Join us today for the Interview with Amanda Blackwood, about her journey of growth through darkness...
This is Part 4 of the interview I had with speaker, podcast host, and author Amanda Blackwood.
In today’s podcast I interview Amanda Blackwood. I ask Amanda about her journey from survivor to advocate for ending human trafficking. I also ask Amanda about how her faith journey evolved through her experiences. Amanda also shares with you what you can do to support others or support yourself if you see signs of human trafficking.
Join in on the Chat below.
Episode 1390: Interview with Amanda Blackwood About Surviving Human Trafficking
[00:00:00] Amanda Blackwood: Scott Maderer.
[00:00:40] That doesn't mean that we're incapable of ever feeling that emotion again. We are still searching for that love and that acceptance that we seem to have never found in our lives anywhere. We still need this. We still crave this. But we have to be able to deal with the pain of our past before we can figure out [00:01:00] what it means to have a healthy, productive relationship.
[00:01:04] Scott Maderer: Welcome and thank you for joining us on the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. If you truly desire to become the person who God wants you to be, then you must learn to use your time, your talent, and your treasures for your true calling. In the Inspired Stewardship Podcast, you'll learn to invest in yourself, invest in others, and develop your influence so that you can impact others.
[00:01:37] In today's podcast, I interview Amanda Blackwood. I ask Amanda about her journey from survivor to advocate for ending human trafficking. I also ask Amanda about how her faith journey evolved through her experiences. And Amanda also shares with you what you can do to support others or to support yourself if you see signs of human trafficking.
[00:01:59] I've [00:02:00] got a new book coming out called Inspired Living, assembling the puzzle of your call by mastering your time, your talent, and your treasures. You can find out more about it and sign up for getting more information over at InspiredStewardship. com Inspired Living. That's InspiredStewardship. com Inspired Living.
[00:02:22] Welcome to the show, Amanda.
[00:02:24] Amanda Blackwood: Thank you so much, Scott. It's so good to be here with you.
[00:02:27] Scott Maderer: Absolutely. So I shared a little bit in the intro about some of the work you do around human trafficking, your podcast and other things. But that's one of those topics that it's interesting to hear a little bit more about your journey and why is this an area that you feel it's important to talk about and that you've been called to share?
[00:02:52] Amanda Blackwood: There's so many people out there that when I first introduced myself and tell them who I am and what it is that I've been through, one of their [00:03:00] first reactions is always, Oh, wow, I've never met anybody who survived human trafficking before. And I always tell them that love, there are many survivors out there.
[00:03:12] And a lot of them don't even realize they're survivors of human trafficking because of the way that it's portrayed in the media and the news and the movies. And a hundred percent, they get it wrong. And people that are going through these cycles of violence and having these things happen to them, they're floundering in the world knowing, hey, I've just survived some kind of abuse, but I don't know what this is and I don't know if there's a name for it.
[00:03:37] And the reason I know that is because that's exactly the way I felt when I discovered that what I'd been through was called human trafficking. It was years after I had gotten out. These people don't know that they're a survivor any more than I did at the time. I talk about it now because less than 2 percent of all human trafficking victims escape with their life.
[00:03:58] God gave me [00:04:00] this voice and he gave me the ability to write and he gave me the freedom to be able to do these things after having survived such a tragic existence. I'm going to use it. This is what he's told me to do.
[00:04:16] Scott Maderer: So let's dive into that a little bit and define the term. You mentioned human trafficking is something that gets misportrayed a lot.
[00:04:25] So from your point of view what's the best definition or kind of the view that we need to have on what it is, what is human trafficking?
[00:04:35] Amanda Blackwood: I always tell people not to Google it, not to look it up on Wikipedia. These are fallible resources. Go somewhere that the resource is going to be finite.
[00:04:45] And this is something that has been well established. So my personal choice is the Department of Homeland Security, where they define human trafficking as the use of force, fraud and coercion to obtain commercial sex acts [00:05:00] or labor from another person. And if you notice, there's no mention of any kind of age restrictions, there's no mention of money, and there's no mention of any kind of transportation, even though we think of trafficking as the same thing as traffic.
[00:05:12] Scott Maderer: It's not. So it doesn't have to mean that they've moved the person or brought them in from another country or that kind of thing. It can even just be what occurs.
[00:05:23] Right there in a city or in a location or in a place where it's happening there.
[00:05:29] Amanda Blackwood: Absolutely. And it's also important to realize that when somebody is being moved from one location to another, that's never human trafficking. That is human smuggling. And while the two do overlap quite a lot, they are separate issues that need to be
[00:05:42] Scott Maderer: addressed.
[00:05:43] It could be one, it could be both, it could be, but it doesn't have to be both to be involved. Exactly. Another thing they get wrong most of the time is they portray it as only happening to children. That's because the truth makes people very [00:06:00] uncomfortable. The truth is that only one quarter of all victims are under the age of 18, which means most victims worldwide are adults.
[00:06:07] Amanda Blackwood: The last time I was trafficked, I was 31 years old. The oldest person in recent years here in Colorado to be pulled out of trafficking was in her 70s.
[00:06:17] Scott Maderer: So you mentioned earlier that God has given you these gifts of being able to speak about this, write about this, talk about this, talk a little bit about your faith journey and share some of how that's changed or led you to the point of being an advocate in this area.
[00:06:37] Amanda Blackwood: My first love was God. I love being able to say that. We just recently had a sermon in church on this subject. You don't want to lose your first love. My first love was God. We used to say prayer over dinner at my home when I was growing up. And we only said it when we were in our own home. We never said it when we went out to eat.
[00:06:58] We never said it when we were at a [00:07:00] friend's house. We never said it over lunch or over breakfast or over anything else. We only said prayer at dinner. And I wanted to know why are we doing this? What is this? And I had this very analytical mind, even at such a young age, that when I was about eight or nine years old, I started sneaking out of the house on Sunday mornings to go to church.
[00:07:22] Now, most kids are sneaking out of the house to miss church.
[00:07:27] Scott Maderer: Or go do something that probably wouldn't be approved of in church, one or the other.
[00:07:33] Amanda Blackwood: But my parents wouldn't take us to church. I couldn't understand why. So I was sneaking off to church and it was on a military base. So we only had two options.
[00:07:43] It was either a Catholic service or it was a non denominational Christian service. And I went to the non denominational because it meant that I got to sleep in a little bit and I was still home in time for lunch. Less chance of me getting in trouble that way. I still got in [00:08:00] trouble and I got into a lot of trouble.
[00:08:03] I was grounded. I was spanked. I was beaten and I kept going back anyway, week after week, I would ride my bike a mile and a half at eight years old to go to church. And the reason that I was getting in trouble was not because I was necessarily going to church or because I was going that far from home.
[00:08:25] It was because my parents said we were Methodist. They didn't want me going to a non denominational Christian church because they didn't want me being confused on the message. And I told them at nine, 10 years old, then take me to church. And they still refused. I did what I needed to do. I kept going back and I had a very real heart to heart conversation with the pastor.
[00:08:48] I always stayed in the actual adult teaching. I never went off to the Sunday school with all the other kids. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to learn what everybody else was learning. Don't dumb it down for me. That's not [00:09:00] what I'm looking for. And I told them, I said, I'm getting in trouble for doing this and I'm lying to my parents and I know it's wrong, but I need to know, is this what I'm supposed to do?
[00:09:11] And it was a hard conversation with that man. I could tell looking in his face that he was struggling. How do I tell this child what the right thing to do is? And he told me go home and pray about it and think about it and do what it is that God tells you to do. Do what it is that God calls you to do and do this with all things in your life.
[00:09:39] And no matter the punishment that might come, you will always be doing the right thing. This man gave me this incredible foundation of faith. That carried me through all of this stuff that I was doing later on in my life and all these hard times that I was going through. I don't think I would have survived [00:10:00] without him.
[00:10:00] I don't think I would have survived without God. I went through some terrible things and for a long time I had forgotten about going to churches. I had forgotten that churches really even existed. They were a thing that were in the back of my mind, but in my darkest hour, I found myself in a churchyard.
[00:10:19] I found myself sitting on the steps of a church begging for somebody to see me when really I should have been begging for God to see me. He could already see me, but I needed to feel it too.
[00:10:29] Scott Maderer: And sometimes that's again, that's what we need from church sometimes is that. to be seen by other people helps us believe that God can see us as well because that's easy to believe when everything's going right.
[00:10:46] It's hard to believe when things are going wrong and the more wrong they're going, the harder it is to believe, quite frankly it's interesting. It's curious to me. Do you have any [00:11:00] idea what denomination that chaplain was actually on the military base? I believe he was Catholic.
[00:11:08] Okay, because because chaplains on a military base can actually believe of any denomination and yet conduct Services in Catholic and and there are a lot of Methodists, there are a lot of Baptist and others that serve as chaplains and yet conduct Catholic service. So I'm just curious, I, it would be interesting to go back and find out what his actual training was and denomination was.
[00:11:32] Amanda Blackwood: Yeah. He was a great guy though. I think part of the reason I believe that he might've been Catholic was because I remember him wearing a cross, like Father Mohi on mash.
[00:11:42] Scott Maderer: on, yeah,
[00:11:42] Amanda Blackwood: on the mash. It might have been a personal perception, but I think at one point we did talk about it and he did say that he teaches the non denominational Christian stuff, but he is Catholic.
[00:11:55] He himself
[00:11:55] Scott Maderer: was Catholic. Yeah. And it's quite possible. Cause again, there are Catholics that [00:12:00] chaplain position doesn't have to be any particular denomination and yet can be allowed to. To conduct services and all of the different denominations. So it'd be interesting to hear what it was just because your parents had the.
[00:12:15] We're Methodists, so that's what you should do mindset, which is interesting to me because I'm Methodist and that's not a very Methodist answer quite frankly. Methodists are much more often to be going like, and we really. Yeah we haven't, we don't know if we figured it out if you've got questions, you're welcome to come hang out with us because we're not sure what's going on.
[00:12:38] There's a much more Methodist answer in a lot of Methodist, at least in a lot of Methodist churches. Definitely learned that a lot more when I was growing up too. It's more of a we don't know, but come hang out. We'll hang out and we'll probably figure it out together. And we'll probably feed you quite frankly.
[00:12:58] We'll probably show up with food. [00:13:00] So at least that's every Methodist church I've ever gone to. We feed everything it's going right. Let's have a meal. It's going wrong. Let's have a meal. So a lot of I think some of the myths about human trafficking to fall into this area of what comes after you mentioned there, there's a very low rate of people getting out.
[00:13:28] There are people that survive and move forward. What are some of the things that happen what are, I guess what's the belief that we have that you can't ever really come out of human trafficking and be in healthy relationships and be okay. And what's the reality that, that can happen after.
[00:13:52] Amanda Blackwood: We do that a lot. So a lot of people have asked me aren't you broken? Are you [00:14:00] capable of having a friendship, much less a relationship? And this is, it's something, it's a bad stigma that we have to fight against. The whole reason that we end up EN trafficking in most cases is because what most people don't realize is that it's the people who claim that they love us.
[00:14:16] That are the people that are trafficking us. It's not kidnaps. That's 1 to 2 percent of all victims worldwide are kidnapped. Most are trafficked by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. Boyfriends or girlfriends, husbands, wives, that kind of stuff. So the reason that we end up in these situations to begin with is because we are putting it all on the line.
[00:14:41] We are giving our heart and soul to this relationship. And in return, these people are victimizing us. They're hurting us deeply. But that doesn't mean that we're incapable of ever feeling that emotion again. We are still searching for that love and that acceptance that we seem to have never found in our lives anywhere.[00:15:00]
[00:15:00] We still need this. We still crave this. But we have to be able to deal with the pain of our past before we can figure out what it means to have a healthy, productive relationship. A lot of people believe that therapy won't work and a lot of people believe that it won't work because when they go to a therapist, they're expecting that therapist to wave a magic wand and suddenly poof, they're all better.
[00:15:25] And that's not the way it works. It
[00:15:26] Scott Maderer: works. Yeah.
[00:15:28] Amanda Blackwood: You can go three, four days a week for. years and not get any help at all because you have to be the one willing to do the work. They're just the guide through the mountains. That's probably one of the biggest misconceptions to being able to move beyond this kind of stuff, or basically any trauma, if you want to heal from it, you can, but you have to be the one to pick up the shovel and throw away the band aid.
[00:15:54] Scott Maderer: And it's always part of a journey, not. a destination too. It's [00:16:00] I grew up in a, in an abusive household and with an alcoholic father. And there are still things to this day, even having gone through therapy and done a lot of work and done a lot of recovery. I can say that out loud which for a long time, I couldn't say that out loud.
[00:16:18] I've gotten to a point now where You know I've done a lot of that work and yet there's still times or there's still things or there's still days where it comes back up and you got to go, okay, where's that coming from? Wait, that's coming from that.
[00:16:34] Amanda Blackwood: Absolutely. Just because you have moved on with your life doesn't mean that it's gone.
