Amanda Catarzi survived a cult-dominated childhood and abuse at the hands of sex and labor traffickers. In the years since, she has helped law enforcement bust trafficking rings, written federal anti-trafficking legislation, and worked to save countless victims.
What We Discuss with Amanda Catarzi:
- 70 percent of human trafficking victims are women, and 30 percent are men. They usually die (overdose or violence being primary causes) within seven years.
- How Amanda’s upbringing in an isolated cult that matched teen brides with middle-aged men and preached absolute male dominance over them programmed her to consider abusive relationships normal.
- Why moving to the other side of the country didn’t turn out to be an escape from the childhood traumas that haunted Amanda, but just the next chapter of her abuse by expert manipulators.
- How training as an MMA fighter was the perfect cover for this abuse as no one questioned Amanda’s bruises and black eyes when her “coach” trafficked her out to violent johns.
- How Amanda escaped this dire situation and has used her experience to help legislators and law enforcement save other trafficking victims (especially children), and what we can do to help stem the tide of abuse that may be going on in our own neighborhoods in plain sight.
- And much more…
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As someone who grew up in a cult that encouraged the middle-aged men in its congregation to take teen brides who were raised to obey their every command, it’s hardly surprising that Amanda Catarzi became easy prey for sex traffickers when she tried to escape from home without a support system. What is surprising is that Amanda has leveraged what her experiences have taught her to help fellow victims escape abusive relationships and situations before they disappear within the seven years or so most people trapped in such circumstances have to live.
On this episode, Amanda shares how her family became entrenched in a cult that has since received national attention for recent abuse scandals, how her upbringing programmed her to regard abusive relationships as normal, why moving across the country from this situation wasn’t enough to keep her away from expert manipulation by sex traffickers, and how she was able to make a clean break and begin her life anew to help others overcome similar ordeals.
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Thanks, Amanda Catarzi!
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Resources from This Episode:
- National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888) 373-7888
- Amanda Catarzi | Website
- Amanda Catarzi | Instagram
- Amanda Catarzi | LinkedIn
- Badass Content Creation and Content Strategy | Inkery Co.
- My Childhood in a Cult Is Hard to Imagine — But My Survival Is Truly Unbelievable | The Guardian
- I Could’ve Been a Duggar Wife: I Grew up in the Same Church, and the Abuse Scandal Doesn’t Shock Me | Salon
- Ex-Cult Member Shares Reality of Advanced Training Institute & Life After Leaving | The Kennedy Era
- No Fool: An Italian Clown Takes Over America’s Big Top | Los Angeles Times
- Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders | Mental Health America
- New Study Indicates That Sense of Smell Could Play Major Role in New Approaches to Treating PTSD | McLean News
- Human Trafficking Myths, Facts, and Statistics | Polaris
- Taken | Prime Video
- Reach. Rescue. Restore | NightLight International
- Profile: Thailand’s Reds and Yellows | BBC News
- Missions | Priority One Worldwide
- Mission Myanmar
- Rambo: Last Blood | Prime Video
- Sex Trafficking Awareness | Selah Freedom
- Human Trafficking: Understanding the Red Flags | Nationwide Children’s Hospital
- 10 Red Flags of Child Sex Trafficking | LifeWay Network
- How Conspiracy Theorists Are Disrupting Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking | NPR
- QAnon Hurts Real Trafficking Victims: The Conspiracy Theory Is Dangerous Because It Obscures the Real Threat | NY Daily News
- Countering QAnon | Polaris
631: Amanda Catarzi | Overcoming Cult Life and Sex Trafficking
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Amanda Catarzi: Suicidal ideation is something I just went with. I mean, that's a Thursday, you know? Sometimes that really freaks people out. I've been through so much therapy and I've done all the things. It's just this little person who's scared living in the corner of my mind. And so when those thoughts pop up, I'm like, "Okay, well, what makes me feel that way? Like, where's that coming from? What fear, what insecurity is pushing that forward?" And then I dive into it. Thankfully, I've been able to get help and to walk my way backwards out of those situations. So yeah, depression is something I constantly live with.
[00:00:41] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional former cult member, drug trafficker, or tech mogul. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice. You can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical.
[00:01:07] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about the show, the starter packs are a great place to start. They are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started. Or you can take a look in the Spotify app. We've got the playlist right there. Of course, we always appreciate it when you share the show with friends.
[00:01:29] Now, today's guest, she was raised in a cult and ended up falling right into a human trafficking operation. So out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak. She's written and helped pass anti-trafficking legislation, and now advocates for trafficking victims, especially children. This is a rough one with my friend here, Amanda Catarzi. No kids in the car for this one. Trigger warning, et cetera, for people who've been abused or sexually assaulted. There's some graphic recounting of sexual assault and physical abuse, and of course, human trafficking in this one. Another note as we keep some of this one life that we want to keep the conversation flowing, she's got a pretty fun personality as you'll see. So don't bother emailing me all offended that we're joking around together on this one after such a serious subject. It seems like when we do a lot of this serious stuff, every joke is somehow met with pearl-clutching. And this topic is far too important for that kind of nonsense. So I would say, give this one a shot, but again, no kids in the car — fascinating episode.
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[00:02:59] Now, here's Amanda Catarzi.
[00:03:01] So you were raised in a cult, which sounds really scary and ominous.
[00:03:10] Amanda Catarzi: Sure. I think that the word cult can be really scary-sounding—
[00:03:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:15] Amanda Catarzi: —at the base of it, sure, sinister, but they don't always look so extreme and scary. You can see people every day at Walmart who are in a cult and you don't even know. So that was kind of like my thing, I just dressed a little bit differently. So I was allowed wild to wear skirts and t-shirts and nothing on my shirt because that'd be causing men to sin, by looking at my chest. No makeup, hair grown out, so kind of like Amish or Mennonite. We have two big Amish and Mennonite communities in the area where I lived. So that's not uncommon to see. So I didn't stick out too much, initially.
[00:03:50] Jordan Harbinger: Because when you hear cult, you think — what's that movie with Tom Cruise? Eyes Wide Shut or something weird like that. But with like, who knows, you know, if you can think of anything other than what it usually is, which is like kind of a weird religious conservative thing, like that might be a little bit out there, but this wasn't sacrificing goats on a stone altar or anything like that.
[00:04:11] Amanda Catarzi: No, I mean, I never did. Who knows?
[00:04:13] Jordan Harbinger: Not you.
[00:04:15] Amanda Catarzi: But no, no. The part that made it the scariest was the way that the women were trained to be insanely submissive. Like you could never say no to any man. And then the men were trained in a very military way. So even the surrounding states would often call in for help from this organization because their men were so well-trained in search and rescue and to help in natural disasters and things like that. So those are the two, like holy sh*t, what's actually going on here, kind of things.
[00:04:50] Jordan Harbinger: Was that like a militia kind of thing then? Because—
[00:04:53] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah, everybody had guns, it's conservative. So everybody had guns. We always grew up with guns. Not that guns are bad, but in this case, these people are well-armed and well-trained.
[00:05:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:04] Amanda Catarzi: And it's a whole group that thinks that the world is evil and they need to repopulate the world with their people to bring the kingdom of God.
[00:05:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. If we have well-trained people that are armed and know how to use weapons, well, I'm fine with that. It's when you go off the deep end with everyone else's evil. It's like, well, wait a minute. So now you've got a well-trained well-armed group of people and they're the only ones that are fit to populate the earth. I can see where that can go off the rails.
[00:05:30] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:05:30] Jordan Harbinger: I remember you talking about men coming over to like evaluate your cooking and cleaning skills to see if you're a fit for marriage. That's almost funny now, right? You're laughing because that's not really in line with maybe your personality so much.
[00:05:44] Amanda Catarzi: No, not at all. Well, being involved in this cult was so conflicting towards the Italian family that I was born into because we're a circus Italian family. So there's a lot of very big personalities yelling performers—
[00:05:58] Jordan Harbinger: I think that's regular Italian.
[00:05:59] Amanda Catarzi: Right.
[00:06:00] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:06:00] Amanda Catarzi: Okay, okay. Calm down, calm down.
[00:06:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:05] Amanda Catarzi: Very outgoing kind of people. And so to be in an organization that demanded submission constantly, especially from the women, like it was just so against everything that I felt going on inside of me. So to be 13 years old, being courted by men twice my age, three times my age to see if I would make a good wife, it was just kind of outrageous.
[00:06:28] Jordan Harbinger: Three times our age? So if you're 15 and you're at home cooking and cleaning the guy's 45.
[00:06:34] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. So a lot of times it was encouraged the father's friends who are still single be potential husbands, just because they have the house, they have the property, they have the income to support you as a full-time wife and child-bearer.
[00:06:50] Jordan Harbinger: 15, though, that's really strange.
[00:06:53] Amanda Catarzi: Well, when you turn 13 in that culture, you're an adult.
[00:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:57] Amanda Catarzi: So there's a whole ceremony we go through. I was given a ruby necklace taken from Proverbs 31 who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies. And my brother gave it to me and it was kind of like my coming out of, okay, I'm an adult woman now I'm available.
[00:07:12] Jordan Harbinger: Her price is far above rubies, but unfortunately, we only have rubies though, so here you go.
