Our guest today is an author, a speaker, an advocate, and a consultant on the issues of child exploitation and human trafficking. As a survivor herself, she offers a unique perspective that is beneficial to the agencies investigating the criminals involved. She is a courageous voice speaking on behalf of those who have been, currently are, or will be, victims of the sex trafficking industry. Most importantly, Ms. Chong Kim is on the podcast to share how her faith pushes her in this huge task she’s been given.
Though she speaks on many issues surrounding human trafficking, Chong’s main concern is that most of our American girls and young adult women are still being incarcerated as criminals and people are not viewing them as victims who need to be in rehab rather than in prisons. Her biggest focus is to educate our community, our churches, and even our legal system. She gives this example: Take two girls of the same ethnicity, for example, Asian. One is from Southeast Asia and the other one from Amarillo, Texas. The Trafficking Victim Protection Act will rescue and provide rehabilitation for the foreign girl, but the American girl risks being handcuffed and placed in “juvie”. Both girls are treated the same way by the trafficker or the pimp. It is once the girls escape that the treatment differs. Chong works to educate and inform others on this, in hopes of providing better services for American girls being trafficked here in the United States.
Chong talks about one of the biggest challenges she faces in her advocacy, which is the general denial of Americans to believe that the “land of opportunity” could allow its own children to fall through the cracks like this. She considers our social structures that make it difficult for children in need of physical assistance (health care, food, housing), because they still must rely on their parents to apply for such benefits. In order to combat the stereotypes, Chong approaches churches and suburban parents with news stories about kids like theirs who have become victims of sex trafficking. While she recognizes that it takes bringing it close to home to get people to become active, Chong believes that as Christians we should want that NO child would fall into dangerous hands. She also shares with us her some of her own painful childhood. The majority of children who have been trafficked come from similar backgrounds – growing up in church but family life was a façade, blaming God for the spiritual abuses they’ve endured, even doubting the realness of their faith.
While many of us think that traffickers operate by grabbing kids out of parking lots, Chong’s story reveals that that is rarely the case. At the age of 19, she was coerced into human trafficking by a person she thought was her boyfriend and forced into prostitution. She recalls a time of utter hopelessness, seeing no way out of the life with the traffickers. She was so angry at God for her horrific situation. She wanted nothing to do with Him. To Chong, Jesus had been little more than a magician who’d failed her. Sitting in the warehouse where she expected to eventually die, Chong recalls a breeze coming through and hearing God whisper to her, “Everything will be okay.” At the time, she wasn’t certain that what she’d heard was real. But Chong came to realize that God had touched her, and that was the only explanation for the restored hope and indescribable peace she’d experienced. She would escape, no matter what it took. Today, Chong moves forward with that same determination as she helps in the efforts to rescue other girls. Though it’s not easy, she trusts God as He reminds her that He has equipped her for this.
Chong’s final word of encouragement is specifically to troubled teens, but certainly applies to us all: No matter what you’re going through, remember that it’s temporary. Don’t rush life; enjoy it.Enjoy the moment that you have, because you cannot get it back.
Jake Enriquez: 00:03 All right, welcome back to Press and Reach. My name’s Jake Enriquez, your host. It’s so good and wonderful to have you back with us once again and this morning we have a guest who’s come forward to speak out against some things and I think it’s necessary. I really admire the courage that she has just to come forth and speak on this issue, but before we get started of course I always want to welcome you back to press and reach dot com. Where you’ll go and visit us there because we want to connect with you, get to know you and fellowship with you a little bit more and together of course we continue to grow this community, you know, faith, family and community is what it’s all about for us. So definitely go there and sign up for the newsletter as well and the devotional that we have that goes out on every Monday morning.
Jake Enriquez: 00:52 So good morning, Ms Chong Kim is with us today. Chong, how are you doing this morning? All right, it’s good to have you and thank you so much for coming by and hanging out with us for a little bit. I’m definitely, I know that you have an issue that to, you want to speak out against and we want to make in res, I should say awareness against it. And that is human trafficking. So John, I know that you’re a trafficking survivor, right? Yes. Okay. So and currently today, after such a thing and such a tragedy, as a matter of fact, you, you speak out against it in different areas, right? Yeah. But what is the focus that you may have? What are the, some of the things that you may find yourself focused around, um, maybe if it’s in ministry or maybe you have different programs that you’d like to be a part of. What would that be for you?
