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Trafficking Survivor Eliza Bleu: How My Abuser Preyed on My Vulnerabilities

“Grooming, in my case, looked like an abuser finding out my vulnerabilities. He knew I wanted to be famous. He knew I wanted to get out of the farm life that I was growing up in.”

At the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas, I sat down with Eliza Bleu, a child sex trafficking survivor. Now she’s advocating for the many children being exploited for profit online.

“Children are either being blackmailed, groomed… or extorted, sextorted to making this content, and it is probably by far the biggest threat right now when we’re talking about the sexual exploitation of children,” Bleu says.

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Jan Jekielek:

Eliza Bleu, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Eliza Bleu:

Thank you so much for having me.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, let’s start at the beginning. You’re a survivor of sex trafficking, to put it really bluntly. Let’s just start  with your story, because frankly, [it is] a very important and powerful one.

Ms. Bleu:

Yes. There’s a lot there. So to cut out a little bit of time, because it would take a long time for me to explain  the entire story. I was homeschooled. I thought that everyone was perfect and good like the family that I came from. I met an abuser who was a photographer when I was 15 years old. I like to be very clear when I’m speaking about this and let folks know that I’m 41 years old now. And at the time, there was no real social media or internet. This individual spent two years grooming me over the phone and through actual letter mail. Nowadays, things work much more quickly through the use of social media and modern technology. But at the time, that wasn’t available. But this individual groomed me for two years. I graduated early because I was homeschooled and moved out to Los Angeles.

He promised me that I would be a star. He told me I’d be a model and a rock star, and I believed him. So I moved to Los Angeles when I was a minor, and almost right away I was sex trafficked. And it was just as horrible as I think anyone would think it would be. Unfortunately because that initial trauma was there, even  though I was able to get out of that specific situation because I had a drug overdose. So I went to the hospital and I was able to get out of that specific, scary situation. Fortunately, because that trauma was there, I ended up being trafficked again, another time in my life. So it’s been a pattern for me, unfortunately, abusive relationships. I was also in domestic violence, marriage as well, multiple sexual assaults. And of course the trafficking. I’m so grateful to be free today. So grateful.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to talk about that journey, because to me, that’s the really powerful part. At least I only know a little bit of the story actually from our mutual friend Theressa Helm.

Ms. Bleu:

Yes. And thank you so much for interviewing her. That was Theresa J Helm for anyone that’s watching that doesn’t know is a survivor of Epstein, Maxwell. She’s also a close personal friend of mine and you did a fabulous interview with her and it just means a lot.

Mr. Jekielek:

Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about this concept of grooming before we continue-

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

… Because that word is just thrown around right now. Like everything’s grooming, not everything, but what does that really mean? Just spell it out for us.

Ms. Bleu:

I’m sure it has a definition, like an Oxford definition. I don’t know that definition. What I know is my experience and what it looked like for me in my life. It looked like an abuser finding out my vulnerabilities and preying off of those vulnerabilities over a prolonged period of time. Grooming can take on many different forms. I would prefer folks don’t overuse the word and only use it when it’s specifically about  grooming, mainly because we’ve seen what has happened to words like racism, bigotry.

They’ve been used so many times, overused. And then when real racism or real bigotry comes about. In fact this event was called racist and bigoted transphobic. I saw some posts today, you know the SPLC… Sorry, I’m going off on a full tangent. But we have to be very mindful. I take grooming, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking very seriously. So we cannot use these words lightly. We have to say them… Words have meaning. So I just want to say that. But in grooming, in my case, looked like an abuser finding out my  vulnerabilities.

He knew I wanted to be famous. He knew I wanted to get out of the farm life that I was growing up in. He knew that I thought that being homeschooled was super lame and that I just wanted to get off the farm. So he played off that. In other ways, sometimes grooming can look like a job promise that doesn’t exist, especially the immigrant folks that immigrate here from other countries. There are promises of things that simply don’t exist. So grooming can take on many different forms. Of them, Ghislaine Maxwell was one of the worst. She was one of the most manipulative and deviant.

Mr. Jekielek:

And this is the thing I think people don’t understand, it takes the form of someone just becoming your friend, right?