[00:07:17] Amanda Catarzi: You just get one.
[00:07:18] Jordan Harbinger: I can't follow that logic really, but okay, all right. You said circus Italians, you literally mean the circus.
[00:07:25] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. So my family was brought over by the Ringling Bros circus from Northern Italy to Sarasota, Florida. So Sarasota, Florida is the winter quarters for the Barnum & Bailey circus.
[00:07:35] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:07:35] Amanda Catarzi: So there are tons of Italians here that settled due to being in the circus. And we're all intermarried. And I got gazillions of cousins running around here, so—
[00:07:45] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:07:45] Amanda Catarzi: And my parents met in the circus.
[00:07:47] Jordan Harbinger: What do they do? Are they like super flexible or balancing on the high wire? I mean, there's a lot you can do in the circus. Are they lion tamers or what?
[00:07:55] Amanda Catarzi: My family did bareback riding. So they would do the pyramids on the running horses and flip from one horse to the next. And then my father, he did all that. He did tightrope, juggling, teeterboard, the high wire, trapeze, everything. Mom, she did the rope where they spin on the rope and they fall down the rope.
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: I don't really even know what that one is.
[00:08:14] Amanda Catarzi: They're like swinging around on the rope.
[00:08:15] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds extremely dangerous.
[00:08:16] Amanda Catarzi: It's like holding a scene, but on a rope, up in the air, like 50 feet.
[00:08:20] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh. So are they still around, your parents?
[00:08:23] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. They live 15 minutes from me.
[00:08:26] Jordan Harbinger: They must be really athletic then.
[00:08:28] Amanda Catarzi: They were. You know, they're in their 60s now. And dad, he's a third-degree black belt, so he's very, very active.
[00:08:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:38] Amanda Catarzi: But yeah, they're fun people.
[00:08:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I can imagine. The circus life in the early part of this, or I guess the middle part of the century must've just been absolutely insane.
[00:08:48] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. Well, back when they were kids — so his grandmother, my dad's grandmother was like royalty. Because there weren't any really big movie stars per se. The circus was kind of like this beautiful entertainment. That was the entertainment. So they have pictures of them in Times Square doing a wedding. I mean, and they're just decked out and all these jewels and decadence stuff. So they were the cat's meow back in the day.
[00:09:13] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Good use of that expression, especially for the era. So why did your parents, or how did your parents end up joining a cult? I mean, if they were in the circus, why shift over suddenly to this weird cult?
[00:09:24] Amanda Catarzi: They found God. And when they found God, they decided they wanted to raise their children wildly different than they were raised. So they came from pretty lousy parenting situations. And they were trying to do their best to give their kids something different. So this cult had homeschooling curriculum. When back in the day, when it was not popular to homeschool, there was no curriculum and resources like there are now. And so it was very easy. "Here you go, here's how you do it. We laid it all out for you, how to raise godly children." So my parents were like, "Sign us up."
[00:09:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's interesting because I can kind of understand that, right? Even when I was a kid in the '80s — well, we're probably the same age — like all homeschooling was just weirdos. Now, it's just people who are like, "Ah, you know, my kid's pretty smart," or, "My kid, I can teach them better than a school," or, "I can't afford to send them to a good school. So I'm going to homeschool them." Now it's a big sway to society that sort of touches all demographics. But before—
[00:10:19] Amanda Catarzi: Sure.
[00:10:19] Jordan Harbinger: —it was almost exclusively, the domain of like, "We want to raise really weird kids with all these super weird sort of values that don't get reflected elsewhere. So we're going to keep them in the basement basically."
[00:10:29] Amanda Catarzi: Yes. Yes. So that was my era. So I was born in '89. So in the early '90s, it was still kind of weird, but—
[00:10:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:38] Amanda Catarzi: I survived.
[00:10:40] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. This isn't the worst cult I've ever heard about to be in.
[00:10:44] Amanda Catarzi: No.
[00:10:44] Jordan Harbinger: Like it's strange and it's unusual. And it sounds a little bit abusive in terms of the age of consent. Here in the United States, you know, 15 years old or what, or younger is too young to be somebody's wife. But like there could have been crazier stuff going on.
[00:10:56] Amanda Catarzi: Sure.
[00:10:56] Jordan Harbinger: Not that there necessarily wasn't, but I'm wondering how, even this sort of relatively benign religious upbringing, culty upbringing, pre-programmed you to be in abusive relationships due to the power dynamics involved.
[00:11:09] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. So my understanding of men in my role in interactions with men was to serve them. That's it. I was taught that no matter what if my husband wanted sex, I say yes, and I didn't even know what sex was. Like, I had no, I did not get the talk ever. And my job is literally to be a maid and a baby maker. I'm supposed to have as many babies as possible. So the Duggar family was in this cult, ATI. They're on TLC called 19 and Counting and their oldest son, Josh just got charged with like horrific child pornography, possession of child pornography, and molesting all the sisters. And they did an internal investigation and found that. He said, sorry, so, okay, he said, sorry, but you didn't hear it from any of the girls.
[00:11:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We've investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong.
[00:12:01] Amanda Catarzi: We're awesome. Okay. So yeah, it really set me up for that dynamic later on in my life. So I never had a real relationship. I didn't get to learn my boundaries in relationship. I didn't understand what I wanted in a romantic relationship. I had no idea. No idea what I was getting into. And it had this underlying people-pleasing, do what men tell you even if you don't want to. Your feelings don't matter in those situations.
[00:12:27] So by the time I entered into my adult relationship with my trafficker, all those scenarios started playing out. He was telling me to do stuff I didn't want to do, but if I really loved him, this is what I needed to do. And I needed to submit and I needed to be a good woman and a good woman meant you just say yes.
[00:12:47] Jordan Harbinger: Before we get onto your, I guess, first trafficking experience, you had some issues with an adult neighbor as a kid as well. Tell us what happened there.
[00:12:56] Amanda Catarzi: So he was, I believe he was a minor at the time.
[00:13:00] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:13:00] Amanda Catarzi: He might've been 18. I really don't remember. I had a crush on him, which makes it all so confusing, right? I was seven years old. His mom was my piano teacher. So we played with them all the time. We're over at their house all the time, my brother and I. And so one day, I forget why I was over there by myself. I was looking for something or somebody and he found me and molested me, which was all super confusing. Again, never taught sexual boundaries, never taught body boundaries. I have a crush on this person, so I'm already sinning because I had feelings for a man who, you know, I'm already being a promiscuous woman in my mind at this point.
[00:13:41] Jordan Harbinger: Geez, at seven years old, you shouldn't even know what that means. Right?
[00:13:45] Amanda Catarzi: Yes. Well, you know, you got to learn what a virtuous woman is. So you learn about the harlots—
[00:13:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:51] Amanda Catarzi: And the prostitutes in the Bible, and don't be those because those are the ones that put makeup on and show their boobs or something. I don't know.
[00:13:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:59] Amanda Catarzi: And so when this happened, I was kind of a bully, anyways, in the neighborhood being straight up, I was rude, I'm obnoxious and that was just me.
[00:14:08] Jordan Harbinger: That's circus Italian coming out.
[00:14:11] Amanda Catarzi: I just dominated. I'm that person.
[00:14:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:13] Amanda Catarzi: So when I was brought home by this young man's older brother, because he found me crying in like a corner of their house.
[00:14:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:14:22] Amanda Catarzi: He carried me home and my father not knowing anything that happened, just knowing my annoying personality was like, "What did she do this time? Whatever she did, she probably deserved it."
[00:14:34] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, no.
[00:14:34] Amanda Catarzi: And so I've just been molested. And now my father is saying I deserved it. And so I'm like, okay, yeah, I shouldn't have been in a house alone with a man. That's a big rule breaker. So, therefore, I deserve this.
[00:14:46] Jordan Harbinger: But he didn't know what happened, right? He thought you probably got smacked in the face playing touch football or something.
[00:14:51] Amanda Catarzi: Yup.
[00:14:51] Jordan Harbinger: Oh god, he must've felt horrible when he found out what happened.
[00:14:54] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. Yeah. He really did. And it wasn't until, you know, five years ago or anything. All this, I was able to sit down with my parents and kind of lay this all out for them.
[00:15:02] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:15:03] Amanda Catarzi: Because I was trying to protect them.
[00:15:05] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:15:05] Amanda Catarzi: I was trying to, you know, work through my own process as well, because what good does that do you know, telling your father, "Hey, you kind of screwed me over," but he's a good man and we're best friends now. So all good.
[00:15:21] Jordan Harbinger: The neighbor, was he in the cult as well, or is this a random neighbor?
[00:15:24] Amanda Catarzi: Just a random neighbor.
[00:15:25] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:15:26] Amanda Catarzi: That we were later like we could not be friends with them because they weren't part of the cult. So we got in trouble for being friends with them as well.
[00:15:33] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, so you weren't even allowed to be there in the first place. So they, quote-unquote, "understandably" had very little sympathy for something bad happened. This is what happens when you hang out with non-cult members.
[00:15:43] Amanda Catarzi: Right.
[00:15:43] Jordan Harbinger: Bad things happen.