[00:16:39] When you have PTSD or trauma reactions to anything, this is something that you're going to be fighting back against for the rest of your life, but it's worth the fight and your life gets better. The more you fight against it, the more you retrain your brain to react to things a different way than way it was.
[00:16:56] Scott Maderer: So what are some of the things that you would tell? I'm going to [00:17:00] ask this question in two parts, but let's do them one at a time. So what are some of the things that you would tell someone who may be hearing this, or they're recognizing that they're in that situation or have the potential to be?
[00:17:17] in that situation of going through human trafficking. What do they need to hear from you right now? Not knowing
[00:17:26] Amanda Blackwood: what resources are available to you is going to be your biggest challenge, but we live in the age of the internet. There are these resources available and they are built and designed specifically for you because these people know that what you are going through or what you're about to go through is going to wreck your life.
[00:17:45] They get that they want to help and it's the whole reason the program began and exists in the first place. Reach out to these people. They are there to help and it is not a weakness to ask for help. It is a strength and that's why it's so difficult to do. [00:18:00]
[00:18:01] Scott Maderer: And let's go now to stepping back and stepping out of the situation for friends or family members or others who maybe are seeing and we never see the whole picture, but are beginning to get an inkling that maybe there's something wrong here.
[00:18:18] There's something not quite right about this situation. What are some things that they need to hear?
[00:18:29] Amanda Blackwood: Have patience with yourself. Have patience with somebody that you love that is going through something like this. The last thing they need is somebody walking up to them and accusing them, which can be you might not think you're accusing them, but if you're saying, I think this is happening to you, that is accusing them.
[00:18:49] They have to come to this realization on their own. You can help to educate them. You can help to teach them what the signs are. And when this happens, when they start having this [00:19:00] dawning comprehension, they're going to be more likely to reach out to you for help because you were the person that taught them in the first place.
[00:19:07] Yeah. If you're going through it yourself. Definitely have patience and recognize that the strength that's within you, don't give that to, to, don't give that credit to your abusers or to the abuse or the trauma. There was a saying that came about in the 1800s by Friedrich Nietzsche. The saying was, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
[00:19:30] And it's a lie. And it always has been. That same guy died in an insane asylum many years later. And never had any kind of true belief or faith in God. And no wonder he thought that it was every bad thing in his life that made him stronger. He didn't know that it was God that made him strong enough to survive it all to begin with.
[00:19:54] Stick, hang on to your faith. Because it's going to get you through some of the roughest days of your life. [00:20:00] And recognize that he is what makes you stronger, not the past.
[00:20:07] Scott Maderer: So if I've got a few questions that I like to ask everybody, but before I ask those, what else do you think is really vital for us to hear or for under, for us to understand when it comes to this topic?
[00:20:24] Amanda Blackwood: We need to pay more attention to what's going on around us now. I mentioned earlier that on my darkest day, I ended up in the church yard, begging for somebody to see me. And it's because nobody who looked at me could see me. I was completely invisible to the world. I was in tears and nobody wanted to look at me because nobody wanted to acknowledge that there was a problem.
[00:20:48] And if they did acknowledge that there was a problem, they didn't want to step forward and do something because it was easier to ignore that something was happening. And then it says, this is not what we are called to do. It's not what we're called to do as humans. [00:21:00] It's not what we're called to do as Christians.
[00:21:02] We need to be there for our fellow man. I kept on begging somebody, anybody just see me and nobody saw me until I crossed paths with a small child of about four years old. And it was the first time that day that I had been seen and I know without a doubt that God sent this child because he knew if somebody didn't see me, I was going to take my own life that day.
[00:21:27] I was in a desperate situation. I didn't care if I survived. I didn't want to survive. And this child finally saw me. And if a four year old can save somebody's life, don't we all want to have a little bit of that same strength within us?
[00:21:42] Scott Maderer: And it's amazing to me because sometimes kids are the best ones for.
[00:21:49] For seeing the unseen because they don't have the filters yet because we're we're taught as adults, don't get involved, don't pay don't overstep your bounds, don't, [00:22:00] all of those things that don't, that sometimes. is actually what needs to happen is you need to be willing to get involved and to step over a line a little bit not in an inappropriate way but in a way that lets people be seen and be heard and be touched and be recognized for humanity.
[00:22:21] Because all too often, I believe too, that it's the dehumanization that, whether it's human trafficking, whether it's other forms of abuse and neglect, that leads to people feeling that they're in that trapped situation that they have no other options because they're, it's hard to believe you're human when you're treated in that way.
[00:22:48] Amanda Blackwood: I was told I wasn't human anymore.
