Are you aware that 21 million people are trafficked globally at any moment in time? Human trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year industry, and of the millions trafficked, 4.5 million people are sexually exploited. Human Trafficking is a term that SHERO Kathy Haan knows all to well as she was manipulated into a temporary lifestyle she had no knowledge she was signing up for. In a recent interview with Kathy she shared her experience in great details; here’s what she wants you to know.
Me: What was life like Kathy growing up and when did the abuse happen?
Kathy: My parents got divorced when I was 2 years old. My father was injured on the job and lived on disability so we were very poor. I am also one of eight children, my sister and I are the only full blooded ones.
The abuse started at a young age, I was sexually abused by a family member, who is no longer in my life; that set the tone for the rest of my childhood and what I was willing to accept from other men in my life. Drug addiction followed and I was addicted to Meth and Coke by the age of 17; I had first tried drugs at the age of 15. I was also a victim of Human Trafficking and I became a mother in my teens.
Throughout my childhood I would cut myself and I suffered from severe depression.
In regards to the abuse it was sexual and it started with what my abuser called “hide and seek.” I was repeatedly lured into a closet and abused. My abuser had me bend over on all fours in the closet and he would place his penis between my legs. He stacked pillows all around me so I couldn’t look back at what was happening, so half of my body was in the closet and half of it was out. I could see between my legs though and I knew what was happening.
I remember him coming into my room at night and I would pretend to be asleep; I was paralyzed by fear as he made his way into my under garments and touched me inappropriately. I was as young as I can remember when it all started earlier than my pre-school days and it lasted until we moved cross-country when I was in the 5th grade.
Also when I was 14 years old, my stepfather (My mother’s third husband) kicked me out of the house, so that sent me to Iowa to live with my biological father. I was bulimic and I wasn’t allowed upstairs; my stepfather was a cross dresser and I went upstairs to use the scale in their closet. I tripped the sensor and I was told I wasn’t welcome in his house anymore. This was a huge shock to me so I rebelled once I moved in with my father. I went to prom and got drunk at a party; I woke up in a place I wasn’t familiar with.
I cared for my father half of my life, even when I was married he lived with me and I cared for him this included the last 2 years of his life when he was on hospice. Since we were poor due to my father’s disability and the cost of his medications, I remember there were times when we couldn’t even afford a gallon of milk. I was responsible for taking care of my father including driving him to his doctors’ appointments and making sure he took his medications. This was a very different lifestyle then living with mother who always had a Mercedes or Porsche in the driveway.
Me: Did you tell anyone about the sexual abuse or was it a secret that you kept?
Kathy: I kept the abuse a secret well into adulthood because it was a family member that was still a part of our lives. I was afraid of the abuser getting in trouble so I internalized the act as though I were the bad one. The abuse happened weekly and became part of my routine. When this happened mentally I would go to another place.
Me: What affect did the abuse have on your schooling?
Kathy: I was diagnosed as having severe ADD and medicated for it. The medication never seemed to work though. The school called my Mom daily informing her of things like, “Kathy fell out of her chair again today.” I later became hospitalized as an adult for suicidal thoughts and that’s when the medical staff recognized that I didn’t have ADD but rather PTSD.
My grades suffered and I needed to be tutored. I got bullied a lot in school because I was over weight. My mother had an eating disorder and although her intensions were pure, she projected that disorder on to me. To this day I still struggle with my weight. As an adult due to my toxic and abusive marriage I weighed in as high as 300+ pounds.
Me: Tell me about the Human Trafficking, how did that happen?
