From Rescued, to Trafficked, to ESCAPE: Chong Kim and her Phenomenal Story of Heroism & Triumph

Author, activist and world-renowned speaker, Chong Kim has been working to end sexual exploitation and human trafficking for nearly two decades. Focusing much of her time on activism and human rights, her dedication and passionate expertise is fueled by her lived experience as a survivor of child rape and sexual exploitation.

Hello Queen! We are so honored to have you here. Please tell us a little bit about where you are from and what your life was like as a little girl.

Hi there and thank you so much for having me, I’m so honored :). I was born in S. Korea with a disability in 1975, at the time my parents couldn’t afford treatment and the doctors in S. Korea didn’t care for disabled infants. My uncle who is Caucasian was married into our family and he was residing in Dallas, TX at the time, heard about the incident and intervened.

He granted himself guardianship in order to prevent the doctors in S. Korea to kill me. I came to the United States in 1976 and was Naturalized as an American Citizen in 1984. I grew up mostly in the metroplex of Oklahoma City, OK. I was the outcast, I also grew up in a predominately white neighborhood and was racially bullied in school most of my life. I also grew up with a father who was a functioning alcoholic as well as a workaholic, while I was being abused by my mother.

My first rape happened when I was 3 and I was raped or sexually abused most of my childhood. I was a loner and felt misunderstood.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? What were some of your favorite hobbies or passions?

Because of the abuse I went through growing up and being an outcast in a white neighborhood I would escape my pain through certain films or music. While everyone was listening to the top 40’s during the 80’s, I was listening to Motown, Doo Wop, Cleftones, Drifters, Temptations and Sam Cook. My admiration for Maya Angelou, Josphine Baker, Diahann Carroll and Sidney Poitier became my inspiration. I would go to the library to learn about each of them and their bio and would feel connected in their experience of racism and slavery, I knew in my heart I wanted to be the change I want to see in the world.

Did you know anything about Human Trafficking prior to being trafficked yourself?

I had no idea what Human Trafficking was until years after my escape. I was trafficked during 1994-1997, I learned about Human Trafficking in March 2003.

When you were initially brought into the trafficking scene, did you always have a fighting mentality to escape? Tell us about your strategies for keeping your focus?

When you grow up with abuse, you build up a wall to keep anyone from coming in, it’s a survival tactic, so when I first got trafficked I was angry, defiant and fought back as much as I could, but after witnessing other children/young girls being killed in front of me, I became compliant. I was also injected in my arms with narcotics (methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine and other forms of narcotics), this is when I became an addict so it was a way for them to control me. What kept me focused was my strategies to escape, since my trafficking happened in the 90’s and there were no awareness or resources for help, I had to find another way to escape and that was to become a Madame (Female Pimp/Bottom Girl) to gain their trust so I could eventually escape.

How did you manage to deal with your fears and traumas in the moment and even now afterwards?

During the time I was trafficked up to 2001, I medicated myself with narcotics, sex, parties and other unhealthy behaviors until I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. On February 22, 2001; that’s when I threw away an 8 ball of crack cocaine and a 38 revolver into the lake and changed my life for the better. I had a son and he needed me, but I couldn’t be his mother if I was still on drugs, so I had to make a choice and I chose to be his mother. Been clean for 21 years. Now, I utilize DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) it has helped me in conflict resolution, interpersonal communication and to live a healthy lifestyle.

“Therapy is so crucial and there’s no expiration date to healing. I still see a therapist when I am triggered.”

Chong Kim

What are some signs and/or red flags to look out for regarding avoiding becoming a victim of human trafficking?

I believe the first step is to understand what are healthy boundaries, what are red flags. When I was growing up with abuse even with narcissistic parents/teachers I wasn’t aware that my traffickers mirrored the same behaviors. Most abusers, predators and traffickers exhibit toxic behaviors that are narcissistic. Learn about love bombing is really important, love bombing is jumping into any relationship too soon, going to fast, feeling a sense of high energy, especially for youth who didn’t have a loving home. Behavioral patterns, are they crossing your boundaries? Do they dismiss you or make it into a joke as a manipulation? I am doing a tiktok/IG series about grooming behaviors and how it leads to trafficking, so please be sure to follow me.

What are some things you’d like to see happen legally and within governments to support the end of human trafficking?

As a survivor and a person of color, there isn’t much awareness on missing girls/boys of color. Most national news or safety tip videos always display a pretty caucasian girl which provides a false sense of safety. There’s also not enough accountability for those in power/authority that’s involved in corruption. There’s also a major need for housing specifically for trafficked victims, it frustrates me when they are placed in transitional housing for homeless or Domestic Violence Shelter. Trafficked victims need specific treatment and therapy that should be separate from other victim services, also to support Survivor-Led Programs that are run by Trafficked Survivors.

Tell us about the work you do now, to be an advocate and activist for ending human trafficking?

I’m currently assisting Minority/Black Led Programs that specifically assist trafficked victims to get funding, corporate sponsorship, donate funds or donate my movie showing and give 100% proceeds to these nonprofits, but I also do limited rescue myself and I’m trying to launch a scripted TV series called, “Every 40 Seconds”. A drama series that I want to nominate a Black Female to play the survivor in my series.

We need to bring more awareness on persons of color and indegenious girls who are missing and murdered.Chong Kim

What would you say to someone who has been trafficked but escaped/was rescued and has challenges with continuing life without fear?

I completely understand that fear and they should embrace it, journal their emotions, thoughts and then create goals. Seek out a therapist that is trauma informed and also understand trafficking situations. Not all therapist are qualified so it’s important to be specific when asking for help. Also, to find what brings them peace; music, healthy hobbies, movies, writing, poetry, spoken word? Utilize their fear and anger to express it through art and words. Never be ashamed of what you are feeling or going through. Your voice has power.

How can the public get more involved in helping trafficking victims and their families? What are some of the biggest needs and must haves there?

I am available to speak at your school, church, workshops, bookstores, coffeeshops. I’m also available online via zoom, social media. Locate your local nonprofit that provides outreach services/housing to victims of trafficking and give back, donate or volunteer. There is a huge need for housing. High School & College Students can demand a program to bring further awareness and ongoing education in their campus. Also get involved with your local Human Trafficking Taskforce. Hire survivors to come and speak and educate what to look for.

How can we stay connected to you and your initiatives?

Feel free to follow me on all my social media @iamchongkim. I’m happy to hear your story and to help in anyway I can. Thank you again. 🙂