Chong Kim: 01:37 My main concern is that most of our American girls and young adult women are still being incarcerated as criminals and people are not viewing them as victims and they need to be in rehab rather than in prisons. And that’s my biggest focus is to educate our community, our churches, and even our judicial system as well as our legislation system. Because if you take two girls of the same ethnicity, let’s say for example, Asian, okay, one is actually from Southeast Asia and the other one is actually from Amarillo, Texas. But the problem is the Trafficking Victim Protection Act will rescue and provide rehabilitation for the foreign girl, but the American girl, she’ll be handcuffed and thrown into juvie. And yet they’re both being treated the same way by the trafficker or the pimp. But yet the victim is not being treated the same. Okay. And that’s where the education, we’re still struggling with that education.
Jake Enriquez: 02:44 Right. And Chong are you, is it Korean?
Chong Kim: 02:44 Yes.
Jake Enriquez: 02:46 Okay. But even though you’re Korean, uh, I should have asked you to introduce yourself and I’m sorry about that. Where are you from, Chong?
Chong Kim: 02:54 I’m…I was actually born in South Korea, but I came here as a toddler. My uncle served in the United States military. I was was born with a congenital defect and in Korea, they do not embrace disabled babies. Actually had doctors that said I would not live, you know, after four months, and look at me now, I’m in my forties, we proved them wrong. And you grew up in Oklahoma, right? Yes. What part of Oklahoma? Mainly in the southern part of Oklahoma. Nearby Chickasha, in Grady County. But in a small town called Tuttle, Oklahoma.
Jake Enriquez: 03:33 So, you know, you were just speaking about being a victim, uh, and, and, but not, you’re not treated as a victim but, but people are not treated as a victim. They’re treated as something else. Right? Exactly. So tell us a little bit about that because I know you’re trying to raise awareness and you’re trying to get support and brought in and for us to be not only made aware of different issues but educated on these things. So tell us a little bit about what you mean by not treated as victims.
Chong Kim: 04:04 What I mean by most of the times we have these labels called “child prostitution”. Children do not choose. Why do we even need that label to defend a predator who is preying on a child who is under the age of 18? And then there’s this argument of all the age of consent, the age of consent is only valid with peer to peer, with teenagers dating, things like that. But when it comes to an adult, say “age of consent” does not apply. That’s where the difference is. But the problem is it’s the consistency of the law. There’s a lack, there’s a lack there. And also the communication from state to state churches to churches, community and even police if we don’t have that communication, if we don’t train and educate everyone on the same boat, then we’ll treat one victim different than we do the other.
Jake Enriquez: 05:01 Wow. Okay. I see what you’re saying. All right. So what might be some of those things? Because you were talking about, you gave some example. One gets help and the other gets incarcerated. Exactly. So why would that happen though? I mean, what’s going on that would have them to be incarcerated?
Chong Kim: 05:20 I think the biggest part is denial. We do not want to believe that we are treating our American kids…and the other thing is we look at America as the land of the free with a lot of possibilities, and so in our mind we think, well, if we compare the United States poverty versus places in Uganda or Honduras, they don’t have section eight in Honduras. They don’t have welfare and housing, which as we do, so in our American mind, we think, well, how can the child get traffic who they have all the possibilities. They got CHIP, they’ve got child welfare, they’ve got all of these things.
Chong Kim: 06:02 But what they fail to see – it’s actually up to the parents to apply. If the parents do not apply, who does it hurt the most? The child. And the child’s not going to go to the welfare and say, Hey, I don’t have insurance. I don’t have food, because they know that the only dependent, even if the parent is neglectful, even if the parent is abusive, they’re not going to report them because that’s their only oxygen. Does that make sense? So in that aspect, we’re still ignorant of our children’s welfare because we take what we got, all these opportunities, we’ve got all these resources, but the one thing that we fail to see, like I said, as an adult has to apply for the child. If the adult doesn’t, they’re on drugs or they’re incarcerated, who they’re having struggles. So what happens to your children? You know, children does fall in the same category as the children in foreign lands – because we don’t think about these things.
Jake Enriquez: 07:02 Sure, sure. I can see that. So let me ask you this because, you know, as I’m thinking about what you’re talking about, you, you have to, uh, focus on the right audience in order to get some kind of movement or something, some kind of change to be brought about. So how do you, how do you get that right audience? How do you focus there? Who do you go after it to make a change?