[00:22:52] Scott Maderer: And how can you have quote, human dignity when you. Don't believe that that you're even human. I'd say it's [00:23:00] impossible. It's a contradiction. My brand is Inspired Stewardship and I run things through that lens of stewardship.
[00:23:07] And yet that's one of those words that I've discovered means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and resonates in different ways when you hear the word stewardship, what does that word mean to you?
[00:23:21] Amanda Blackwood: It's using and managing the resources that God gives to us. And using them to make things better. It's basically, it's taking anything that exists in the world and saying it has a positive purpose to if it's allowed to exist, it has a positive purpose. For me, specifically, it's taking my story of this absolute nightmare of survival and sharing it with people so that people can learn a little bit more about it and.
[00:23:57] Not that I would ever compare myself to Anne [00:24:00] Frank, but when 6 million Jews died in World War 2, they were a statistic. When Anne Frank died and her diary was published, it became a face. It became somebody who had a voice in the darkness, who could tell you in their own words about the atrocities, and it was no longer Just a statistic.
[00:24:20] It was a tragedy. That's what my voice is meant to do. It's meant to raise this awareness and help to educate people and tell people, Hey, this is what's really going on. This is what we're getting wrong. Keep your eyes open. You can help somebody. You can prevent this from happening to somebody else. God gave me the mission of stewardship to take my own story, no matter how painful it is and share it so that I might help somebody else.
[00:24:49] Scott Maderer: So this is my favorite question that I like to ask. Imagine for a minute that I could invent this magic machine and I could pluck you from where you are today and transport you [00:25:00] into the future, maybe 150, maybe 250 years. But through the power of this machine, you are able to look back and see your entire life and see all of the connections, all of the ripples, all of the impacts you've left behind.
[00:25:13] What impact do you hope you've left in the world?
[00:25:18] Amanda Blackwood: I hope I've changed somebody's life enough for them to understand. That their past is not who they are. It doesn't define them. What they do with it does, and I hope that these people, if they're inspired by me in any way, are able to go on with their lives and do something just as productive and inspire others, hundreds, if not millions.
[00:25:46] It starts with that single ripple. Just like in the movie Pocahontas, , . It starts with this single ripple and the ripple grows. And if I could be that single ripple for somebody, for anybody, [00:26:00] I want to see this impact happen on this earth where so many more people start crying out from the darkness, other survivors start speaking up and saying, Hey, this happened to me and I want the world to know about it because the more that we as survivors speak about it, the more those bad people are going to be afraid of us instead.
[00:26:26] Scott Maderer: So what's on the roadmap? What's coming next as you continue on this journey?
[00:26:31] Amanda Blackwood: As I've been working on a book series. I have the first in the series out right now. It's the growth from darkness book series. It's gosh, I've got 13 books out right now, but only one in that book series, but I'm also launching my public speaking career.
[00:26:48] So I'm looking at doing this, hopefully full time, traveling the country and talking about what this means and helping to educate people like law enforcement and the general public on what [00:27:00] to actually look for, how they can step in. And how just asking somebody a total stranger, Are you okay? Can make a massive impact in one person's life.
[00:27:13] Scott Maderer: So you can find out more about Amanda Blackwood over on her website, growthfromdarkness. com. She just mentioned that's the name of the book series. Of course, I'll have a link to that over in the show notes as well. Amanda, anything else that you'd like to share with the listeners?
[00:27:30] Amanda Blackwood: If you're not sure who to go to help for help, reach out to me.
[00:27:36] If you don't know where to go, there are people out there that can help you figure out where to go. In fact, there is a brand new service that rolled out not too long ago called 988. Instead of calling 9 1 1. So if you call 9 1 1, you get the fire, you get the police department. You call 9 8 8. This is considered an easy number for a suicide hotline, but they also are hugely helpful [00:28:00] in the world of human trafficking and domestic violence.
[00:28:02] They will pair you up with a counselor or therapist and many times somebody with lived experience. They can talk to you, they can help you, and they can guide you on how to get out of the situation.
[00:28:34] Scott Maderer: Thanks so much for listening to the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. As a subscriber and listener, we challenge you to not just sit back and passively listen, but act on what you've heard and find a way to live your calling. If you enjoyed this episode please do us a favor, go over to inspired stewardship.
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That doesn’t mean we are incapable of ever feeling that emotion again. We are still searching for that love and that acceptance that we seem to have never found in our lives anywhere. – Amanda Blackwood
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