Kathy: I had just moved out of my father’s house to go to college whenI got an invite for an audition in DC for a web series, they paid for me to fly out there with the understanding that I had to reimburse them, I had just turned 18 years old and I was on several different modeling and acting sites. I remember being picked up at the airport by the guy who I thought was the producer, he asked me for my ID and so I handed it to him. He said, “OK so you are at least 18, otherwise this would be really illegal.” I thought, “Oh shoot, what have I gotten myself into?” I remember him taking me to the hotel room and asking me to check in while he waited outside. I had a hard time checking in because I didn’t have a credit card. The management waived me putting up a credit card and the “producer” guy ordered room service. I was growing increasingly uncomfortable. I ordered ravioli and then he asked me to try on clothes to make sure I was the right body type he was looking for. I went to try on the clothes, which was all lingerie, I was so uncomfortable and I was thinking, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” He was sitting on the bed and asked me to come sit on his lap and because he had my ID I complied. I remember him kissing me and I was disgusted because his tongue was hard and slippery like a snake. I pushed away and said, “What are you doing? This isn’t what I signed up for!” He proceeded to explain that I was going to be an escort for him and that he had people lined up for me for days and only then would I be able to get my ID back but I would be paid for this. He mentally manipulated me. I was freaking out because he had my cell phone and I had no way of contacting neither my family nor my roommates. So I was a high-end prostitute for him. I remember having naked photos taken and I had sex with the photographer as a form of payment. The producer guy, I call SID, told me he was getting out of the business because he was engaged to be married, it was like he was living a double life. He had 2 different cell phones.
There would be men coming to the door for like an hour at a time. I remember the first guy that came to my hotel room, he was in his 50s, and he brought me Godiva chocolates. All of the men that came to the door thought I was there by my own doing and that I was OK with everything. I can’t remember the number of men but I was there for three or four days and he told me he bugged my room so I was afraid to tell the truth. The last guy that came was over weight, but I felt like I could tell him everything, he was in his 30s so I suggested to go in the shower with him and that’s when I proceeded to tell the client that I was here against my own will. He told me that my information was up on an escort website and the producer guy (Sid) wrote that I was only going to be there for 2 days although the room was truly booked for 7 days. The client mentioned he worked with a female pimp (Madame) and that she would help me get out. He stopped by early the next morning and supplied her information.
She (The Madame) told me that if I worked for her for a few days that she would help me get home. She would send a runner to my door to collect money after every client. I remember her telling me I would get a cut so I agreed to everything because I just wanted to go home. The runner was only 2 years older than me. I serviced 5 men per day for an entire week so a total of 30 men (29 of the 30 men were intercourse and all wore a condom). The men would place their money and ID on the table first so I knew they were kosher. I remember one guy insisted on having sex with his underwear on, he just opened the slit in front.
The clients were booked for 1 hour but all except 2 of them stayed only for what felt like a few minutes so I was able to shower and collect my thoughts in between. I was so sore by the 29th client that I told the Madame and asked her to cancel the last client but she wouldn’t.
She told me I needed to go to the airport to give up the money when I thought it was for me but I just wanted to get back my ID and cell number and protect my family so I did it. The Madame took me to the airport and I gave the guy at the airport an envelope with the money. I got my phone and called my roommate who was a stripper and she said, “Don’t worry about it when you get back, I’ll get you a job.” I was short on cash so I worked as a stripper for a few months.
Me: What was going through your mind when all of this was happening?
Kathy: I felt numb and thought, “This is all I’m good for.”
Me: So after human trafficking you took a job as a stripper, what happened during stripping?
Kathy: A guy came in one night when I was working; he walked up to me and said, “Kathy?” Now I have a stage name and nobody knew my real name. It turns out this guy had been speaking to me on Yahoo messenger so we started hanging out and doing meth together. I got pregnant one month after knowing him, I didn’t find out until 4 months later and I had been doing meth, occasionally coke, smoking cigarettes and drinking every day. I took a pregnancy test in the Wal-Mart bathroom and that’s how I found out. My boyfriend took my hand, I walked out of Wal-Mart, threw away my cigarette and that was the last time I ever smoked or did drugs again; I was determined I was going to be a good mother. I was terrified my daughter was going to be born defective due to all of the drugs I did during pregnancy.
Once I found out I was pregnant, I dropped out of school and moved back in with my father. My boyfriend didn’t move in with us until our daughter was born.
When I was in the hospital after I had my daughter due to the staff knowing my previous drug history they took my baby’s diapers and tested her feces to see if I was using drugs. This was a big wake up call for me, getting pregnant saved my life!
I have been sober for 14 years now, I’m 32 years old today and my daughter is 13 and thriving, I’m so incredibly thankful.