Ms. Bleu:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

But what they’re really doing is they’re setting you up-

Ms. Bleu:

Correct.

Mr. Jekielek:

… For later when they’ll take it… They’re earning you. Grooming is actually earning trust, which isn’t deserved. Is that-

Ms. Bleu:

Which is very scary and sad that someone will knowingly manipulate on that level. They know what they’re doing. Ghislaine Maxwell, hate to go back to, but she was one of the worst, knew what she was doing. My former abuser knew what he was doing. He set out to groom a child so that he could make money off of selling my body. In the United States, we do see a vast majority of trafficking survivors have a preexisting relationship with their abuser, their trafficker, whether that be a family member, a boyfriend, and I’m using the word boyfriend very loosely, or someone that they have a preexisting relationship with.

Mr. Jekielek:

That’s very interesting because they… I’m going to mention this, because it just came to my mind. It’s very different from that film from years ago “Taken.” You remember that?

Ms. Bleu:

Of course, I remember. Yes is a thorn in my side.

Mr. Jekielek:

Okay. Why is that a thorn in your side?

Ms. Bleu:

Because unfortunately what it did was set this unrealistic Hollywood version of what human trafficking looks like. In the United States, we only see… And I shouldn’t say only, because it’s really diminishing and belittling to survivors of this crime. But as far as kidnapping goes, real kidnapping where you don’t have a preexisting relationship, we see about 300 statistically over the last 10 years, kidnapping victims a year. But human trafficking victims, we see much more than 300.

I think that this preconceived notion that it’s always kidnapping is very dangerous. What it does is it sets… I see the same thing sort of with human smuggling and human trafficking, folks can’t differentiate, I couldn’t differentiate. When folks don’t know what human trafficking looks like, they’re less likely to identify as victims or survivors. We need survivors to be able to self-identify. So when they only think it’s chains, duct tape on the mouth, ropes on the wrist, when they think you have to be transported in the back of a semi truck, they’re less likely to self-identify and step forward for healing and hope that they deserve.

Mr. Jekielek:

I don’t know if you feel comfortable about this, but like in this situation that you were in-

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

… You were invited out to be a star and then you land in Los Angeles and then suddenly the situation changes. [What] did that look like?

Ms. Bleu:

I don’t come from a home that had substance abuse or alcohol really around, but I wanted to be cool. I was in LA, I was a minor, and I was offered a beer. That’s how it started. I was offered a beer, and I just wanted to be cool. And I wanted to seem like it was normal for me, and like I could hang. I drank the beer. Then after the beer, the drugs were introduced, and… I also don’t come from a household that does narcotics or I hadn’t really been around it really at all. So I just did a little bit of drugs and then the very inappropriate sexual behavior began, especially considering the fact that I was a minor. And I like to remind folks of that when I tell my story like at no point would this have been acceptable, period.

And I was scared and I didn’t want to call the cops because I thought it was my fault. I thought I’d go to prison or jail. Because I thought that I was doing illegal activities, which I was. So the year that I was trafficked, originally, was the first year that the first law in the United States was written against human trafficking. We did not have the language to put to these issues that we do now. Thank God things have changed. I thank God things have changed. We’ve hit a major hockey stick moment. I could sit here and talk to you about these issues. At the time, we didn’t have the language. You would’ve been thought of as a minor prostitute, a drug addict, something else. Now, we can identify that this is a crime and that individuals like myself need help. It’s bad. It was really bad.

If you listen to my story, and then if you listen to Theressa J Helm story, folks like to think that the global elite like Epstein is rare, but actually my story and Theresa J Helm story mirror each other quite a lot—a lot of the Epstein survivors. Statistically what we see here in the United States mirror a lot of what the survivors of R. Kelly went through, the survivors of Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein. Myself and… So the data speaks to that. So when folks are looking at that case, I want them to not just think of the elite factor, I want them to think of how could we have prevented this crime from happening in the first place?

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to sort of go into this. I feel like I can somehow, but it’s a very strange realm because you’re… It’s about trust really. Someone is creating a relationship with you based on trust. If you’re going to teach someone to be vigilant of possible sex trafficking, someone that’s grooming you, it’s also kind of like teaching them to be careful to trust people or something like this. This just struck me, I’m actually so deeply concerned by the fact that in our society and this atomized society that we are today, they’re actually people who don’t trust each other. So this strikes me like a terrible conundrum.