[00:15:44] Amanda Catarzi: And there is a story in the Bible where a woman goes into the city by herself and gets gang-raped essentially by all these people. And so I always wandered off. So my dad would always say, "Where are you going, Diana?" because that was the name of the woman in the story. And he's again, just trying to keep me safe, but just reinforcing this idea of, "Oh, I am Diana. I am this promiscuous woman. I do the wrong things and I pay the consequences for those.
[00:16:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:16:13] Amanda Catarzi: Those were really messed up.
[00:16:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's the beginning of like programming you.
[00:16:18] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:16:18] Jordan Harbinger: It's not quite the same thing as grooming, right? But it's kind of like setting the table for this kind of bad things to happen.
[00:16:24] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. It was a perfect storm.
[00:16:25] Jordan Harbinger: So, how did you get into an abusive trafficking situation after this?
[00:16:30] Amanda Catarzi: So I moved to California to go to school, which was the worst thing I could do to my parents going to Sodom and Gomorrah.
[00:16:37] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, they must love California and they're conservative cult over there.
[00:16:42] Amanda Catarzi: So probably, it is the most spiteful thing I could do to them. And I was in like my rebellious stage then. So I'm about 23 when I graduate from school, I start managing their media company there and I start training MMA because, you know, someone invited me to this gym.
[00:16:59] Jordan Harbinger: As one does.
[00:17:00] Amanda Catarzi: Well, there was a gym right down the street and I wanted to be active and lose some weight and somebody invited me there.
[00:17:06] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:17:06] Amanda Catarzi: So I go there and I ended up being really good at knocking people out.
[00:17:10] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. You were a bully. Look at you.
[00:17:14] Amanda Catarzi: I was, I'm telling you, I ran over a kid with my bike. Yeah, oh yeah, so I'm punching people, I'm knocking people out and they're like, "Holy cowgirl, like, you're good at this." So I start going full, like, that's my family now because before that it was always forced community. It was always orchestrated whether in the cult or in classes. And so now that I'm out of all these situations, I don't have a community. And so I have to—
[00:17:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, right.
[00:17:40] Amanda Catarzi: —figure out how to do that because I've never had to build that before. So I'm lonely and this MMA family gives me what I need. And I love these people. Unfortunately, there was a lot of dysfunction and a lot of toxic individuals in that environment. And my trafficker was there. He was actually one of my boxing coaches.
[00:18:00] Jordan Harbinger: How did he pick you out of the crowd? I mean, were you the only woman there? No, right?
[00:18:04] Amanda Catarzi: I was one of the few. So there was like one or two, it's just, there's not a lot of women doing MMA in that area. I had to travel like two hours to find a woman for me to fight. So I was mostly fighting men. I was training with men. I was one of the only women and all these people were talking about all their issues constantly. And I've never heard anybody talk about their emotions or how they felt or calling people out. And it was obviously really toxic looking back. It's like, oh, they had no boundaries, but I was like, this is amazing. Like, people are talking about their emotions. I've never heard that before. So of course, I'm like, well, I grew up this way and I don't know this, and I don't know that.
[00:18:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:41] Amanda Catarzi: So I'm like a freaking billboard for, "Take advantage of me. I know nothing."
[00:18:47] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You just have a shirt that says naive and it's fair right on your back, like target right on your back for this. And yeah, if you didn't have a lot of peers if you had to drive two hours to find a woman to fight — I mean, here you just have to go to Walmart, but if you had to drive two hours to find a woman to fight you, then in a way you were alone and also like a country bumpkin may be compared to these well-versed folks here.
[00:19:10] Amanda Catarzi: Oh yeah. I never had an adult relationship before. Yes, I was very naive. And so of course they all knew that because I told them all like an idiot.
[00:19:19] Jordan Harbinger: Well, you're not supposed to hide who you are in normal situations. Like don't tell anyone who you are, you might get abused. Like that's not how normal people think. So I can't really fault you too much for that.
[00:19:30] Amanda Catarzi: Well, I appreciate that.
[00:19:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:32] Amanda Catarzi: But yeah, so I was spending a lot of time with certain individuals over and over and over again every single night because I was training for fights. That's what I wanted to do. And I was good at it, so why not? And so he started giving me, you know, a bunch of private sessions and—
[00:19:46] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:19:46] Amanda Catarzi: Then he's like, you know, "I like you," and so now we're dating. So this is my first adult relationship. He's twice my age at this point.
[00:19:55] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Well, how old were you? So he's 40, you're like 20 or something like that or—?
[00:20:00] Amanda Catarzi: Like 23.
[00:20:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, okay.
[00:20:02] Amanda Catarzi: And I was aware that there were other women in his life. They were exes. They were like, "Oh, these are my exes and they're my baby mama's." And I'm like, "No judgment," okay, you know, whatever.
[00:20:13] Jordan Harbinger: People have pasts.
[00:20:14] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah, it should be cool and stuff. Well, it turns out, you know, the other women that he's trafficking, but I had no idea.
[00:20:21] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Yeah, he's not going to say this is my abused women, harem, right? Yeah.
[00:20:26] Amanda Catarzi: This is my stable. These are my bottoms. These are my tops, you know. So no, he did not say that. He says, "These women are crazy. Do not talk to them. They were both fighters. They're both excellent fighters, world champion, boxers and fighters," so very dangerous women. He's like, "They are crazy. You do not talk to them." So isolation, which is a huge key for abusers.
[00:20:47] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:20:47] Amanda Catarzi: And then he would always take me up to his cabin on the mountain, which was really far away from everybody else to train. So I was in awesome shape, I got to say. I was doing trail runs, we're training 24/7, Rocky-style, you know, chopping wood out in the forest, all those things, but no phone service, isolation. And it was on a Native American reservation. So whatever they wanted to do to me, they could.
[00:21:12] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So you can't even call the police because they're like, oh, you have to call the one sheriff guy who's been friends with the guy who's been abusing you for the last—
[00:21:19] Amanda Catarzi: Exactly
[00:21:19] Jordan Harbinger: —30 years and knows his mom or whatever, yeah.
[00:21:21] Amanda Catarzi: And I'm Caucasian up there on a Native American reservation. I shouldn't be there. So you have to be invited up there. You have to be escorted up and down or otherwise, they'll kill you.
[00:21:30] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:21:31] Amanda Catarzi: That's what I was told.
[00:21:32] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:21:33] Amanda Catarzi: I mean, everything I saw back that up. His mother has a huge scar on her neck for disobeying her man. So here I am back in this situation.
[00:21:42] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[00:21:43] Amanda Catarzi: You know, another situation where men run the world. If you step out of line, we will cut your throat.
[00:21:48] Jordan Harbinger: That's awful. I can't even— wow, that's really intense. So how did that go from, he's just isolating you, don't talk to my exes, to like now you're working for him in some way?
[00:22:01] Amanda Catarzi: It's super subtle. So people think it's like, oh, you're doing this now, like one night, but it's an eroding away of your boundaries and of your values on a consistent basis. And throw in some codependency and some alcohol, some sweet-talking in there, and you are utterly confused. So, you know, it starts with, "Hey, that guy thinks you're really hot. And I think it's hot that the other guy thinks you're hot."
[00:22:27] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, yeah.
[00:22:28] Amanda Catarzi: And I was like, "What? That's weird." Nobody's ever said, "okay, like, cool." And then that would escalate. "Hey, it'd be really hot if you flirted with him. And like, I know I'm taking you home so it's all good." "Uh, I don't really want to do that." "Okay, okay, okay." And then all of a sudden they all get drunk and now they're all like all over me, pulling at me, and you know, I've got five MMA fighters. I'm 115 pounds at the time. How am I supposed to resist? When he's saying, "Go, go over there and give him a BJ. Like, now go do it." And I'm like, "I don't want to do it," but what are you supposed to do? So then those nights would happen. And then, "Oh, I was blackout drunk and I don't remember. I'm so sorry. I love you, blah, blah, blah, blah." And that cycle just continues. So really high highs, "I love you. We're building a life together. You're going to be a UFC fighter." I'm going to get you there to — oops, you accidentally got gang-raped.
[00:23:24] And at that point, the whole question is like, well, why are you, why do you stay after the, like the first time let's say I get raped.
[00:23:30] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:23:31] Amanda Catarzi: I had given up so much to be there already. I'd given up so much of my values. So many of my morals. I had to make it work. I had to get something out of it. Because if I would have left the first time he hit me or raped me, then I would be in the negative. I would be losing.
[00:23:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I understand that. It's like almost like gambling, right? Like, well, I can't leave now I'm down, but I was up, you know, a hundred dollars. So if I just keep playing, I'll win it back and I'll at least get back, at least I'll break even, and then I can go or I'll get back on top and then I'll quit. So it's like a roller coaster to keep you hooked, just like gambling at a casino.
[00:24:07] Amanda Catarzi: Yup, exactly. And it's as intoxicating and addicting. You literally get addicted to the highs and the lows. And when you're at a low, you're like, okay, if I can just make it through this, it's going to get really good after this because that's the pattern that you set.