Me: How was the relationship with your daughter’s father?
Kathy: Shortly after our daughter was born we moved into a house that was owned by his uncle. He was very manipulative and verbally abusive. He punched me in the face next to my nose when my daughter was 6 months old and I had her on my hip when it happened. I called his parents because he had gone into the bathroom to over dose on pills because he was so distraught that he just punched me. I was worried for his safety and his parents showed up and asked, “What did you do to provoke this?” Most of the abuse was verbal, “He told me I was lazy and not smart.” This caused me to have severe depression, I went from 160-275 pounds, I ended up having another child with him and we got married.
Me: Knowing this guy was abusive, what made you decide to have another child with him and get married?
Kathy: It’s kind of like the story about the frog, if you were to put a frog in a pot of boiling water he would jump out right away. But if you were to put him in cold water and gradually over time turn up the heat higher and higher the frog wouldn’t jump out, he would end up boiling to death. This is a good analogy of an abusive relationship. You don’t start out with someone who treats you like shit, they grow on you and you get close in a relationship. Then one day they call you names teasingly and it grows bigger and bigger over time. There are emotional heartstrings that have formed over the years. He was a great Dad but a terrible husband.
In 2011 after several hospital admissions from suicidal ideations, and severe anxiety disorder, I was diagnosed as severely bi-polar and heavily medicated. I was in out patient therapy daily for 4 hours per day. It was at the moment that my bulimia was at its height and I was close to 300 pounds, when an attractive guy at therapy told me I was beautiful. That moment created a shift in my thinking and I started gaining my confidence. A few weeks later I was in the process of leaving my husband, my daughters were 5 and 2 at the time. I told my husband I was leaving and he cycled through several different emotions and he told me if I left I would never see my girls again. That night I slipped back into the victim mentality and overdosed on 32 prescription sleeping pills in an effort to end my life, I was transported to the hospital after my husband called 911. At the time my Dad was living upstairs and my 2 year old was running up the stairs saying, “Mommy die, Mommy die.” This is so incredibly hard for me to speak about but I want to share in effort to supply freedom and healing to others.
I remembered thinking, “What if I die? This is the biggest mistake of my life! God…Please don’t take me! I will turn my life around I promise God just please don’t take me!” I woke up in ICU and spent a total of nine days in the hospital. While I was there my husband convinced my Dad to have me committed to the hospital and this was all a power play on my husband’s part, so now I was assigned to the state. Even though the hospital wanted me to be released after 3 days, since they thought I wasn’t of harm to others, I was committed and my insurance wouldn’t cover my hospital stay. When I was released and my husband was at work, I took everything and I moved out. That sparked a series of the next 2-3 years of a very nasty custody battle and divorce. When I was committed he filed for an emergency temporary custody of our children and in the state of Iowa once a custody order is put into effect, it takes an act of God to change it; like my husband living with a sex offender. I spent thousands of dollars and I now get my children 6 out of 14 days plus I pay him child support.
Once I left him I became pill free so it was all-situational; PTSD.
Me: After you left your husband did you end up in another relationship?
Kathy: Yes, I remarried in 2012. I lost 112 pounds and I received a friend request on Facebook, I was helping others with health and fitness and the request was from a body builder who was local. It took him 39 days to convince me to go on a date with him. He is the complete opposite of what I was used to; loving, caring, kind, and much more. I graduated with honors and my MBA, we had a child together and today we have a beautiful partnership. It has been a journey and a work in progress, we are by no means perfect but very proud of how far we have come.
Through co-parenting classes my ex and I have healed wounds and we all now have a healthy relationship.
Me: What were the steps you took to get well?
Kathy: I cut out everything that was toxic from my life including friends, trashy TV, and gossip magazines. I immersed myself in personal development including conferences, podcasts and hiring a coach, I was passionate about making myself a better person. I worked out a lot and my depression plus anxiety disappeared. I ate right and made a mental shift to no longer be a victim ever again.
I started a coaching business and I’ve been to 21 countries and I’m helping women all around the world with their businesses; I help women launch and scale their online coaching businesses. I offer one on one coaching, group coaching, retreats, courses, conferences and more.