Ms. Bleu:

I think it’s more of a lesson, not of trust, because you also need to let folks know that if something bad does happen, they can trust you to come forward and be honest. So there is a layer of trust there that needs to be had. I think it’s more of a lesson of, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is and there are evil individuals in the world. One thing that helped me process my trauma, believe it or not, was learning about history and some of the other things that are going on in the world; North Korea, the Chinese Uyghurs genocide, the Gulag, everything. It made me really…

I’m not happy that those things happen, I’m not happy that they’re happening, but it does help me process, okay, there’s evil out here. So I think if there is one thing I could go back and do… Because I think about this all the time. If there’s one thing that I think I will go back and do in my past would be to learn about evil, evil exists. Evil exists. And I think if parents teach children that evil is out there, but also if something bad does happen, they can come to their family members or whomever and be transparent about what’s going on. And if the family member is the abuser, they need to also have safe adults in their life.

Mr. Jekielek:

Do you plan to have children?

Ms. Bleu:

I would love to, but I’m 41. I’d have to start like right now. I would love to have children, but sometimes I think that… I would love to adopt as well. We’ll see what happens. I need a husband first here.

Mr. Jekielek:

Here’s the reason-

Ms. Bleu:

I need a husband first.

Mr. Jekielek:

Here’s the reason I’m asking. Okay?

Ms. Bleu:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

Because I’m wondering like-

Ms. Bleu:

This took a turn.

Mr. Jekielek:

How would you talk to-

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

your children to tell them just about these realities?

Ms. Bleu:

There are so many educational tools now. There are so many educational tools that start from a very young age, like cartoons for young children, about safety, internet safety. We have to be very proactive with children these days. And I don’t think… You don’t want your child to have a sextortion case or a situation where they’re… You would be… I mean, some of the stuff that we see these days is predominantly self-generated content, produced by the child, and then-

Mr. Jekielek:

Used.

Ms. Bleu:

… Spread online.

Mr. Jekielek:

Yeah.

Ms. Bleu:

Correct. This is very common. The FBI is screaming about it. I’m screaming about it. And there’s many… I mean, basically every government, every… And nobody is listening. Everybody is like, we have a problem.

Mr. Jekielek:

So I just want to kind of spell out what this is. Let me see if I’ve got this.

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s basically, kids are making sexualized photos or videos for each other or something.

Ms. Bleu:

Correct.

Mr. Jekielek:

And someone grabs that or fools them into creating it and then uses it as leverage-

Ms. Bleu:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

… To get them to do what they want.

Ms. Bleu:

Blackmailed essentially.

Mr. Jekielek:

Yeah.

Ms. Bleu:

And it’s called sextortion.

Mr. Jekielek:

This is so horrific.

Ms. Bleu:

It’s very horrific, but it’s very real. So we need to have these honest conversations and stop.

Mr. Jekielek:

So this is growing? This is a growing phenomenon.

Ms. Bleu:

It’s beyond growing. The numbers in the data about self-generated content just off of Facebook alone are mind blowing, in the millions a month. So children are either being blackmailed, groomed, we go back to how that word groomed or extorted, sextorted to making this content. And it is probably by far the biggest threat right now, when we’re talking about the sexual exploitation of children in the United States.

Mr. Jekielek:

You’re saying that this specific phenomenon is the biggest problem towards the sexual exploitation of children?

Ms. Bleu:

I would say it’s number one.

Mr. Jekielek:

Fascinating. What are the other ones?

Ms. Bleu:

Of sexual exploitation or all exploitation of children?

Mr. Jekielek:

Let’s start with-

Ms. Bleu:

It’s a broad, it’s-

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s terrible that you could even ask that question.

Ms. Bleu:

Correct. Yeah.

Mr. Jekielek:

But let’s do both. Yeah.