Chong Kim: 07:25 At first, I actually go to the churches, I go to the little league, you know, PTA moms and I actually pull up plenty of news articles, of suburbian kids, because I want them to know because there used to be a stereotype, the only kids who lived in urban areas or kids who came from, um, undocumented families. This only happens to them and that was the misconception. But when it happens in your backyard, then people start creating a movement. But instead of giving focused in our backyard, we need to get focused anyways because even as Christians, we don’t want it to happen to any kid because it doesn’t matter where their parents came from, how they came here, you know, how they were born here. These are all God’s children. We need to reach out to every one of them.
Jake Enriquez: 08:18 Oh, I like that. Absolutely. Okay. So, well, Chong…this is about, uh, you know, our podcast is about faith, family, community, and we do this to encourage people in their own faith and we do realize that everybody comes from a different walk of life. Okay? So I always ask because I think that our childhood…and it always has something to do with the here and now. It doesn’t mean we have to stay where we are here and now we keep growing and going. Right. But tell me a little bit about your own childhood. I mean, what was it like for you? Did you, did you come up in church? Um, were you raised in a family of faith or was it strong for you? What was that like for you?
Chong Kim: 08:57 I did grow up in the church. The sad part was it was only a facade because my father was an alcoholic. My mother would beat me, but we had to be this perfect church family in front of all of our peers in church. But behind closed doors there was sexual abuse, there was alcohol through beatings. And so it made me feel conflicted with my faith even though my mother would always say, well, if you want something, pray. So I saw Jesus as a magician. Like, well, I want Barbie Malibu Barbie doll, but I didn’t get it. So I thought, well, Jesus isn’t real.
Chong Kim: 09:38 And so, and one of the things that, um, majority of children who have been trafficked who come from similar backgrounds, that type of church upbringing – they’d been abused in the church, so they blamed God. They decided they don’t want to go to church anymore, but one of the things that I learned through my healing that it’s called spiritual abuse when someone is taking their position of power that God had anointed them and equipped them, but they abuse it to be God themselves. And one of the things I want to share with anyone that’s listening, if you’ve been abused in the church, you know, get angry and tell God. He can take it. [Sure, absolutely] Let it out. Let it out. You don’t know that it is not God that is doing that. Just like, you know, people want blame men for all the abuse. And I said there’s a difference between real men, and predators. We need to keep that separate. It’s not the church that harmed you. It was that person that became a predator rather than a minister.
Jake Enriquez: 10:47 Okay. Hey Man, I’m glad you said that. You know, I, I do think about, you know, how all those things lead to our own thoughts maybe going astray, our own, you know, because the more we’re put under any kind of abuse or strain or a strenuous type of environment, our mind can certainly wonder and it’s certainly, you know, come to a place where we don’t trust anything and trust anyone and you know, we can definitely get angry and I can see how people would get angry with God, especially in something like that. Okay. Well, I greatly appreciate that, Chong. I tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna take a really quick break and then we’re going to be right back.
Jake Enriquez: 11:29 Welcome back to Press and Reach. We’re hanging out with Ms Chong Kim, a human trafficking survivor who now actively goes out and speaks against human trafficking and raises awareness towards this issue.
Jake Enriquez: 11:41 And, and I, and I’m a firm believer, we all need to be a lot more aware of what’s going on around in our own neighborhoods as well. But before the break, Chong, we were talking about coming up. We’re talking about a mindset. Really, we’re talking about how we can become angry with God or a blame different people and just start blanketing everybody as a whole – It’s everybody’s fault, type of thing. But I do know that you were a survivor and that happened at what age for you?
Chong Kim: 11:41 I was 19.
Jake Enriquez: 12:11 19 years old. So I, I do, I bring that up because for some reason or another, a lot of times people think it’s just maybe a two or three year old or you know, swooped up in the, I don’t know, the grocery store parking lot, but it’s not it. It’s not just that. It’s a lot more. And like you said, you were 19 years old and that happened to you. And we certainly thank God that you’re here today. And, but let me ask you this question because you know, as we all walk through life, God does show us things and He absolutely gives us a time where our faith grows in Him. So this is just a testimony time. So if you would just share a time where God absolutely showed you and blessed you, and your faith was increased and strengthened in Him.