[00:24:21] Jordan Harbinger: Right. I forget what that's called. It's there's a name for these like emotional ups and downs. In gambling and slot machines do it. Like you play, you win a dollar and you're like, oh, this isn't that hard. And then you lose five dollars and you're like, "Wait a second." But then you win six dollars so you're like, "Okay, I'm even let me keep playing." And then, it's like, you lose more and then you win more. You lose more and you win more. But then at the end, you're like, "Wait a minute. I'm down like two grand. How the hell did that happen? I'm going home. It's four o'clock in the morning."
[00:24:46] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:24:47] Jordan Harbinger: So he's essentially pimping you at this point.
[00:24:49] Amanda Catarzi: Mmhm.
[00:24:50] Jordan Harbinger: Judging by the fact that his mom had a giant scar on her throat from it being slit. I assume that he was also abused and this was kind of like, not that I'm excusing his behavior to be clear, but he obviously had a crappy past and upbringing as well.
[00:25:03] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. And that's super common. He was. He was raped as a young boy, multiple times by older people in the tribe. And he had two choices in life, become an abuser or stay a victim. Those were the only choices that were handed to him. Therapy was not a discussion. Healing, being a good person, it was just not a discussion. He was totally in survival mode. Yeah, definitely not excusing his behavior.
[00:25:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:25:29] Amanda Catarzi: But what are you going to do if that's the culture you're brought up and those are your choices? I mean, I can't say that I would have made a better choice than him. I don't know.
[00:25:39] Jordan Harbinger: It is interesting to think about that. I visited a prison for my birthday a couple of years ago before the pandemic with a group of listeners of the show. And you hear these guys' stories and you think like, "Huh? Okay. So when you were six, your dad was locked up for violent crime. You have seven brothers and sisters. You got, went to go live with your cousin. He was the only person you looked up to. He was a drug dealer. Somebody wanted to kill him. So they were coming after you. So you got a gun at age 12. And then they did come after you, but you shot them first. And that was your first stint in prison for like six years as a youth." And I'm like, "Would I have avoided that situation if I were in those same circumstances, I really don't think I would have."
[00:26:16] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:26:17] Jordan Harbinger: You start to understand kind of like where this happens and how it's almost like a foregone conclusion that somebody is going to end up screwed up. And again, I'm not excusing the behavior, but it is sort of understandable how it ends up happening.
[00:26:29] Amanda Catarzi: Hundred percent.
[00:26:30] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of people are going to think, "Well, you're a fighter. How can you be put through that sort of thing? Fine, if there's five guys or something, but like, what about one guy? I mean, can't you at least run away?" And you explained a little bit about not even wanting to, because of the ups and downs, but you spoke about this before part of the thrill for the johns that were, I guess, patronizing your, can I say pimp? Is that even appropriate?
[00:26:50] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:26:51] Jordan Harbinger: Part of the thrill was that you would actually fight back. They could like hit you because you could take it, right?
[00:26:56] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. That was part of the fetish—
[00:26:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:59] Amanda Catarzi: Or experience, I guess. Because a lot of these situations were set up as like a fight camp and maybe that's how part of my mind rationalized and protected me through that series of events of, "Oh it's fight camp and I'm going to go spar this guy." I knew it was going to happen. But if I didn't go do that, the consequences were much more severe from him if I said no." That was very common of going to go train. And then all of a sudden, now that you've fought 12 rounds, now you're going to be right. It's cool.
[00:27:33] Jordan Harbinger: Gosh, I'm sorry to make you relive this. All right. I mean, it's just so horrible.
[00:27:36] Amanda Catarzi: I've been super blessed with like really fantastic therapy. I can talk about this.
[00:27:42] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:27:42] Amanda Catarzi: I'm in the clear.
[00:27:43] Jordan Harbinger: Good. Yeah. I mean, I feel, I'm affected asking about it and hearing about it, right? All the therapy in the world. I'm sure it makes it easier to talk about, but it's still really hard for like people listening right now are even going to be affected by this because it is so horrifying.
[00:27:57] Look, you're a fighter. If you walk around with a black eye, no one's going to be like, "Oh my god, what happened?" It's like, well, you punch people and get punched for a living.
[00:28:05] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. So it was super common for me to have black eyes or grab marks on me from grappling. So it was never questioned by anybody at my job. Or I had a lady come up to me one time and give me a card and be like, "Do you need help?" And I was like, "No, I'm a fighter. This is what I do." So my mind was so bought into the narrative too, that I couldn't even really wrap my head around what was really happening and nor did I want to, because then again, I would be admitting that I was losing and that I was failing.
[00:28:35] Jordan Harbinger: Good for that lady handing you the card though.
[00:28:37] Amanda Catarzi: I know.
[00:28:37] Jordan Harbinger: Good on her for doing that.
[00:28:38] Amanda Catarzi: She's like the only person.
[00:28:41] Jordan Harbinger: That's a shame. I feel like you'd like to think, "Oh, I would have to do that too," but I don't even know it would be on the card. What goes on the card? Like, what would you even call?
[00:28:48] Amanda Catarzi: Oh, it was like some woman's shelter, some abused woman's shelter, and yeah, I was like, that's ridiculous. I'm not being abused.
[00:28:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man, the gaslighting, right?
[00:28:58] Amanda Catarzi: The dissociation, yeah. But that's what your mind does to protect you.
[00:29:02] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:29:03] Amanda Catarzi: In most trafficking cases, women are addicted to drugs in the process as well. That's super common and it's used to help kind of keep them captive, right?
[00:29:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:11] Amanda Catarzi: On my case, I didn't have any drugs because I was fighting and therefore being tested constantly to make sure I wasn't using performance-enhancing drugs, which was awesome because I'm super grateful. I didn't end up being addicted to anything.
[00:29:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, no kidding.
[00:29:25] Amanda Catarzi: But it means I was present for everything.
[00:29:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:28] Amanda Catarzi: I disassociated and still struggle with dissociation pretty hardcore. I can turn my emotions on and off like a light switch, no problem. Staying engaged in the present is a very intentional thing I have to do.
[00:29:42] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. Yeah. A lot of abuse victims talk about that, "I left my body during this experience," and I guess that's what dissociation, what you're talking about.
[00:29:51] Amanda Catarzi: You're outside of your body. It's almost like this is happening to me in a different time in space and I'm over here observing. The one interesting thing that seems to stay intact for trauma survivors is the sense of smell. So they'll remember how it smelled. And I think that's super interesting.
[00:30:07] Jordan Harbinger: That is interesting. And also sounds kind of horrible because, I mean, not to get graphic here, but that's like one thing I definitely wouldn't want to remember, probably.
[00:30:15] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. Like they remember, you know, like obviously the smells you can think of, but also it'll be users cologne and like the bread bakery down the store. So that's what makes it so interesting because they'll get triggered by the most random things. It's whatever what's happening in that situation as well.
[00:30:34] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Amanda Catarzi. We'll be right back.
[00:30:39] This episode is sponsored in part by Something You Should Know podcast. Finding a great new podcast can be an exercise in frustration. So let me just save you a bunch of time and tell you about a podcast called Something You Should Know with my friend, Mike Carruthers. In each episode, Mike talks with leading experts on topics that really affect you. Like why we see in color, technologies that will reshape us, how to explain anything to anyone, and understanding freedom of speech. There's a wide range of topics and guests that will leave you a little smarter than you were before. And what's great is Mike asks questions that really get into the heart of the topic, the kind of questions that you would ask or that I would ask. So if you liked this show, you'll like Something You Should Know as well. Something You Should Know is a fun and entertaining podcast. You'll learn something new and useful in every episode. And it was listed in Apple's Shows We Love, which never listed me, but whatever, I'm not bitter about it. And listeners have given thousands of five-star reviews. Search for Something You Should Know where you get your podcasts and when you see the bright yellow light bulb, give it a listen, Something You Should Know.
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[00:32:55] Now back to Amanda Catarzi.
[00:32:58] You know, there's something — and I don't know if this is junk science, but I remember hearing about this a long time ago, probably on a podcast — which are full of junk science by the way — that smell goes directly to your memory in some ways. And it's why you can smell some cologne like your grandpa used to wear that you haven't smelled for 30 years. And you're like, "Oh my god, grandpa." And it's like, no, you're just in the perfume mile at like an old-guy department store.
[00:33:25] Amanda Catarzi: I've found that to consistently be true with my own life and also with all the victims I've worked with as well. So it's just interesting.
[00:33:32] Jordan Harbinger: It's one of the reasons I think why food helps people connect to culture and nostalgia because you smell like, "Oh my gosh, is that vodka sauce with a little bit of whatever my great-grandma used to use in there." And it's like, immediately you're transported back for better or for worse. Ideally, this is something that you love. And it's something that makes you feel like a kid again, because you're smelling a plant that used to be at your uncle's house growing up, but it can also work for horrible things, which had never occurred to me at all.
[00:33:57] Amanda Catarzi: Sure, yeah.
[00:33:58] Jordan Harbinger: So the dissociation, it almost sounds like a superpower, but like you said, it has a downside. I'm wondering if you're disassociating from yourself and seeing your body from the outside, like you're floating. Does that mean you disassociate from good things as well if you're not careful?