Ms. Bleu:

So the sexual exploitation of children right now, a lot of things we have of course, familial sexual abuse, sexual exploitation molestation. We have parents that are leaving their children with individuals whom they don’t know the full background, who end up exploiting their children. We have child sexual abuse material which is… I try not to sound hyperbolic when I’m speaking about this because I don’t want to make it so that folks don’t pay attention. It is one of the biggest problems on the internet, period, of all time. It used to be before that pedophiles would just exchange Polaroids in back alleys.

Nowadays, there is an entire market for this material and it’s posted on the main feed of our regular social media platforms. I’ll give you, for instance, I wrote a story for the “Blaze” about a pedophile child abuser that had 290,000 Twitter followers—290,000 Twitter followers and posted child sexual abuse material on the main feed for four years on Twitter. He would lure children, and he had a business that was running on the main feed of Twitter for four years. And then there’s a case of John Doe number one and John Doe number two off Twitter. They’re both minor survivors suing Twitter. Their child sexual abuse material video is watched over 160,000 times with over 2000 retweets. They’re suing Twitter. So this is not like a dark web type of thing-

Mr. Jekielek:

Isn’t even like watching that stuff illegal?

Ms. Bleu:

So viewing child sexual abuse material, I don’t think that… I don’t think about it like that. So I have, because of my work stumbled on child sexual abuse material that I then report to the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But I don’t know if actually… Maybe if you seek it out, I’d have to look [at] the law. I’m not-

Mr. Jekielek:

Right. I’m just stunned that people would… Like anyone would retweet this or like this… The thing that strikes me is so bizarre.

Ms. Bleu:

Society is sick.

Mr. Jekielek:

Wow. Like-

Ms. Bleu:

I mean, society is sick.

Mr. Jekielek:

… People have no problem saying, yeah, I watched this and why don’t you watch it too? What the hell is that?

Ms. Bleu:

It’s a sick society. But let’s look at the silver lining because I try to find one. The silver lining is that we can have these conversations. The silver lining is that, every time there’s a big case like this, more survivors feel like they can step forward—they know they’re not alone. And we are urging these platforms and parents to talk to their kids, the platforms to maybe make things a little bit better and prioritize reports. There is some silver lining, we need to have this conversation. We’re just having it too late. So we’re trying to play catch up. The abusers had a head start, but they won’t win in the end.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to kind of touch on these like mainstream social media platforms.

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

I mean, if there’s anything that’s an easy removal should be, right?

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s that. What else could there be that’s an easy removal?

Ms. Bleu:

Yeah. This is one of my main beefs. The smaller platforms that are more free speech like minds.com, locals can remove the child sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse material very quickly and very easily. When you look at the reports, like as far as like terrorism or terroristic threats, you’re looking at a few thousand a month as opposed to child sexual abuse material. I like to pick on Twitter specifically, because they’re like my arch nemesis, but I also love them, but I hate them. I love the platform, but I think they’ve had some egregious things happen. So when you look at the month of May, I believe they removed 46,000 child sexual exploitation or non-consensual images, videos, things like that as opposed to terrorism globally, which they removed 2000. So the child sexual abuse material, child sexual exploitation material, non-consensual videos and imagery is off the chain.

Why on earth platforms are not prioritizing the removal of this content is beyond me. They have no problem removing words that they don’t like, speech that they don’t like, thoughts that they don’t like. I’m sure that your own publication has been censored at some point, of course, why wouldn’t they? Because it doesn’t fit their narrative. But to remove the very egregious human rights violation, that’s being monetized and viewed and spread around. And once that child sexual abuse material i.s online, it’s almost impossible to get it off. Almost impossible. These survivors’ lives are ruined.

Why these platforms are not prioritizing it, I don’t know. But to be very mindful when we’re having this conversation, because what Facebook did is, they actually… Is a long story, but to remove videos of beheading and terrorism and child sexual abuse material, they’ve actually been using individuals in Kenya, in India and paying them $2.50 cents an hour to remove child sexual abuse material off Facebook. So we have to be very mindful that we don’t push platforms to create more trafficking in a desperate need to remove trafficking from the platforms.

Mr. Jekielek:

Because you’re basically saying these people are being exploited to remove exploited material.

Ms. Bleu:

Correct. Facebook Meta is being sued by a survivor of human trafficking in Kenya who was removing child sexual abuse material for $2.50 an hour for many hours a day. So they created a survivor of human trafficking to remove the human trafficking off the platform. So we have to be very mindful. We’re doing this, a very human centered approach. Sorry. This is like my whole tangent.