Chong Kim: 12:54 I grew up with child sexual abuse since the age of three. It did not stop until I was in my teenage years. By the time I was 19, I met a guy I thought with my boyfriend and then I was coerced into human trafficking, basically forced into prostitution. When I was relocated in an abandoned warehouse on the Indian reservation, I remember the barking of the traffickers, and at that moment I was angry with God and I say, God, I hate You. If I die, I don’t want to even go to heaven with You. I just want my soul to be left alone. Just leave me alone. And I remember, when they were barking orders – we had to come out to the lobby area and we had to lean up against the wall. And when I was sliding down from the wall, I was hugging my knees. And I literally thought at that moment that I was going to stay there for the rest of my life.
Chong Kim: 13:49 I was either going to be starved to death, or I was going to be OD’d, because they force-fed us with morphine and with heroin and I remember one of the traffickers pulled up, rolled up the door for the warehouse trucks to pull in and I felt a breeze, and if you’ve ever had any type of spiritual awakening, please do not dismiss it. No matter how many unbelievers will say, “you were hallucinating”. “You know it’s not real” – God does talk to us. I heard a whisper when God said “Everything will be okay.” And I felt a calming peace. And I knew right then, that whatever I had to do in the next step, and that’s when I made the strategy to find my way to escape. Even if that meant ranking up to be a madam in order to get out, and it wasn’t an easy choice. But, I look at it today that, you know, if I hadn’t done what I did, I would not be here to share. I will not be able to share other voices that couldn’t be shared. And on top of that, I get to help FBI. I get to help the police department to think like a trafficker. So that way they can continue rescuing these children.
Jake Enriquez: 15:13 Absolutely. So during that time when you were coming, I guess, into a spiritual awakening and you sensed God’s presence and you hear the voice now, what runs through your mind there in that time? Is it, do you still have doubts or do you have, um, a curiosity or what’s, what’s running through your mind during that time?
Chong Kim: 15:37 During that time, I actually thought I was high. I was like, what did they give me? But then I remembered all the other times when I used to get high. I would…things were not calm. He would start hearing things that are negative. I remember having visions of violence and blood and very demonic sexual images that would come in my mind. But when God had touched me, I felt like I was three years old again and I was surrounded by all these butterflies. That’s how I felt. I felt an undescribable peace, that you just can’t put words.
Jake Enriquez: 16:18 That’s called the peace that surpasses all understanding. That’s His, that’s His word by the way. But yeah, most definitely, Chong. That’s why I asked you that, because you know, we can definitely, as believers, we know that God does give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. That’s, that’s His word. That’s His promise. So, uh, you know, today, now I know there’s a lot of painful memories in the past. Do you still struggle at any time with some of those things and what do you do to deal with them today?
Chong Kim: 16:49 I still struggle with them, but not as much as I used to. I’ve actually been medicated-free for over 10 years and I asked, you took on a life skill called dialectic behavioral therapy. There is a biblical version, and it gives you scriptures and it teaches you how to, um, who they call it, ride the roller coaster. Yeah. And whenever I get angry I go into, um, what they call core mindfulness. But what I do is I do, I meditate in prayer. I tell God, you know, I’m angry right now. This person cut me off in traffic or something. Sure. But then I had to start to think, okay, what if that person’s cutting me off because they, it may be a father that her dad’s daughter’s in ICU and he may not realize that he cut me off because all he can think is, he needs to get his daughter. And so I asked God, give me that resilience, give me that understanding. And I think that especially in today’s society, we’re in the division because we don’t agree with anything, right? And I think that we need to learn to humble ourselves. And if we don’t understand, instead of a quick judge, that we could say you know what? Challenge me. Challenge me to learn why you think this way, even if I don’t agree with you in the end, but at least I got to learn to listen.
Jake Enriquez: 18:21 Yes ma’am. Absolutely. That’s good. I appreciate that. [You’re welcome] Absolutely. So speaking of humility and listening, it just leads right into the character traits that developing in us along the way. Uh, this walk of faith, by the way, sister, it’s a long walk. Uh, it can be troublesome sometimes, but we do recall and understand that God never leaves us nor forsakes us. So what would you say is one of those character traits? If you could just bring it down to one, if you want, that’s been developed in you and that you rely on now to continue to walk.
Chong Kim: 18:53 I think it’s my determination, my determination to fight my determination to speak. Sure. You know, because even with some of the girls I rescued, it’s not always easy. They relapsed, they argue, they fight, they kid, they spit. So when people say, Oh, I want to do rescues with you to take this is another puppy mill,
Jake Enriquez: 19:14 right? It’s not easy stuff that you’re talking about, right.
