who sold her 15 to 20 times a day before—to men who were seeking to have sex with minors. And in that selling of her, she was recovered by the FBI and our county sheriffs, which was a really wonderful thing because the abuse and the trafficking that was happening was obviously awful.

But that's actually what—that's the story that launched the nonprofit 3 Strands Global Foundation. And it's, you know, over the last 11 years, which we've been doing this work for 11 years, we've had the privilege of hearing so many thousands of stories of survivors that are survivor leaders and lived experience leaders and very similar to my friend's daughter.

But for me, that is why. I really felt like I had to do something. I needed and was called to step into this place to be the voice for the voiceless and to make sure that we were going upstream and preventing this from happening as much as we possibly could.

The Decision to Take Action

doTERRA: That is such a terrible thing and such a powerful catalyst for you. I know in situations like this sometimes people can feel like they don't know what they should be doing. So what made you decide that it was you that needed to take that action in this situation?

Ashlie: Yeah, it's a great question because I think that, you know, for me, I did a lot of research on human trafficking, what it was, you know, sexual assault and what was commercial sexual exploitation versus forced labor. And, you know, I did a lot of research before I did anything and sat around my kitchen table with my friend and two other women who, one was a social worker and one had worked in the for-profit world, and we researched other nonprofits in the area to see, you know, do nonprofits exist, number one, that we could actually step into and help. Right?

Because the last thing you want to do is start another nonprofit that's doing the same thing because there's already a lot of great nonprofits out there. So I would say, number one, research. Right? Make sure that as you research, in this case, you know, the cause, human trafficking, that you know and research the ins and outs of what's happening. But also what already exists that you might as a volunteer or even a paid staff be able to spend your time to change the trajectory of, you know, a crime that might be happening or that you want to be a part of dismantling.

So that's the first. Research the actual crime itself or the cause. Second, see who else is already out there. And then if you've done both of those things and you get to the third, which is there isn't someone in what I'm specifically looking to do, then start to look at and investigate starting a nonprofit or an agency that would specifically reach into and dismantle, in this case, human trafficking.

And I think that's where we got. Right? We got to that third place where prevention education eleven years ago was not something that people were talking about. And so, it was clear that we had this this pathway, this road, this lane that we could forge into.

And it was hard work because nobody was talking about it. Nobody was funding it. Nobody was talking about it. Nobody had the innovative space of—it was really more, we need to respond to the victims that we're seeing for the first time because this crime hides in plain sight. And that was good and okay. Right? And we want that to happen, for sure. And I would never disparage that—that needed to happen and still needs to happen. But the prevention side was a space that we in a lane were really clear that we could walk into and really do some great work and create an agency that eleven years later is continuing to do that work in the prevention space.

Finding Ways to Help

doTERRA: And the work that you're doing is so incredible. Like you said, being that person who can help educate and prevent so that we don't have to do as much recovery and rescue. I think that's a beautiful mission to have. Ashlie, my final question is what advice do you have for other people that are wanting to take action in their own communities?

Volunteer at Local Organizations

Ashlie: Yeah. So I think that you'd look to see who's already in you know non-profits that are around you in your community. Right? Look to see who, whether it's specifically for human trafficking, is there a transitional home? Is there a drop-off center? You know, is there a drop-in center? Is there a domestic violence shelter or a human trafficking shelter? A residential home? Is there a prevention education or prevention agency in your community? if those exist, then I would go and meet with them and ask if they have a volunteer program, and then you can see where you may be able to be a catalyst as a volunteer with their agency.

Give Financially When Possible

That's one thing. The other is, you know, it's so incredibly impactful when we can give financially to organizations that are doing the great work. And I know sometimes people think, “Well, you know, I don't want to give. I just want to do the volunteer work.” In this space, specifically, as we're talking about human trafficking, the work sometimes has to be done by those who are licensed to do it. Right? So social workers or caseworkers or people who have been, you know, not only been in school but been trained.

So in that space there may be volunteer opportunities that aren't necessarily what you saw as volunteer opportunities, but that still is helpful. Or there's the financial capacity to be able to support a nonprofit that needs help in their initiatives or in their programs that is incredibly impactful when people are generous in that place.

And so, I would say those two things for us at 3 Strands Global Foundation are so important for people to reflect on and to think, “Hey is there a way for me as a volunteer to help, you know, your agency?” And if there isn't, “Do I have the capacity to financially be a monthly donor or someone who I know can help to have the impact through financial giving?”

doTERRA: I think that's incredible advice, and I think this is a cause that everyone can rally around. It's something that affects people of all stations in life, of all genders, of all ages, and it's something that truly needs to be gone from this world. Ashlie, thank you so much for joining us today and shedding some more light on these situations around the world. And thank you for the work that you do with 3 Strands Global.

See Something, Say Something

Ashlie: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you so much just for having me and asking such great questions. And I'll just leave you with one thing, and that is the other thing that people can do, right, actionable, if you see something in your community that you feel in your gut, right, that says—that inner watchdog says something's just not right, I would encourage you to call your local law enforcement. Call the National Trafficking Hotline. Let somebody know if you see something. Right? See something, say something.

Because your suspicion, as many of us know, that sometimes that's 100 percent accurate. And so, you know, if you do that just will help potentially. Don't put yourself in harm's way. We always say that we don't want that to happen. Right? But you absolutely can be able to say something and make a phone call that would be super important for potentially someone who may be trafficked.

Yeah. So the National trafficking hotline number is 1 (888) 373-7888. And then you're, you know, your local law enforcement. Obviously, folks can in their communities know that. But I think those two, if there's something that they see to say I think that's always great. And then people can find us on our 3 Strand Global Foundation website, too, with resources and information.

doTERRA: That is wonderful. Ashlie, thank you so much.

Ashlie: Yeah, you're welcome. Thank you so much.

doTERRA: Finally, we spoke to doTERRA founding executive and CEO David Sterling about the role the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation® has to play in the fight against human trafficking. My first question is why was it important for you to support the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation.

David Stirling: Well, it's a good question. And I guess for one thing it was always part of our ethos to be a company that gave back. And I know there's a lot of companies and a lot of people that will tell you that. Perhaps what made a little bit different with doTERRA is we saw it as a core part of our mission. We recognize that the nature of our business was going to be that we were going to involve millions of people. And therefore, when you're involving millions of people and you have lots of hearts and minds that way, your ability to start to impact the world and to do a lot of good could be fantastic.

And so Healing Hands, I couldn't be more proud of and what it's done and what it's become. Not just because of the major projects that we've been able to accomplish that are significant and well-known and seen by many people. But I'm equally as proud of the hundreds and hundreds of projects smaller in nature but significant that we've done with our Wellness Advocates around the world and partnering with them. Love, love, love that.

doTERRA: Why is human trafficking a cause that's close to your heart?

David: Well, you know, in terms of how we found O.U.R., Operation Underground Railroad, and in the beginnings of that was in their beginnings, actually. And what they did so well, for me and I think many, many others, is they’ve shown a very bright light on a dark part of our society that frankly most people just simply weren't aware of. And they brought that to the forefront.

And how we discovered O.U.R was actually on my Friday night date night with my wife, and we were over at a local university and didn't have any plans plants so I was just, you know, shooting from the hip. That night we walked into a student union sort of a building, and there was this massive line winding down the hallways and around the corner. And I said, “What's everybody in line for?” And they said, “Well, we're here to see the premiere, at least a partial premiere, of the film The Abolitionists.” And we're like, “What's that about?”

And it's about human trafficking, in particularly child sex trafficking, so those that are under 18 years of age. And my wife and I were interested, and we said “Well, how do we get in?” And the guy, the gentleman, we were talking to, he said, “Oh, you don't have a chance to get in. We’re already sold out. Nobody in this line is going to get in.” And I noticed these little cards, these coupons. They were 10 dollars each, and they were trying to get people to buy these little donation coupons. And I said, “If I buy 10 of those, will you let us in?” And the guy said, “Oh, yeah.”

And so we bought 10 of them. He brought us in and sat us down on the front row there. And that was mine and my wife’s his first introduction to Operation Underground Railroad, and we were smitten.

doTERRA: Was there a particular event that opened your eyes to how big of an issue this is around the world?

David: Well, we got behind O.U.R. very, very early on. And they invited me pretty early on to go on what they call a jump or a sting operation. And this particular one was stateside in California, and it was a real eye-opener for me. I went and joined the team that had been working very hard for three, or maybe four or five months even, previous to this, setting up this operation, doing the real work. And I simply was able to come in there for the last three days and perhaps do what you'd call the fun part, and that is bust all the bad guys, rescue the kids.

And that's what it was. And we had these operations set up in hotel rooms, in malls, and different places like that. And they would, we'd bring the bad guys in. We had the police there. We had the local district attorney. I think there was two precincts that were joined together for this operation. And over a three-day period, we arrested, I think it was 41 of these evil men. And we were able to rescue some kids and break that situation up. And that's when I really got my eyes opened

Even though the detectives and the police officers and so forth that were involved tried to shield me from some of this because it's the grossest of human beings that you can imagine. And the type of things that are shared and said and so forth are just atrocious. But that's when I really got my eyes opened to just the depravity and how horrible this problem really was, two million plus kids that are trafficked.

doTERRA: Did you have a story you could share of an individual that has been impacted by the Healing Hands Foundation's efforts to end human trafficking?

David: Well, at least two years ago, I met a young woman who had been trafficked I think at 12 years of age out of [name removed], and had been brought over to the [name removed] and was enslaved there in the child sex trade. And she had been in that situation for probably—well, I think she escaped when she was about 17, if I'm remembering right. She completely blew me away as I listened to her speak once and was introduced to her.

I've dealt with young people who have been sexually abused. I've dealt with adults that have been sexually abused. And I've seen the scars, and they run deep. And lots of times people never are able to completely function well after experiencing some like that.

But this young woman was incredibly resilient for what she'd been through. And had somehow been able to metabolize that horrible poison and not continue with it in her life or pass it on to anyone else. That showed me what could happen in terms of the recovery side, which frankly is where doTERRA has really played in getting very, very involved in the transition facilities and so forth, where these kids when they're rescued will spend anywhere from two months to a couple of years their life as they’re counseled. And we try to transition them back into society.

This young woman was amazing to me in not only how she'd been able to recover and put her life together and still have goals and dreams but her willingness to actually go back and to testify, which most people just can't do, to face the perpetrators and put them in jail. And she had the strength to be able to do that. And it’s incredibly inspiring.

doTERRA: My final question is, looking toward the future, what needs to happen to help in the fight against human trafficking?

David: Well, recognition, first of all. We have some fantastic projects. A major one we did in Africa last year. It was so successful and rescued, I might get this wrong, I think 60–70 girls and arrested about a like number of people.

doTERRA's Efforts in Ukraine

And then about a little more than a year ago, I had a fantastic experience over in the Ukraine. And I was over there with the president of O.U.R., Jon Lines, he’s a trusted friend of mine. And we traveled over there and were actually fortunate to be able to meet with some of their higher-level people in their government, the minister of justice, a lot of their parliamentary people, their prosecuting attorneys at the highest levels, their district attorneys and so forth, and leadership in their police forces.

And as we sat down with these people, and we were there to do a training and to educate, and they asked for help. They wanted help. This went clear to the highest levels of the Ukraine, to the president's cabinet. And he was behind this and extended—was key in getting the invites for us over there. Anyway, as we began visiting with these law enforcement people and many, many others as well as other groups that were there for family and children services and so forth, they recognized that there was a problem.

But one of the biggest issues is there were no laws on their books for prosecuting these sorts of things. And so, getting to a point that first they even recognized that it is a problem, they were partway there on, at least partway there, number one.

Number two, helping them to understand you've got to get laws passed that are solid, that are in the books, that then your police officers and other people that are trying to help with this problem can actually come in and use to impact this, to actually make arrests and so forth.

And then you've got to work on your aftercare facilities from there to transition most of these young girls back into society. Anyway, they were willing. I will say that at one part in a very long—day-long—meeting, you know, they became a little discouraged, some people did, and expressed that, “You know, we’ve got a lot of problems over here that would challenge this, maybe even some corruption that exists in our system. And I'm not sure we can pull this off.”

Making an Impact

But we continued to encourage, and there were some very passionate, very influential people that were part of that meeting. In the end, as of about—I think it was just a few weeks ago—they had their first operation over there, arrested a number of guys, rescued a number of kids. They do have the laws in place now, so they can actually prosecute. The progress that was made in really just one year's time, a little bit more new year, it opened my eyes to how effective we could be, partnering with organizations like O.U.R. and others, in actually changing this issue in a country as a whole, at the highest levels.

What actually pulled me over there originally into Ukraine was involvement that I had with a relative in my family was trying to adopt some Ukranian girls, three of them, out of an orphanage there. And it was in getting involved in that where we discovered that the orphanage was being used to traffic these kids as part of their operations. Horrible, horrible situation. And that is when I first reached out to Jon Lines at O.U.R. and just said, “Hey, I know this is a tough thing. I know you don't have any area cover. You have no relationships there you were—in a place like Ukraine. But what do you think?” And he said, “Dave, that is tough. I don't know. Let me see.”

Well, probably about a month later, we able to just miraculously make a key contact. That then moved into other contacts they had at the highest levels in the government. And we were able to get that invite over there. And so, these kind of miracles happen. And then the results are sometimes just fantastic. And so, first and foremost, I think their biggest goal in life is to impact the world for good. And that's what they're interested in. So it takes a lot of real personal commitment and sacrifice of individuals like that to lead efforts. And doTERRA gets behind it.

We fund it. We support it because we can and because in the end, it can do some amazing things and pull off some amazing miracles.

doTERRA: The human trafficking survivor we spoke to also had some advice looking toward the future and how to help prevent what happened to her from happening to others. Is there anything that you would want people to know to prevent a similar thing from happening to someone in their life?

Parents’ Role in Preventing Human Trafficking

Survivor: Well actually, I think that parents should watch their kids more. Like, parents should get on social media more, learn about sex trafficking, how to recognize those signs. If a kid has been with a trafficker, what you should do, what steps to take, who you need to contact.

Like, I think it’s smart to call law enforcement and say, “I don't know where my child is.” But also, you have to tools to know—if your child has a boyfriend, who is that boyfriend? Where is he coming from? Why is he older than you? If you're a child of 13 or 14 years old, what are you doing with an 18-year-old?

In my case of course, it was different. I was 14—I was 13 when I met this guy, and then I turned 14. And he was 16 years old. Like any type of age can become a victim, but also minors can be pimps. Like in my case, my parents never investigated. They didn't know anything about sex trafficking, human trafficking. They just let me go with him like, “Good luck.”

So because of that I do recommend to any parent to get educated of on child sex trafficking, human trafficking. And if your kid has been trafficked, well go and talk to the law enforcement and ask for help. Report that. Talk loud. Talk to your kids. Have—something that is very important, I think, is to be able to have a relationship together. That's something that could prevent your kid from being trafficked. I noticed that most of the time, as victims who have been trafficked, we didn’t have good communication with our parents. They would be like, “Well they're an alcoholic.” “My dad, he is an alcoholic.”

Like, they didn't pay attention to me. So because of that I was very vulnerable. My mom used to work. She never paid attention to me. And I felt lonely. So when I found this guy—where he made me feel, like, loved, where he would bring me flowers, where he would take me to have dinner while he was dating me. Of course, I felt loved. I felt safe with him.

Together, We Can Make a Difference

But at the end while I was there, I was unable to ask for help so what could prevent you from becoming a victim is to get educated. Listen to the voice of the survivors because you never know when you're in front of them. It can be a friend of yours who's been trafficked, and then you will be trafficked as well.

So we have to be careful with who we are with. If you're going on dates and there is something that you notice a lot—like, the traffickers will give you a drink, and then you will never know where you were.

And I would love for other survivors or other victims to come out and say, “Do you know what? Yes, this happened to me.” Stand up. Tell your story. Because [name removed] story saved my life, so I could escape. I hope that another story can help you as well to become free. I think I call this to become free and feel freedom. You become free, but you have to find that freedom inside of you again. And it takes time. And through the help of other people, everything can be possible.

doTERRA: Thank you for joining us today. Before we end, we wanted to provide you with some resources. If you are suspicious of human trafficking in your area, don't hesitate to reach out to your local law enforcement or one of the following organizations: the National Human Trafficking Hotline, you can call them at 1 (888) 373-7888, United States homeland security at (202) 282-8000, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (703) 224-2150.

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