Mr. Jekielek:

No, this is incredibly interesting.

Ms. Bleu:

Is it?

Mr. Jekielek:

I mean, it’s interesting-

Ms. Bleu:

It was in “Time,” by the way, if you want to look up that story.

Mr. Jekielek:

… But also like… it is the issue of our times, because you’re right, the moment that something like this goes up, I’m sure there’s all these sick people that are pulling it down to keep it for forever so that… Because they know that it might get removed or something. I can just imagine that.

Ms. Bleu:

There are some bright spots. We can talk a little bit about the technology. Most of the platforms used Microsoft PhotoDNA. Microsoft photo DNA was designed in 2008 or 2009. Essentially what it does is once that image or video is in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database it’s hashed, and then if it goes up on a platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, it will trip off the artificial intelligence. There are some bright spots. I’m really looking forward to what technology and innovation can do around these issues. I just need people to care, but more importantly, I need parents to talk to their kids.

Mr. Jekielek:

You’ve had some personal successes in this, in this battle. So maybe tell me a little bit about those.

Ms. Bleu:

Sure. Yeah. Well, I think every day’s a success. I think the fact that I’m here speaking at Freedom Fest is a success. I mean, survive human trafficking and now I’m here to live to tell the story. That’s a pretty big success. So that’s, number one, like the best thing. I try to have fun with my activism and advocacy, but I think probably one of my biggest wins has been different lawsuits, putting legal pressure on some of the platforms and speaking up on behalf of the survivors that cannot speak for themselves because they’re minors. But getting Twitter to add a special report button for non-consensual and exploitative child sexual abuse material, that was… You would think that that ask wouldn’t have been much, [but] it took me a year to get an extra button, and I didn’t even fully get what I wanted. But yes, I will push and push and push. I am relentless.

Mr. Jekielek:

What do you think? It makes a difference nonetheless though, right?

Ms. Bleu:

So what I’m trying to do is encourage platforms to be innovative, I don’t mind if the government regulates it, but what I don’t want is for the government to break digital privacy rights or use human trafficking, child sexual exploitation material as an excuse to get a back door into our privacy. In which case I feel like then you’re making all citizens that are innocent citizens slaves to the state.

Mr. Jekielek:

Yeah. You’re touching on exactly what I wanted to get into. So no, because this is exactly the issue. I mean, it’s also the issue in a different, I don’t know if scale’s the right term, but for example, you want to teach kids to be safe, to play it safe, to watch out, to know the signs. On the other hand, we live in a society where we’re obsessed with safety. If we continue… Like COVID pandemic is the textbook example of that. It’s not really a good way to live. So how do you find the right way through that? That’s a big question. I don’t think anyone has the answer for that, similar to here. Absolutely, we’re on this kind of precipice of all privacy disappearing.

Ms. Bleu:

Had to be very, very, very careful.

Mr. Jekielek:

On the other hand, this is extremely serious and these… We have to protect our children.

Ms. Bleu:

No, it is, but you don’t… I’m kind of bullish on digital privacy rights as well. I just take it very seriously, because I understand the hands of the state or tech companies, they will use it to gain power and control over everyone. And what I don’t want to do is put the safety of all innocent citizens aside to protect some survivors that have been trafficked online. I feel very deeply about survivors. And I understand sometimes it’s a natural instinct to want to make these broad sweeping legislations that will give tech companies or governments access to everyone’s… Gosh, the EU is pushing through some stuff right now that’s scary. It’s terrifying.

I don’t think that the government has earned our trust, any government, and we have to proceed like that. So that’s why I’m always encouraging innovation and prioritizing reports and… You know what I mean? It’s like, I just want anything besides the government solution to trafficking. As far as safety goes, humans aren’t supposed to be in a security bubble. We’re supposed to touch germs, we’re supposed to get messy sometimes, our heart broken and other struggles and strife.

It’s not that, I do want parents to be transparent with children about the dangers, but also you cannot be a total hover parent, but what you can do is let them know that, if and when they hit the weeds, getting the weeds and their life starts going horribly, they have somewhere to go. It’s a two part deal. You let them know what the dangers are out there, but also, if you get stuck, come home.