Chong Kim: 19:17 Play. But one of the things that keeps me going is knowing that God says, I have equipped you to do this. You are the one that I have appointed in this task, because I can understand what these girls come from.
Jake Enriquez: 19:34 That’s awesome. So let me ask you this. Uh, Chong, we always say that readers are leaders and we just always loved to get into great books and everything would there that’s always educational. But I just asked you this, do you have a book that you would recommend to the listeners today
Chong Kim: 19:52 for the ones that are still confused about their faith? Um, I have my book out called “Broken Silence”. It’s on Amazon and you can see it and I actually talk very openly about my faith. It is very edgy because I do put the dialogue of how the traffickers talked to girls. [Sure] How predators talk to your children. And so it gives also parents the insight. It is not made for kids or teens. But if parents read it and they talk to their kids, it gives them that insight. For the faithful readers, I love “Redeeming Love”. It’s my favorite romance book.
Jake Enriquez: 20:33 Okay, good. Was it “Redeeming Love”? And then for the other one is “Broken Silence”. And that’s your book, right? Okay, wonderful. We’ll put those books on the show notes. They’ll definitely be there. So let me ask you, Chong, how could people reach out to you today and connect with you? Would it be on Facebook? You have a website or what?
Chong Kim: 20:33 I have a Facebook. It’s Chong Kim LLC on both Facebook and Twitter. And my Instagram, it’s Chong Kim underscore speaks.
New Speaker: 20:58 Okay. And we will put all of those places to go reach out to Ms Chong Kim on the show notes. So make sure that you connect with her there. Now, uh, this is our final word, our, our final question. I know it’s a, it’s a big one though. Okay. So what would you say to encourage A. I’m going to make this a little bit different. Okay. I’ll usually just ask, hey, what would you do to encourage somebody in their faith at this time, but you know, the issue with human trafficking, you know, in raising awareness. Let me just ask it this way. Okay. What would you say to the teenagers today? Uh, speak to them. Because I know a lot of times as the youth come through life, they think this is too much rules, too much restraint. I have to do this, I have to do that. And out of anger and out of bad decisions, they leave home. And I always tell my daughters, by the way, never leave, never leave or walk away from the safety of your Daddy. I let them know that right away, you know, I love them so much, but uh, what would you say to maybe troubled teens at this time?
Chong Kim: 22:05 When I was a teenager, I used to…my dad didn’t even let me date even when I was 18, 17, and I thought I was suffocated. And when you want to run away, it was worse. And no matter what you’re going through, always remember – it’s temporary. Do not rush life. Do not rush to grow up. Enjoy the moment that you have because you cannot get it back. When you’re 35 and you never went to that prom, you can’t get that prom back. Enjoy life. Quit trying to rush. And the other thing is – if you’re having family problems, talk to a minister, talk to a family that you feel you can trust – not someone that’s going to doubt you – and that has the same concern and validate your concerns as well. But you know, the most important thing is – there’s nothing out in the street that’s worth chasing.
Jake Enriquez: 23:08 Wow, I like that right there Chong. There’s nothing out in the street that’s worth chasing. You’re so absolutely right about that. As a matter of fact, I know that was supposed to be the last question, but let me, let me just point this out. Because traffickers, by the way, they kind of sense that behavior in youngsters, right? They see someone who’s unsettled, someone who’s on the move, someone who’s trying to get away from different things and the pick that up.
Chong Kim: 23:34 Absolutely. You know, to put it more simplistic – you ever seen “The Little Mermaid”? [Yeah] Remember Ariel wanted feet and she wanted to be on the earth, but her dad says no. And she thought her father was unfair and she felt like, if I stood up to my dad…but guess who approached her? Ursula. Ursula promised her legs. But always remember, anybody you meet on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, that will promise you gold is only going to deliver hell.
Jake Enriquez: 24:09 Oh my goodness, yes. Well that’s, that’s Ms Chong Kim. Once again, hey, we love you. We thank God for you. We thank you for your courage to stand up and speak out against something like this. And again, for the listeners today on the show notes, you can find those show notes at press and reach dot com forward slash pr 65. Thank you so much, Chong.
Broken Silence: A Triumphant Journey of a Human Trafficking Victim to an Inspirational Advocate, by Chong Kim and Erica NiwaHu
Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers