It’s hard to believe Christmas is less than a week away! I hope most of your shopping is done, but if you’re looking for a couple more gifts or a stocking stuffer, today’s post features an amazing company, Hero Bands. Today’s post is a little heavy, so know that before you read. You may want to wait to read until after the holidays if you’re sensitive to tough topics. But, I think it’s a good reminder that everyone needs love and kindness, especially during the holidays, and often more than you ever can realize. I always try to remind myself that I never know what someone is facing in their life, and Elizabeth’s story is a strong reminder of that. So, this holiday season, I encourage you to respond to others with love, and to be kinder than necessary.
Not only does Hero Bands have gorgeous bracelets, they also make a difference in children’s lives. Hero Bands was started by a high school friend of mine, Elizabeth, to raise money to help fight sex trafficking and to comfort those who experience the trauma of it. And unfortunately, Elizabeth knows first hand what that trauma is like, as she was a victim of sex trafficking herself. Her story is below, along with with the work she is doing now to help others. For every Hero Band she sells, she donates to help fight sex trafficking. Elizabeth is an incredible woman and I’m in awe of her bravery and moved by the strength she exhibits by turning a horrible experience into something that helps others.
Hero Bands would be a great last minute gift to give, and Liz has gorgeous pictures on her website you can print off to give until the real band arrives. And, you’ll help make a difference in the lives of people who face something I can’t even fathom. Okay, let’s get into some Q&A.
Hi Elizabeth! Or Boo, as I knew you! 🙂 How did we become friends? I’m trying to remember. In high school through mutual friends on the soccer team maybe? I remember you were an AMAZING soccer player. I’m guessing Whitney introduced us?
Yes! I remember you were friends with Whitney and that’s the first time I remember meeting you.
What do you remember about me in high school? (ha! My readers may enjoy this…)
Oh, I just remember you being gorgeous. You were kind and I don’t remember you saying a mean thing about anyone…and I don’t remember anyone ever saying a mean thing about you either! [Okay, that is REALLY sweet. Thank you!] I was always intimidated talking with you because everyone was your friend. I remember you being so tiny and cute. There were a few people that I remember watching, not like creepy watching, but just watching because they seemed genuinely happy. I wondered how they had that. You were someone I remember seeing and I saw this contagious smile you had, it made me want to be your friend…then I didn’t talk to you much! ha! Oh the insecurities of high school! [That’s funny because I was intimidated by you! The insecurities of high school for sure – ha!]
We grew up in Utah, but I’m in NC now, and where are you living now?
I live in Southern California and am planning on staying forever. It sucked me in and I love it.
And what does life look like for you? Kids?
Life is incredibly full. I started a business, Hero Bands, have a slew of kids and a husband that I don’t deserve. If I had free time, I honestly don’t know what I would do. Stay in bed and watch Netflix? 🙂
So, the reason I’m featuring you on my blog is that I want to help you raise awareness of the incredible work you are doing to fight sex and human trafficking. Can you share why this cause is so important to you?
So many people think that human trafficking is something that happens in other parts of the world… places that are impoverished or third world. Truth is, it happens here in the United States. A lot. It happened to me. Often. My earliest memory of being sold to other people for sexual acts was when I was 4 and it continued through my early 20’s. I felt like I didn’t have a choice when I was older since it seemed like my life depended on it. I didn’t even comprehend how awful it was until I had been away from it for some time. When I moved out of state, I finally felt safe and was able to break free..
There were times as a teen I thought I would die. And honestly, there were times I wish I had. What was hard was that my family looked like such a great family. It was scary to know what they were doing and who they were behind closed doors. No one would have ever thought what was happening was really happening. When I was little, I wanted to be loved, really loved, but I was only threatened with love. I’m now still learning how to accept love.
And can you explain to us what sex/human trafficking means? I think it’s often misunderstood (and I know I wasn’t really sure).
Sex/human trafficking is when someone sells you to someone else to use for sex acts. The person selling you gets paid, not the person doing the sex acts. Many people don’t understand what it is or realize it happens in the U.S. That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing my story. I would go to school like all the other kids in my class, but no one knew the secrets I was hiding. No one knew that hours before, I was dropped off to meet men at hotels, homes or any number of places. NO ONE should be forced to live the way I did. What’s so scary and what I think people need to be aware of, is that now I realize my family seemed so normal to others. Pay attention to what kids tell you. [I NEVER had any idea that you were going through something so horrific. You seemed shy, but you were so talented and had so many friends. I was truly stunned when I learned what you went through.]
I was totally ignorant – I had NO idea stuff like this happened in the US, let alone where we grew up in Utah. Is this a common misconception? How much does this happen in our local communities?
It’s a very, very common misconception. It happens in every city in the United States. It’s such a hidden underground thing that needs to be brought to awareness. The people doing this look and act like everyday normal people. I know it can be overwhelming and scary to think about, but it’s important to be informed so we can protect the kids in our lives.
What are you doing to help fight the horrible fact that this happens right in our communities? Can you tell me more about Hero Bands?
I knew I needed to do something with my life to change what happened to me from a negative, to a way I could help others. That’s when I decided to start a business called Hero Bands. I named it Hero Bands because I had so many heroes in my life who didn’t know they were making such a huge difference for me. From teachers to my friends’ parents, there always seemed to be someone in my life that treated me with kindness and real love. And they didn’t know how important they were in my life. They were my heroes.
I used to wear bands to help me get through difficult times. The bands had words like peace, blessed, strong and loved to remind me that I could feel those things. I think words can be so powerful to anyone struggling! They helped me so much that I wanted to be able to help others with their different struggles in life. For each bracelet I sell, I donate $2 to Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit that rescues kids from sex trafficking. [And Elizabeth makes every band herself!)] I have also been speaking at events to bring more awareness. I am not a public speaker so this has been a serious challenge, but it has also been a very empowering thing.
How can others help?
Aside from purchasing a band from my website, I also have a donate section where you donate a band for one of the kids Operation Underground Railroad rescues. Also, spread the word. Don’t be afraid to talk about this. Part of the reason this continues to happen is because it makes people uncomfortable and they don’t want to talk about it. I know we can make a difference if we work together. I prayed someone like O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroad) would come and rescue me.
When I heard about your story, I was speechless and heartbroken. I almost felt guilty that you were going through something like that and not only did I not know, but I couldn’t support you…because I didn’t know, if that makes any sense. You’ve talked in other podcasts that the best thing people can do to help others going through this is to just love them, to just be kind and supportive, because you just never know what people are going through. Anything else you’d add to that?
Do not feel bad about not being able to support me so many years ago. There wasn’t anything anyone could have done for me at the time. And honestly, seeing people like you gave me hope that happiness was possible. There is a lot of good information out there about how to prevent this from our own kids. Educate yourselves as much as you can handle. I realize this is hard to believe, but trust me. This is happening. Right in our own backyards.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your story. You are so lovely, inside and out. And, I want to correct you on one thing – you DO deserve your husband. You’re amazing and I’m sure he sees that too.
You can read more about Elizabeth’s story here and you can find her on Facebook and Instagram to follow along with her story and amazing work. And, you can purchase her beautiful bands for $20 here and order a Safe Band here.