Mr. Jekielek:

I think you said something incredibly profound. Just simply the idea that evil really does exist is very important and a lot of kids aren’t taught that today.

Ms. Bleu:

I know. I’m still trying to process that myself. Because that’s not how my brain works, naturally. My brain doesn’t work how the government works or how an abuser works or how an evil dictator works. So it’s really difficult, I think people… People say to me all the time, how can anyone be an abuser? How can anyone be an abuser? I’m like, I don’t know. It’s not my path, but I think we need to recognize that this is the thing that’s happening. So like I’m not going to sit here and try to figure out, how did Stalin become Stalin? Like, I’m just going to be like, okay, that’s a thing that happened and it could happen again. So what can we do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?

Mr. Jekielek:

So you got trafficked, you ODed, you got out, then you got someone else or the same person, I don’t know. You got in with them again. And then somehow you got out, how did that happen?

Ms. Bleu:

It was a different person the second time.

Mr. Jekielek:

Okay.

Ms. Bleu:

That story is a little more nuanced, but… So how I got out, it was really hard. It was really hard because I had a deep Stockholm syndrome trauma bonds with my former abusers. I thought I was in love with them. I just really thought I was freaking in love. I was watching YouTube one night and I saw a survivor on YouTube tell her story. This was a little bit before… I know. It’s funny that YouTube would have that much of an impact or something like so random or… It almost seems like flipping trivial to turn on a YouTube video. But in my case, to save my freaking life, I turned it on, I saw Annie. Annie has a safe house here in Las Vegas called Destiny’s House.

And she was beautiful, aesthetically. And that was the language that spoke to me at that time. Her hair was beautiful. Her makeup was beautiful. And she was, I think it might have been like a CNN clip or something like that, but she was walking the strip and she was telling her story. I understood for the first time what was happening to me and I reached out for help and support from a local organization. I was given a survivor advocate very quickly. They helped me move. I went to a safe house. Unfortunately my trauma bonds and my Stockholm syndrome with my former abuser was so deep and so thick that a two year program at the survivor safe house only lasted for three months and then I went back to him.

But eventually I just left. Because what happened there… And this is crucial, what happened there was, seeds of hope were planted, at that safe house. Seeds of hope, even though I wasn’t ready to receive the message, my brain was a little broken. There were seeds of hope that were… They were planted there. So I started to feel like I had value and worth. And like I was worth something more. Yeah.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s very interesting, because it’s the grooming… Sorry to make it sound so clinical, but this is what I’m hearing from you right now, is, grooming is this process, and they kind of build this trust, build this trust and create these bonds. And you’re in this situation where you’re almost ready to do crazy things because you think you have this connection with this person.

Ms. Bleu:

Well, I wasn’t like human really. I’ve talked to Dr. Drew a lot. Do you know Dr. Drew? He’s such a classic. He always tells me, Eliza, you were in a cult of two. So I was basically a cult member, essentially, my brain was not here. And I’m so grateful I snapped out of it. Because I don’t think I’d be here anymore. I was not headed down a good path.

Mr. Jekielek:

The other side of it was also those seeds you’re saying, it was a process you needed to know that you weren’t ready to break that right at the beginning-

Ms. Bleu:

No.

Mr. Jekielek:

… Or it wasn’t strong enough, but you knew there was a way. And it was a process of building that trust as well, this other place

Ms. Bleu:

I was fighting it. I was really fighting it. It’s almost like I didn’t want to be free. I try not to judge people that have fallen for propaganda or other types of things because I fell for it too. It’s just different.

Mr. Jekielek:

Again. You’re reading my mind here. Because I want… It’s such a profound question. We see people in our society more broadly today believing all sorts of things that are, just if you step back and look, you think to yourself, that is really crazy. Like, how can you believe that? I’m of the more empathetic sort. I don’t immediately judge, oh, that person is stupid or anything like that and then… I don’t know if you’ve read this book yet, “The Psychology of Totalitarianism” by Mattias Desmet. If you haven’t, I recommend it.

Ms. Bleu:

Okay.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time. But he kind of provides a model for how this can happen, how people can be getting to this situation. And it’s hard… Just like what you’re describing, this is what reminded me of this, it’s hard to get out. Even if you’ve decided that you’re running with a certain, let’s call it a narrative.

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s hard to break that actually. You need something, it’s almost like a shock to the system needs to happen to break that.

Ms. Bleu:

Sometimes for some folks it’s a shock to the system, for other folks, it’s slow, plant seeds of hope and truth, because the truth shines. The truth is so powerful that when sunlight hits, it sparkles. I just want everybody to be free. That’s it. Free from abuse, free from whatever is really holding them back. And whatever that is, if it’s mentally… Because a lot of folks just trap themselves, they’re trapped themselves too. And of course I’ve been there, a couple times. But I just want folks to be free, and I think the best way to do that is to plant seeds of hope and to tell the truth.

Mr. Jekielek:

As we finish up, I want to just talk a little bit about, what is it that will give you a hint that someone you know is experiencing this? Because sometimes it’s very well hidden from what I understand. How can you get a hint that someone might need help?

Ms. Bleu:

Yeah. Everyone asks me how to spot a victim, survivor of human trafficking. And I always flip the question, how could a victim, survivor of human trafficking spot you? Are you a safe person? Do you smile? Are you nonjudgmental? Could they disclose abuse? And when they did, would you know what to do once they did? When we’re prepared to handle those conversations, and when we’re just having open and honest dialogue, being a loving person, a smiling person… I mean, it’s crazy. Even here at Freedom Fest, you will be surprised at things that folks will disclose when you just are a friendly, safe person. I don’t want to run around looking for victims all the time, I want to know, how can victims spot me?

Mr. Jekielek:

So you want to be the person that people will trust to talk to?

Ms. Bleu:

Yeah.

Mr. Jekielek:

Right.

Ms. Bleu:

That’s what I would say, because a survivor or victim and an abuser can look like anything. It could be anyone, any age, any gender, any race, any ethnicity, any religious background. It’s so diverse that we can’t go around chasing, oh, I’m looking for someone that’s not making eye contact. Okay. Well maybe that’s a… Maybe that person [spots] me in traffic. Maybe they’re just shy. Or like looking for a brand or something like that. It’s like, no, just be an open, cool person. And then if somebody is in need and needs support, they know they could come talk to you.

Mr. Jekielek:

Let’s say someone does disclose to you, I have this problem, but the reality is that they may not be ready like you weren’t to leave because of these bonds that you were describing, what can they do?

Ms. Bleu:

That’s a great question, nobody has ever asked me that. So the number one thing I always say is, thank you for trusting me enough to tell me because that means a lot. So thank you so much for being honest, I believe you, are you… I hate to sound like I’m doing a script, but it is a script because I get shattered and frazzled as well. So I’m kind of grateful that I have a script, because it gives me something to go to. Thank you for disclosing that with me, I believe you. Are you at risk of harming yourself? Or are you in physical danger? Because if so, I just want to make sure you stay safe, just today. Oftentimes, when survivors first disclose abuse, there’s something really heavy going on. It’s not like it’s just going to…

It comes out sometimes just randomly, but generally they… By the time they’re at a point where they’re disclosing abuse, it’s like go time to as far as needing support services. So depending on the situation, I make sure that they aren’t at risk or self harm or suicide or physical danger. And then we go from there. And the human trafficking hotline works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And they serve survivors who passed a recent trauma and they will also take tips as well. If it’s difficult to get through there-

Mr. Jekielek:

But it works? That’s important, because a lot of times people say, what do you mean, call a number? What is that going to do?

Ms. Bleu:

It seems corny. But there’s something freeing about calling someone and you don’t have to tell them your name. They’re not going to judge you and they can help assess your needs and find you local resources for free. It seems corny, it seems lame. For instance, because I’m a survivor, if this whole thing became too much for me, or after my speech tomorrow, if I got too triggered and I was going to a dark place, I will call the hotline. I have other folks I can call. I have safe people that I can call and talk to. I would feel comfortable reaching out to you. You know what I’m saying? If I really needed someone to talk to, but if I felt like this is a survivor issue, I would feel still comfortable calling the hotline. It seems corny, but it works.

