EP 50: Rebecca Bender | Freedom From Human Trafficking

Rebecca Bender

CEO & Founder Rebecca Bender Initiative

Author, In Pursuit of Love, Roadmap to Redemption

She is an award-winning, nationally recognized expert on human trafficking.

After escaping nearly six years of modern-day slavery, she wrote her first book, Roadmap to Redemption, followed by her recent curriculum Elevate.

RBI’s advanced trainings have equipped FBI, Homeland Security, local law enforcement, medical professionals, service providers, and faith communities across America.

Rebecca serves as an advisor to both the Oregon D.O.J. Human Trafficking Council and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

She is also the recipient of the Female Overcomer Award, Unlikely Hero Award, Hero to our Generation Award and multiple FBI and Congressional recognitions.

She is a sought-after speaker and consultant and has been featured on the Today Show, NBC Deadline Crimes, Forbes, Huffington Post, and Sports Illustrated.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their four daughters and just completed her master’s degree from Bethel Seminary.


Rebecca and I chat about the 6 years she spent being sex trafficking in Vegas, her new book In Pursuit of Love, the various forms exploitation and trafficking can take on, the increased risk for those living in vulnerable situations, the necessity of trauma informed care, God’s consistent long term pursuit of her heart, and some red flags of human trafficking.

5:03 Rebecca’s story is one of radical transformation and is shared in great detail in her new book In Pursuit of Love. She takes us back and shares her  story of being trafficked as a teenage girl?

“I would have never been put in an at-risk youth category.”

“I met a guy who had all the answers to all my problems as a young, 18 year old, single mom…There are some real vulnerabilities in that [single, teen mom].”

“I think there is a lot to say about young girls, especially 18-24, who are raised in a culture where sex sells….”

Group Think: the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

“According to FBI, less than 5% of trafficking victims in America are kidnapped.”

“In real life it [human trafficking] doesn’t happen quickly. It’s a gradual expansion. There’s no A to Z.  It is A to B. The next month B to C. The next month C to D.”

Turn out is slang for trafficking a girl.

“Working in the commercial sex industry, even if it is through dancing, through stripping, it’s a way to make quick money for people that don’t have a lot of options and don’t have a lot of choices and feel really trapped and might not be able to wait 2 weeks to pay the rent or buy food.”

“Even within strip clubs, women are being trafficked.”

Stable is slang for the home the trafficker has multiple victims.

19:12 Rebecca shares what a weekend was like when she was being sex trafficked.

“It’s hard to describe. It felt like my sanity was slipping away from me. I started feeling like I was going crazy and I didn’t know how to pull myself together enough to let the dust settle, because the dust never settled. I just needed a minute to think, but the minute never came. You start to feel your sanity slipping away….Just from the mental health of constant physical abuse and the constant fear.”

26:56 Rebecca talks about trauma informed care and why is it vital for women and men who have been trafficked?

28:57  I believe it is crucial for the general pubic to understand that human trafficking and exploitation takes on many different forms and most do not include the person being kidnapped and locked up with absolutely no chance for escape, but is much more complex.  Rebecca wrote, “I’d never even heard of human trafficking.  I considered myself to be a prostitute with a boyfriend who beat me.  I didn’t understand how the complexities of force, fraud, or coercion had played out in my everyday life.” Rebecca shares  how some of those complexities played out in her life.

“Talk about the why behind the rule before you share the rule.”

33:18 Rebecca shares some red flags someone that someone is being trafficked or coerced into commercial sex

In the back of the book, In Pursuit of Love is

  • Human Trafficking Lingo sheet
  • Power of Coercion: 40 coercive tactics that traffickers use on their victims
  • Red Flag Resource: Are you or someone you know dating a trafficker?

“Not all trafficking looks the same. There’s 25 different types of exploitation that exist in America alone. Whether it’s illicit massage parlors, cantina’s, online ads, street prostitution. There’s all different types.”

Typology Report: Human Trafficking

“For my trafficking, I experienced pimp controlled domestic exploitation. That is where a lot of my resources are rooted from….Some red flags that happened for me are:

  • A trafficker who is 5 years older or more than the victim
  • Makes frequent trips out of town
  • Doesn’t have a job that one can actually visit, but clearly has enough money to cover bills or live excessively

….Usually we say if you can circle 3 or more on the list at the back of the book, then that should be someone you look into further.”

36:40 In chapter 16, Rebecca includes the legal definition of sex trafficking and how she worked through it to identify how she had been trafficked.

Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age

37:40 Rebecca shares how she worked through the definition of sex trafficking.

“The victim is experiencing nights of fraudulent hopefulness (hope leads to eternal misery) and then, there’s nights of extreme force and coercion. You live in this constant state of confusion, ‘I love him, but why does he hurt me’.”

 43:05 Rebecca writes, “My transformation didn’t happen overnight.  It required making daily choices toward God, his Word, and his truth. It was hard and scary, and it went against what my earthly, fleshly self constantly craved.  Choosing life and life more abundantly required dying to self, and that took far longer than the counterfeit version of life the old me kept falling for.” God patiently pursued Rebecca for years. She shares a little about her faith journey and God’s faithfulness in her life.

Psalms 40

“He literally took me out of the clutches of Satan. Out of the worst pit that I didn’t know existed in our country. The worst amount of debauchery and horribleness and steadied me as I walked along.”

46:56 Rebecca shares what her life looks like today

“I love the Word of God.”

48:12 Rebecca shares some wisdom with her future great grandkids

Find Your Lane Bundle with In Pursuit of Love book

“That’s our mission as an anti-trafficking organization: change the mindset of a culture as it pertains to sex for sale in America. There’s still hope. We can still do this.”

Please follow and share