I got started by blogging about my journey and the blog got traction in 2015; although I started in 2012, companies were sending me samples to try and I started to get paid for blogging in 2017. As you can see it’s all about consistency and providing value, when you least expect it things take off. You can be mediocre at something but if you treat it like a marathon instead of a sprint, realizing that it’s not about your audience rather you refining your message then all in due time the audience will follow. Social media shares the journey.
I work with some of the biggest brands in the world today and I truly feel blessed.
The secret to telling a great story is living one!
Me: What’s the biggest piece of advice you would like to leave your readers with?
Kathy: The biggest thing is to realize that you have a choice. Although you didn’t choose abuse, you have a choice in what you choose to do moving forward. You can choose to be a victor in your circumstances rather than the victim. Anything you want is within your reach, you only need to have consistency over time and the desire to get it.
I am super proud of Kathy. WOW, talk about courage and overcoming all the adversities. Such a young age and she’s turned it all around, mindset truly is everything, well done SHERO Kathy!
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The #SHEROproject will include stories of SHEROS from around the world throughout the rest of 2019. In an effort to support our thriving SHEROS, there is a panel that will be selecting the most inspirational story for the 2019 SHERO of the year award, which will be announced on 12/1/2019.
The SHERO of the year award winner will receive a 4-day/3-night retreat at Multiversity. An opportunity to explore their potential in an environment like no other; get away for rejuvenating downtime and immersion learning on their state-of-the-art campus in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, CA and experience the perfect blend of learning, vacation, and space for reflection.
1440 Multiversity is a place to experience time differently—exploring what matters, while surrounding yourself with fresh air, delicious food, many ways to unwind, and opportunities to connect with yourself and others. SHERO, during your stay, you can look forward to daily 1440 specialty classes such as yoga, meditation, qi gong and Pilates. Or enjoy hiking in the 75 acres of redwood forest surrounding the campus and finish off your day with a soak in their signature infinity tub.
The creation of 1440 Multiversity stemmed from a desire to establish a beautiful and nurturing physical location where people of all walks of life could come together in community—to explore, learn, reflect, connect, and reenergize.
Each featured SHERO will receive a private invitation to The B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. Foundation annual Gala in Las Vegas 2/8/2020 where they will be interviewed on the red carpet. B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. foundation’s mission is to provide resources needed to support, sustain and empower young girls and women under the age of 25 who have been abused, abandoned, and exploited. We intend to accomplish this mission by bringing other agencies with similar missions together and being a resource center for these organizations.
Also, each SHERO featured will receive a relaxing mix of Nectar Bath Treats’ most popular bath and body treats. Nectar Bath Treats is a cruelty free bath & body company that creates bakery inspired treats for deliciously smooth skin. Their delightful handmade treats range from adorable cupcake soaps and milkshake inspired coconut milk bath soaks to stress blasting bath bombs, all natural sugar body scrubs, ice cream shaped bubble bath scoops and so much more. If you need to relax after a long day or give yourself smoother more kissable skin, Nectar Bath Treats has you covered head to toe. Each treat is handmade with love by their team of professional soap artisans and skin care specialists for skin so soft and smooth you’ll swear you just left a luxury spa treatment.
Each featured SHERO will also receive a Rustic Cuff representing Joy & Courage. Celebrities such as Miranda Lambert, Giuliana Rancic, Kristin Chenoweth and Gayle King to name a few, wear founder Jill Donovan’s designs. Her bracelets have been featured on a multitude of national talk shows and in magazines including Elle, People, In Style, etc. For Jill it’s all about the inspired connection that is made between two people.
The SHEROs will also receive a candle by Sugarboo and Co…Dealers in Whimsy, reminding them that they are a light in the world. Sugarboo believes in putting good out into the world whenever possible. Their hope is that each Sugarboo piece sent out into the world will add a little good! Rebecca Puig’s (artist and owner) inspirations are family, nature, animals, old things, children’s art and folk art. She loves juxtaposing old and new, light and dark, serious subject matter with fluff and anything with a message! Sugarboo’s Motto is “Put Good Things into the World”