Mr. Jekielek:

Okay. As we’re finishing up, I just realized, we haven’t talked to any of the statistics.

Ms. Bleu:

Yeah.

Mr. Jekielek:

I actually think I’m one of these people who thinks it is actually important to state them because it’s much bigger than most people realize.

Ms. Bleu:

Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:

So just very briefly, what is the reality of this in America right now?

Ms. Bleu:

So the numbers are difficult to get, let’s start off by saying that. They’re difficult to get because it’s hard for survivors to step forward and disclose. I’m think about a 150 billion industry, 43 million globally. In the United States, I have no clue. But I will tell folks this… So when I speak, I speak a lot about child sexual abuse material in the digital space. Those numbers are a little easier to get just because the platforms have to report. So those are a little more concrete. The Human Trafficking Institute does great data collection, every year, there has been a lot of lawsuits.

But the number one way, I think that folks will realize that it’s happening in their hometown, just Google human trafficking in your hometown or the closest city and find out what stories pop up. I Google child sexual abuse material, folks that have been caught locally. You will see, it’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare. The numbers are insane, but I think that it does something when you can see that it’s happening in your home. There was just a man that was sentenced a few days ago for 30 years for a sextortion of children in my hometown. He works in the same city that I work in. Like calling it a city, loosely, same town. It’s happening all the time. I’m sure Vegas probably has quite a few.

Mr. Jekielek:

You have this amazing joie de vivre this energy, this joy that… Yeah. We’ve spent a bit of time together. You go around and spread it. It’s a wonderful thing. So what is-

Ms. Bleu:

You’re making me blush.

Mr. Jekielek:

I guess, what is the hope here? What is the silver lining? What is the good future that you see happening? Because I know you do.

Ms. Bleu:

I’m very, yeah. I’m very hopeful. I see so many beautiful things happening. Number one, the fact that we’re even having these conversations. This crime was swept under the rug for so long and finally as a society and… I’m not grateful for what happened to the Epstein survivors, but I’m so grateful that they can step forward and were relentlessly pursuing justice and still are, because it was a hockey stick moment. This crime was swept under the rug. And I think enough survivors stepped forward. And so many people were like, know what? This isn’t a conspiracy theory, this is a real thing that’s happening and we’re going to start paying attention. Folks are thirsty to hear about this, and thirsty to talk about it. And they’re thirsty also for survivors to receive justice. And the more survivors that step forward, then the more survivors that step forward.

So when you see survivors like the Epstein survivors, that has a butterfly effect that floats through the entire world, then other survivors know that they can step forward and be believed, which is so beautiful. I’m so excited and grateful. I think that generally speaking, there’s an energy out there where people really aren’t rocking with this pedophile nonsense and people are done. I’m just excited that folks are wanting to have these conversations. I’m just so grateful.

As far as me personally, I’m excited that trust in the abusive government and their lackeys with the corporate press is at an all time low. There’s no trust in the United States government. There’s no trust in the corporate media. That’s been gaslighting, it’s viewing this propaganda for so long. And I couldn’t be more happy because I don’t trust the government either. And I think it’s time that folks start focusing on the real abuser, which is the United States government. That’s just how I feel. That’s why I’m speaking of Freedom Fest.

On a super personal note, I’m just so grateful to be alive. I really am. I’ve like, it’s so many times every day I’m like, I can’t believe I’m alive. This is like the best. I’m like, I’m just going to live. I never thought anybody would ever believe me, and I never thought anybody would ever take anything that I said seriously. And now I get to write news articles, which is like a dream come true. I get to meet my heroes and we meet on an even playing field and I’m their equal and they see me as such and it’s an honor.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, Eliza Bleu, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.

Ms. Bleu:

I’m so sorry, I got so emotional.

Mr. Jekielek:

Wonderful to have you on. Thank you.

Ms. Bleu:

Thank you. And I appreciate you. And you’re an awesome person and I really appreciate everything that you’ve done. And thank you for covering this and thank you to Epoch Times for talking about these issues as well.

Mr. Jekielek:

Thank you all for joining Eliza Bleu and me here at Freedom Fest. On this episode of American Thought Leaders, I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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