[00:34:13] Amanda Catarzi: Oh, a hundred percent. So even after I got out and I went through therapy and I'm working to help bust trafficking rings and help survivors, I met my husband. And so learning to engage in a healthy relationship with a man, super difficult. You don't want to get attached to something too much, because that was also used against you when you were being victimized.
[00:34:37] So one time I showed too much interest in a rifle that my trafficker had. And so he ended up raping me with a rifle to teach me a lesson. Like, so I learned that I could not get attached to anything because it'd be used against me. And so moving forward through life and being able to enjoy things is a very intentional thing for me. I have to be otherwise there is no emotional connection. So that's definitely been a massive process, learning to let myself feel, let myself love, let myself be happy, and ignore the narratives that were implanted and enforced by trauma.
[00:35:17] Jordan Harbinger: It does sound like if you'd end up dissociating from everything that sounds tragic and depressing if that's even the right word for it, right? It's just like, you want to be able to enjoy good things and focus on them while also not necessarily always reconnecting to all these negative things that have happened in your past. I mean, that seems like it would make therapy a relatively complicated affair.
[00:35:38] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. So feeling nothing is worse than feeling depressed. So a lot of people who have practiced dissociation on a regular basis will make horrible choices just to feel something. So they'll make their partner mad because that's something that's familiar, so it can feel something. And also something that was super scary for me is I never saw my husband angry. So, I didn't know what would happen if he got angry. And that was a very scary idea. I don't know how bad it would get. So with my trafficker, I knew how bad it would get. With my husband, I didn't know because he wasn't an angry person. And so I remember having to have a conversation with him about that. It's like, "It freaks me out that you don't get mad because the story in my head is you're going to snap and beat the living daylights out of me."
[00:36:24] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:36:25] Amanda Catarzi: So yeah, like a lot of people will self-sabotage if they don't get healing in order to feel something or commit suicide or self-harm just to feel something.
[00:36:36] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Yeah, that conversation with the husband would be a little, "Could you be more of an asshole actually sometimes? Just until I know you're still there and check-in."
[00:36:43] Amanda Catarzi: Well, and what's interesting too, is when we first met, I would always text him everywhere I was going, everything that I was doing every second. And he's like, "Why the heck are you doing that? Like, I do not need a play-by-play," but I was so used to being controlled. I was trying to like force him into the spot to control me.
[00:37:00] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:37:00] Amanda Catarzi: Because that felt good for him. So that's something that I had to work through and recognize and be like, "Oh yeah, he doesn't want to control me."
[00:37:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:09] Amanda Catarzi: Am I okay with that?
[00:37:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Wow. That's interesting. I can imagine a normal guy being like, "Congrats on getting a Chipotle bowl, I guess. See you later."
[00:37:18] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah, basically.
[00:37:19] Jordan Harbinger: Not to make light of it, but like, it would be confusing if somebody did that for me, like, okay, great. Like how do you react if you're not trying to control a person to somebody who's slipping into that role? Did it just wear off after a while? Or like, of course, you went to therapy, but did you just realize after a while, "Okay, he's not requiring this behavior of me"?
[00:37:38] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. I remember like a couple of times I forgot to. And I was like, "Uhh," like I started to have a panic attack of, "Oh my god, I didn't tell him. That I was going to be late or that I had to do this." And I was like, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry." And he's like, "It's fine. I just figured you get home when you get home. Love you. See you later."
[00:37:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:57] Amanda Catarzi: Poof, mind blown.
[00:37:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I know. Right, because your whole life has been sort of overly controlled by men. Oh, that is fascinating. It's hard to dissociate patterns.
[00:38:06] Amanda Catarzi: And just because something's familiar does not mean it's healthy and the majority of the time it isn't healthy.
[00:38:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's an interesting insight just because something's familiar doesn't mean it's healthy. I think a lot of us have unhealthy patterns that we just don't realize are not unhealthy because we grew up with them. Whether it's a short fuse because your parents got mad quickly or you drink too much and you think, "Well, everybody has six beers with dinner." I mean, there's a lot of unhealthy patterns people have that just seem norm, that are just normalized by the environment.
[00:38:39] Are you ever surprised that you're still here? I mean, I feel like this abusive past would take a really huge toll on anyone.
[00:38:45] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. I mean, I've definitely struggled. Suicidal ideation is something I just live with, to be honest. And sometimes that really freaks people out.
[00:38:54] Jordan Harbinger: Even still?
[00:38:55] Amanda Catarzi: Oh yeah. I mean, that's a Thursday, you know?
[00:38:58] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:38:59] Amanda Catarzi: And I've been through so much therapy and I've done all the things and it is what it is. So I'm just kind of like, okay, it's just this little person who's scared living in the corner of my mind. And so when those thoughts pop up, I'm like, "Okay, well what makes me feel that way? Like, where's that coming from? What fear, what insecurity is pushing that forward?" And then I dive into it. But yeah, I mean, right after I got into a car accident and kind of realized that I was being abused, I tried to commit suicide and I swallowed a whole bottle of pills and woke up to my stomach being pumped, super fun.
[00:39:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:39:35] Amanda Catarzi: There's been a few close attempts after that point, but thankfully I've been able to get help and to walk my way backwards out of those situations. So yeah, depression is something I constantly live with.
[00:39:50] Jordan Harbinger: How did you escape the pimp?
[00:39:53] Amanda Catarzi: I was on, it was actually Valentine's weekend — hey – I was on my way to meet a john. And so I supposed to fight him. His name was Shameless, his fight name was shameless, which is kind of ironic.
[00:40:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:06] Amanda Catarzi: And whatever reason I was being rebellious that night, and I did not want to sleep with anybody. So I knocked him out. I'm in our training session and I left.
[00:40:16] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. He woke up and you were just gone.
[00:40:18] Amanda Catarzi: I was gone.
[00:40:19] Jordan Harbinger: After getting punched in — I mean, I probably shouldn't laugh because of the severity, but that is — yeah, that's an interesting Valentine's day for everyone, I suppose, yeah.
[00:40:27] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. He was—
[00:40:28] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:40:28] Amanda Catarzi: He was excited for that night and then got a concussion. So, sorry.
[00:40:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:33] Amanda Catarzi: So I jumped in my truck and I was driving away and a girl ran a red light and T-boned my truck and totaled my truck. That's the only time I've been knocked out, ever. That's my one claim to fame.
[00:40:45] Jordan Harbinger: Undefeated, except for when you got hit at an intersection. I mean, that's — yeah, you are out. The weight classes were slightly different or slightly outmatched.
[00:40:53] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:40:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes.
[00:40:55] Amanda Catarzi: And I woke up, there's a cop behind me when it happened, thankfully. So he saw the whole thing. I woke up to him being like, "Oh my god, I thought you were dead." I guess the accident was pretty, pretty bad. It's all a little blurry to be honest because I had severe brain trauma from the accident. So I pull out my phone and I texted my trafficker and I say, "Hey, I almost just died in a car accident." And he said, "Is your face f*cked up?" And I'm like, "No," And he said, "Well, you're still f*ckable then."
[00:41:22] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god, what a horrible piece of sh*t.
[00:41:25] Amanda Catarzi: And so at that moment, it wasn't like, "Oh my god, I'm being sex trafficked." It was, "Something isn't right here." This isn't who I want to be. This isn't what I want. And it was like, I was coming out of water. It was like I had this moment of clarity and I knew something wasn't right. And I knew this wasn't what I wanted. And I knew I needed to act fast in order to get out of that situation because I knew it gets sucked back in if I stuck around too long. That's when I tried to commit suicide, got my stomach pumped. He still didn't know where I was because I went to the hospital and then I bought a plane ticket back to Florida and got my dog and left. So that's literally how it happened.
[00:42:10] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Wow. That's just unbelievable. I can see what you mean by a moment of clarity where you're going through this horrific situation that outweighs the, it's almost like you're going through something it's even more horrible and more urgent, more immediate than the situation you're already in. And it makes you see your life and lifestyle a little bit more clearly because it's just so obviously the wrong response to that situation on his part.
[00:42:34] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. Thankfully his response was not like, "Oh baby, I'm so sorry."
[00:42:38] Jordan Harbinger: "I'll be right there."
[00:42:40] Amanda Catarzi: Like, thankfully, because can you imagine if he would have responded that way?
[00:42:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You could still be in that situation.
[00:42:45] Amanda Catarzi: I would be dead. I'd be dead. I wouldn't be alive. I'd be dead.
[00:42:49] Jordan Harbinger: What makes you say that?
[00:42:50] Amanda Catarzi: Just the trajectory of how things were escalating and how I was talking back. And he wouldn't have, let me live much longer. I mean, he was trying to get me pregnant the whole time. According to native law, if you know, you have a child that's half Native American, you can't take that child away. So he knew I'd never leave the child.
[00:43:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right, okay.
[00:43:12] Amanda Catarzi: And so it wasn't happening because I was sneaking out taking plan B pills every freaking day. And so I think he was getting fed up and yeah, by the way, she was beating me, he was looking to kill me pretty soon, I felt.
[00:43:26] Jordan Harbinger: My god, well, you probably, yeah, you don't have to guess too hard, but if someone's treating you that way, what their intentions really are, I mean, at best he was indifferent whether you lived or died, right? at best.
[00:43:37] Amanda Catarzi: Mmhm.
[00:43:37] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard you say that trafficking victims usually die within seven years. Is that like a real statistic?
[00:43:44] Amanda Catarzi: So statistics around sex trafficking are really weird.
[00:43:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:47] Amanda Catarzi: Because we don't have a lot to go off of. So like, you'll hear a number by like Polaris or National Human Trafficking Hotline and its number of reported things.
[00:43:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, sure.
[00:43:58] Amanda Catarzi: So like, are people more aware or is there actually more cases? Yes. So statistically saying the best that people can come up with, yes, seven years. For children, it's much shorter, just because their bodies can't take that much trauma. So it's only a couple of years for children.
[00:44:15] Jordan Harbinger: How do we define sex trafficking? There has to be some sort of fairly concrete definition, right?
[00:44:20] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. Sex trafficking is defined — I said that way too excited.
[00:44:24] Jordan Harbinger: I was like, wow, that was really cheerful, but I'll just let that one less.
[00:44:28] Amanda Catarzi: I get excited when people want to learn about it because—
[00:44:32] Jordan Harbinger: Of course.
[00:44:32] Amanda Catarzi: —a few people actually want to talk about this.
[00:44:34] Jordan Harbinger: No, of course. It was just funny because I even made a note, I've got to say in the introduction that we keep some of this light to keep the conversation flowing, because people are going to be like, "How insensitive are you, Jordan? Joking around," but you have that kind of personality. And I almost think—
[00:44:47] Amanda Catarzi: Oh totally.
[00:44:48] Jordan Harbinger: —it's important to make this something that's digestible or people will be like too horrified to even consume this podcast.
[00:44:54] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. It feels so heavy. And I don't want our conversation to feel that way because I'm winning at life right now. And thanks to him, I have grit and tenacity and I have a platform and I've been able to help so many people because I was sex trafficked. So like that's the silver lining. And I said the other day that I was grateful for being sex trafficked because it's giving me a skill set. I had a really horrific miscarriage six months ago, and I wouldn't have been able to survive that. I think I probably would have committed suicide just from that experience—
[00:45:33] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[00:45:33] Amanda Catarzi: —if I didn't have the tools that I learned to process trauma and grief well from my sex trafficking experience. So I'm super grateful for being sex trafficked because I've been able to help so many people escape their traffickers. I've been able to bust trafficking rings, you know, do all this stuff. And then also I have amazing tools to process grief and hard situations. So, sorry, not sorry.
[00:46:01] Jordan Harbinger: No, hey, no need to apologize for looking at a silver lining in a horrible situation like this. Did we even get — how do we define sex trafficking? Let's go back to that because I think I've distracted you from that, but I want to make sure that people know what that necessarily means. Because I think a lot of folks think pimp and prostitute, that sex traffick, or children only can be trafficked because everyone else is sort of consenting somehow, but that's not really the case.
[00:46:24] Amanda Catarzi: So sex trafficking is any sex act in exchange for something of value. And with adults, you have to prove fraud, force, or coercion, which are really difficult things to prove.
[00:46:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:36] Amanda Catarzi: With children, you do not have to prove fraud force occasion because they cannot consent.
[00:46:40] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:46:41] Amanda Catarzi: And then, I personally say prostitution and sex trafficking are the same thing. There's people that disagree with me on that. That's totally fine. And there's about a two-percent population that thinks sex work should be legalized and it's empowering and they love it and stuff like that.
[00:46:58] Jordan Harbinger: You don't agree with that. I take it.
[00:47:02] Amanda Catarzi: Any time I've talked to any individual, that's like, "I love being a prostitute," there's always some crazy childhood sexual experience or sexual abuse there. I've not met anyone who hasn't had sexual abuse as a child. And they're like, "I love being a prostitute," and they have a perfect past. I've not experienced that. And I can definitely be wrong. I'm sure there's somebody out there that they exist and that's the case. I have not met them.
[00:47:31] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Interesting.
[00:47:32] Amanda Catarzi: I think if a woman has every, every single possibility in the world, I don't think we would naturally go to selling our bodies.
[00:47:40] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting, yeah.
[00:47:41] Amanda Catarzi: But I can be wrong.
[00:47:42] Jordan Harbinger: Hey look, I'm sure that we're going to hear about it in email after this airs, or on Twitter.
[00:47:47] Amanda Catarzi: Mmhm.
[00:47:47] Jordan Harbinger: And I'm open to that conversation, honestly.
[00:47:49] Amanda Catarzi: Me too.
[00:47:49] Jordan Harbinger: Because it is possible. I mean, my sample size of these types of experiences, conversations, that is really low. So yeah, I haven't taken a full inventory of everybody in this industry.
[00:47:59] Amanda Catarzi: I've worked with those people in those groups as well. I mean, I've worked with New Zealand government and they have legalized prostitution. And so I've worked with our government because they found that four years after they legalized prostitution, their child sex trafficking escalated dramatically.
[00:48:16] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:48:17] Amanda Catarzi: So when you legalize prostitution, you initially get fantastic numbers for the first couple of years, everything drops initially. And then after a couple of, about four years, you see like horrendous sex crimes start to escalate out of nowhere. But it's consistent enough for us to see the numbers and to recognize that.
[00:48:37] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. I wonder why that is the people who patronize these normally illegal sex workers, do they just sort of graduate into more horrible stuff or is it the society, in general is more tolerant of more deviant things and that just escalates? I don't know. What do you think?
[00:48:53] Amanda Catarzi: I think that when you get rid of the consequences for your actions, you're going to get more and more outrageous actions. I mean, people are always going to push that limit. And that might be a conservative view. That might be a wrong view. But when we see that happen in sex, specifically, sex is supposed to be a beautiful, sacred, awesome thing. And when you don't have any relationship and when you take it out of context and when you make it a transactional thing, there's an objectifying and there's a loss of emotion that happens there and you don't feel the weight of it. So again, I feel like it's almost this weird kind of dissociation from reality of sex is supposed to be in this context and have all this emotional stuff that goes with it. And when you remove the emotional stuff, then you go to more hardcore stuff to get that feeling, in my opinion.
[00:49:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's interesting. What do you think about—? I mean, I assume you also have thoughts about pornography being trafficking as well. Because you see this documentary, look, I've seen these documentaries where it looks like everybody's over 18, which also, by the way, is still too young in my opinion but whatever, like for legal perspective, or let's say, they're 25, but then they have these horror stories where it's like, "Oh, I'm just going to go do a stripping thing." And then it's like, actually, there's going to be like people there and they're going to touch you. Oh, well actually you're going to have to sleep with one of these. Actually, it's four guys. And it's just like — and you see them going, "Am I even allowed to say no? This was person is paying my rent."
[00:50:18] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[00:50:18] Jordan Harbinger: "Like, am I going to end up on the street again if I don't do this?" And that sort of made me do a double-take because I was like, "Oh, adult industry, it's all on the up and up." And some of this amateur stuff is like just dudes with video cameras, aka their iPhone and like a light.
[00:50:36] Amanda Catarzi: About 80 percent of the victims I work with told me they were forced to make porn. And in my experience, I was videotaped. I have no idea where that stuff is and it's a living nightmare that it'll come up somewhere sometime. Yeah, I have very strong feelings about porn. We actually did a sting operation during the Super Bowl and a child responded to a young, I think, he was 15 years old, responded to an ad for a threesome. And so he shows up and it was the sting operation. And they asked him like, "Why did you Uber to this place for a threesome at 15 years old?" Because he'd been watching it on porn and wanting to give it a try. And so that right there—
[00:51:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:18] Amanda Catarzi: —tells me everything I need to know. I mean, porn is ridiculous. It doesn't give you a realistic view of anything you don't know what's happening outside that frame, outside that camera shot. What happened before? After that scene? You have no idea.
[00:51:32] Jordan Harbinger: It's really hard to say then what is legit and what isn't. Because I know when I lived in Hollywood, I met people who produce things, but it was you'd like guys who worked at these big office buildings and like everybody had forms and they were all testing and everybody was like 30 or in their late 20s. And even then a lot of the guys and the women that I met, they were like, you wouldn't really want their life, even if they made a bunch more money than you. Like, you put a couple of whiskeys in them and it's like, the stories come out and you just go, "Oh my god, you're just acting out all your trauma right now." and again, not everyone, but imagine if that's what the professional side of the industry is like what the dark side of that industry is like.
[00:52:10] Amanda Catarzi: A hundred percent.
[00:52:11] Jordan Harbinger: Are most trafficking victims women?
[00:52:14] Amanda Catarzi: Recently, no. So that was—
[00:52:16] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:52:17] Amanda Catarzi: —probably the case back in the day, you know, maybe in the '90s or something like that. But those numbers with boys has escalated a lot. So about 36 percent of the child sex trafficking cases are boys now. So for every three girls that are being sex trafficked, a boy is being sex trafficked.
[00:52:34] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:52:34] Amanda Catarzi: Those numbers have increased a lot. And usually, about 40 percent of those children are being trafficked by their parents, which is super common in Florida, where I live. And in these tight family groups, they traffick within those families' groups. And that's the reported cases. And so just statistically, we know women are more likely to report cases than men or boys are.
[00:53:00] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. That makes sense.
[00:53:02] Amanda Catarzi: I mean, because you see these cases of like this kid who had sex with his teacher and everyone's like, "Oh, she's kind of hot. Good job, son."
[00:53:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "Bravo, man. All right." Yeah, you see that online. And even people will send it to me and be like, "Wow, you must be stoked." And I'm like, "Well, I don't know, man, he's 14."
[00:53:19] Amanda Catarzi: It's raped.
[00:53:20] Jordan Harbinger: He doesn't know how he feels about it. Yeah, he doesn't know how he feels about it. It's not going to end well for him. Yeah.
[00:53:25] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. And it's really disheartening when the media portrays it in a favorable tone, like, "Oh, sex with a child." No, that's rape of a child.
[00:53:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's interesting.
[00:53:35] Amanda Catarzi: It's not sex with a child. And they'll do that consistently. You know, when there a boy sexual assault involved or a male sexual assault involved and when their children, because I feel like they just don't want to talk about it. Kind of like your conversation with Andrew Gold, where you guys talked about pedophilia.
[00:53:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:52] Amanda Catarzi: Like people just don't want to talk about these things because it's icky and it doesn't feel like there's a solution to them. So why would we want to talk about stuff we can't solve?
[00:54:02] Jordan Harbinger: That's a really good point. Yeah, a lot of folks they're uncomfortable. They know they're going to be judged on it. That was episode 596, by the way, of the show for people who are wondering. You're right. That totally makes sense. It's so taboo. And also it's like, "Well, what good is going to come of this? There's no upside."
[00:54:18] By the way, you've got quite a personality. I mean, we've only been friends recently here, but I wonder, has that always been you, or maybe are you feeling more like you can be yourself now because while you were in a cult and being trafficked, you weren't literally even allowed to really have a personality.
[00:54:33] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah, I've definitely developed me.
[00:54:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:36] Amanda Catarzi: Because I wasn't allowed to have those personalities. I wasn't even allowed to make decisions on what I wore, what I ate. Even when I first moved to California, I had a meltdown going into a grocery store to buy food because I didn't know what I like. I didn't know if I actually wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because I didn't know if I actually liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And that decision was never something for me to have. So it was really difficult. Even going grocery shopping or trying to figure out, well, what's my clothing style, I don't know what kind of clothes I like or how I like to do my hair.
[00:55:12] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:55:13] Amanda Catarzi: Or if I like makeup or don't. So when I was ripe for the picking for predator, I was right for the picking man. Like I was so out of touch with anything that I wanted or who I was. So it was definitely a process to develop this person. I wouldn't say develop. It was more like an unlayering of trauma, right?
[00:55:32] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:55:32] Amanda Catarzi: Peeling back all the labels.
[00:55:34] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. You're still in there somewhere the whole time. I mean, you even said when you were seven, you were a bully and you like to smack people or whatever. I'm like, well, okay. That rings true probably right now as well, right?
[00:55:45] Amanda Catarzi: Sure.
[00:55:45] Jordan Harbinger: Like you're still in there somewhere.
[00:55:47] Amanda Catarzi: It's about like reframing those labels, right? So I was told I was obnoxious. I was told that I was a bully. I was told that I was, you know, always causing trouble when really I'm ambitious.
[00:55:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:58] Amanda Catarzi: I'm aggressive, I'm an entrepreneur, you know? So all those things are beautiful things. They were just mislabeled.
[00:56:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:06] Amanda Catarzi: And so I would really encourage any parents listening, don't give your child those negative labels, try to shine it in a different light, even if they're being a total brat, which I'm sure I was. Try to steer them in a direction of, "This is how you could use that for good."
[00:56:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Well, I mean, look, now you fit in well with people like me and society, but we didn't, I didn't fit in that well growing up and I'm a young guy or I was a young guy — now I'm just a guy, unfortunately — I was a young guy. So it was like, "Oh, look at him, carving his own path." But when you grow up in a cult and you're a woman and the cult is all about conservative, like these super uber-conservative beliefs. Yeah, they don't want you thinking, like, "Maybe I can start a business doing that. Maybe I can play baseball."
[00:56:45] Amanda Catarzi: Oh, hell, no.
[00:56:45] Jordan Harbinger: It's like, "Oh my god, what's wrong with your kid?" Right?
[00:56:47] Amanda Catarzi: I have the rebellious spirit in my eyes. I was told that often.
[00:56:54] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest. Amanda Catarzi. We'll be right back.
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[00:58:03] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Grammarly. I utilize tools to work better and more efficiently, and one of them is Grammarly, an advanced writing assistant. More than a spelling and grammar checker, Grammarly is an all-in-one writing tool that allows you to clearly and effectively communicate your ideas. Grammarly has leveled up my writing by proposing rewrites that are more concise and clear, identifying weak adjectives and providing better alternatives, and avoiding some pretty embarrassing or potentially embarrassing typos and errors I might have overlooked. Grammarly even has features to help with the tone of a message if you want to come across as more friendly or confident or analytical professional., how do you want your writing to be received? Grammarly works seamlessly in the background across multiple platforms and devices. I wish I had it back when I was a student. Grammarly will help you step up your game at work, school, wherever else you need your communication to sound as polished as possible.
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[00:59:34] Now for the rest of my conversation with Amanda Catarzi.
[00:59:37] Do we even know what percentage of trafficking is like manipulation in these guerrilla-pimp, Romeo-pimp relationships? And what percentage of trafficking is like freaking Liam Neeson Taken movie where someone's locked in a shipping container or whatever?
[00:59:52] Amanda Catarzi: My experience is about, like two to three percent are going to be those Taken situations. I've had cases with those taken, there are girls being locked in storage containers in my town. And so I've had those situations and it's very rare.
[01:00:08] Jordan Harbinger: In your town in America, like in Florida?
[01:00:11] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[01:00:12] Jordan Harbinger: Freaking Florida. No, I'm sure it happens everywhere actually.
[01:00:15] Amanda Catarzi: Hell, yeah. Okay. I mean according to the statistics, and we already talked about how those statistics are found, we're in the top three nations for sex trafficking. So this is a huge US issue. And I think a lot of people automatically assume, oh, Guatemala or Thailand or—
[01:00:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:34] Amanda Catarzi: —Mexico. No, it's happening to one of your daughter's or son's friends right now.
[01:00:40] Jordan Harbinger: It's horrible. What countries have beaten America in more sex trafficking if you can say it that way?
[01:00:45] Amanda Catarzi: Well, Bangkok Thailand is the number one sex trafficking capital of the world, which I've been there and worked, and it's—
[01:00:52] Jordan Harbinger: No huge surprise there.
[01:00:53] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. I worked in Myanmar and in Thailand and did undercover work there and it's just like out there. There's no trying to hide any of that stuff.
[01:01:03] Jordan Harbinger: Thailand, you see stuff that you just can't forget. Like you just, I'm sure you've seen a thousand times worse, but I'll never forget walking down a beach. And there was some guy in like tidy whities who was like 50-something years old holding hands with what could not have been more than a 12-to-14-year-old girl. And I was just like, it made me want to like barf and cry at the same time. It was just so disgusting. And it was so out in the open and I was looking at my friends and I was like, "What do we even do right now?" That is obviously, this is like, we're watching the crime in real-time. I mean, essentially about to happen. What do we even do? We left the area. Because I'm like, this is not, we can't solve this problem, but I don't want to be around it. It was horrible.
[01:01:48] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[01:01:48] Jordan Harbinger: It was like Pattaya or something like that. Oh, so awful.
[01:01:51] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. Thailand is completely different. When you step into a culture that totally supports it and it's their economy, major part of their economy, things turned sideways real quick. I mean, I was in a strip club with seven-year-old stripping in neon bikinis and little numbers attached to them and you buy your Coke and you put your number down of what girl you want.
[01:02:13] Jordan Harbinger: Seven years old.
[01:02:16] Amanda Catarzi: It was pretty intense. And you know, it's just Caucasian men just in suits, in business suits, just lining the walls. And so that was a really interesting moment of like, how do we fix this problem? Like, I could kill all these people in here right now. Take the girls and run out. But what is that going to do for any of these girls? What is that going to—? They're just going to go back to their traffickers because that part of their societies, you don't say no. It's part of their culture. You can ask a woman for her baby and she'll hand it to you. It's the craziest thing. They'll just say yes all the time. So it's a much bigger issue, especially when you go to different countries, you have major cultural and government and belief systems that you're fighting against. Not only, you know, the bad stuff, not only the dysfunction and the toxicity, but you're also fighting against hardcore beliefs and religion.
[01:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: There's so much we can crack open with. I've gone to many countries in Southeast Asia and like, you know, you'll go in a bar and the women will come and talk to you. And I'm like, "Okay, I want to hear your story because no one's — I know you're here to flirt," but I'm like, "why are you here?" And they don't often really want to talk about it, but sometimes, you know, you can persist a little and it's always like, "My parents are sick. My grandparents are sick. I live way off in the countryside. I have to bring money back. This is literally the only way. There's no jobs around where we live. I came here to get a job. This is the first job that I got offered." And I'm like, "My god, your grandma and grandpa are going to die of a preventable disease unless you flirt with gross people." It's just so heartbreaking.
[01:03:49] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[01:03:50] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned working undercover busting trafficking rings. And I know some of the biggest events of the year for this are like the Super Bowl, political conventions. People are away from their home, their wives, the consequences are, probably, they think are lighter and everybody's doing it so, you know, why not? Right? And everything's all set up. Southeast Asia, who do you work with? Who are you working with to get these people out? How do the undercover operations, how do these work?
[01:04:16] Amanda Catarzi: In foreign countries, you're working with non-profits.
[01:04:19] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:04:20] Amanda Catarzi: So you're not working with government because—
[01:04:21] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[01:04:21] Amanda Catarzi: Government is usually part of it, law enforcement is usually part of it. So, I mean, if you try to work with government, you don't get anywhere. You have to come in as a non-profit or a separate entity. So the organization I worked in with Thailand in Bangkok was called NightLight and they run an organization that rescues women and then offers them education and a job. And so they actually make really fantastic high-quality jewelry and percentage of the sales go back to the women in funding places for them to live and education, yada, yada, yada. The other organization I worked with was missionaries. So they were teaching children at the borderline of Myanmar and Thailand right when the red-shirt riots were happening. The Karen people still are and were being massacred by the Burmese Myanmar government. So there is a massive refugee crisis of them coming over the border and those children are trafficked. There's not enough aid. So the children are being sent from this really rural area to Bangkok to be trafficked. So my friend, Judah runs a school right there on the borderline, takes those children, like intercepts the children, takes them in, educates them, teaches them how to be farmers and teachers and accountants, and seamstress. Gives them everything they need to be successful at life with not having to do that. So when I went over there, we crossed the border illegally to Myanmar.
[01:05:46] Jordan Harbinger: That's the only way you can get into Burma, by the way.
[01:05:50] Amanda Catarzi: I was in the bottom of a boat hiding and went over to right when that Rambo movie was released actually, where he literally did that.
[01:05:58] Jordan Harbinger: I have an idea about how to get in.
[01:06:00] Amanda Catarzi: It was not my idea. I just said, yes.
[01:06:03] Jordan Harbinger: That's so freaking dangerous, by the way. If you get caught, you are so screwed.
[01:06:08] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. I would have been—
[01:06:09] Jordan Harbinger: You're gutsy.
[01:06:09] Amanda Catarzi: It would have been bad. I was naive and I just want to help. And it's incredible when you're just saying yes to things, the places you'll go, and the cool things you get to do. So I am not any different than anybody else other than I show up and say yes. And that has been an awesome thing in my life.
[01:06:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:06:26] Amanda Catarzi: So I was able to go and negotiate for 40 kids' lives with the Burmese general. He had no idea who I was. He thought I was an American. And if I was there, I was important. So I ran with it and I got 40 kids out of it.
[01:06:40] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. He didn't just give you the kids though, right? Or, I mean, what was—?
[01:06:44] Amanda Catarzi: No, we negotiated to have them on leave. So like during the summer they could come to be our kids and go to school because I told him that educated kids make for better soldiers.
[01:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah.
[01:06:56] Amanda Catarzi: And so I seriously doubt he honored that much longer than after I left, but we got 40 kids out of it.
[01:07:04] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:07:04] Amanda Catarzi: So if it was only for those 40 kids, it was worth it.
[01:07:08] Jordan Harbinger: The kids then live in the school?
[01:07:10] Amanda Catarzi: Mmhm.
[01:07:10] Jordan Harbinger: Who funds all of this?
[01:07:12] Amanda Catarzi: Ah, Judah runs it with his wife and they just go by donation.
[01:07:16] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. What a worthwhile cause to educate kids who are literally displaced refugees and being sold into human slavery and possibly dead within, inside of a decade.
[01:07:29] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[01:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: And instead they can actually get a life skill out of it. It's like—
[01:07:32] Amanda Catarzi: They don't have Thai ID and so, therefore—
[01:07:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:07:35] Amanda Catarzi: —they can't work legally in Thailand at all. And you don't get Thai ID. There's no way to get Thai IDs unless you're born into Thailand.
[01:07:42] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:07:43] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah, it's an impossible situation, unfortunately.
[01:07:46] Jordan Harbinger: They're just literally off the grid, like they're off the grid. They're off-grid. Yeah, invisible children, essentially.
[01:07:52] Amanda Catarzi: Mmhm.
[01:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Wow. I'd love some tips and ideas on how to spot trafficked people, especially women. I meant previously you had mentioned, "Hey, if they look homeless, but their nails are done. That's a tell." Like what's going on there?
[01:08:04] Amanda Catarzi: Well, pimps are doing that cycle that we talked about of, "Oh, I get my nails done and he loves me. He tells him pretty now like he's put me back on the streets. And my nails are done and I have a nice bag, but I'm on the street being prostituted." That's something that I would see over and over again when I worked on the streets. I'd walk around and hand out Hot Pockets and condoms to women because they're usually hungry because they don't get fed unless they hit a certain quota for the night and they very rarely have protection given to them. So that was one of my main jobs, was walking around the dangerous areas and handing out those.
[01:08:40] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:08:40] Amanda Catarzi: And I'm tatted up. So I kind of can put some leggings on, grab a Big Gulp, and kind of blend in, but they're awesome. They're good women. They're just in a bad situation.
[01:08:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:08:52] Amanda Catarzi: So yeah, you can see if they're homeless, which we kind of all know what that looks like and they have a really nice bag or their nails done. Other situations are if a woman does not have her ID or any control over her assets. So she doesn't have a wallet on her, money on her because her trafficker's holding all that.
[01:09:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:09:11] Amanda Catarzi: So that's super common, especially for first responders, they'll treat the emergency room like their hospital if they have to. So there are running into police officers, firefighters, and ER nurses all the time and they just think that they're this, you know, dirty belligerent person when really they're insanely traumatized, terrified. Because they know they're going to catch a beating for interacting with these people in trying to get help. So if they're not able to make their own decisions for them and somebody else's speaking for them, that's a huge signal. Also for hair salon people because they're constantly changing their identity and their looks. So if a person gets her hair changed, but she does not have any say in what she gets to do for her hair. And there's someone standing over there and saying, "She's getting this, this, and this," that's a huge sign as well.
[01:09:59] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. Yeah, I hadn't thought about that. I'm not in that industry, obviously. So I have no idea, but that totally, that does sound suspicious if someone's like, "She's going to get this and this and this," and the woman is just kind of like quietly sitting in the chair and it's not a birthday present or something that she's excited about. Right?
[01:10:15] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[01:10:16] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. What do we even do if we suspect somebody as being trafficked? Like, okay, we spot those things, then what do we do? I can't just call 911 and be like, "I have a suspicion about this thing and my hair salon right now."
[01:10:27] Amanda Catarzi: You can call 911 if you have a suspicion.
[01:10:30] Jordan Harbinger: Will they do anything?
[01:10:31] Amanda Catarzi: Some will, some are trained. So one of my jobs in the past 10 years was educating police officers. So I train all the new recruits on sex trafficking, how to identify, what to do when they come across the victim. Unfortunately, not all police departments care. They just think they're prostitutes and we're going to charge them with prostitution.
[01:10:52] So you can call 911. I would suggest calling Selah Freedom, S-E-L-A-H Freedom. They have an incredible hotline and they can connect you to resources to help you help these women. So they're the best organization I've found that has the best system for those kinds of situations. So often the National Human Trafficking Hotline will refer people to them, just because their foundation, the way they run things, is so on point. So you can do that.
[01:11:23] Do not approach them, or don't start asking them a ton of questions, because they're potentially going to get the crap beat out of them by their trafficker for even talking to you. So you're potentially putting yourself in severe danger because these people do not care about you. They don't care about human life in general, so they have no problem beating the crap out of you because you're messing up their money flow. So do not approach them but, you know, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline, contact Selah Freedom.
[01:11:53] Selah Freedom actually has these cool little cards that are very ambiguous, but it's to help women and it has their hotline on it. So if a trafficker found the card, they would not get in trouble for it. There's nothing indicative of anything. It's like, "Oh, it's just a food bank," or something like that.
[01:12:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:12:09] Amanda Catarzi: But yeah, I would say contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline or Selah Freedom. If you want to contact your police, you can definitely do that. Hopefully, they would be trained in these situations, but not all are trained.
[01:12:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it makes sense. It makes sense that not everyone knows what to do in these situations.
[01:12:24] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah.
[01:12:24] Jordan Harbinger: Even police, right, especially if they are not in a large city, it's like, well, when did they get training on dealing with human trafficking in a department with 10 people in it?
[01:12:33] What if it's a kid? Then what do we do?
[01:12:36] Amanda Catarzi: If it's a kid, I mean, I would grab them.
[01:12:39] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah, that's the temptation, right?
[01:12:42] Amanda Catarzi: But yeah, you definitely need to report that. So in most states, there is no such thing as a child prostitute. That's not true in all states—
[01:12:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[01:12:53] Amanda Catarzi: But most states have adhered to that law that a child cannot consent; therefore, there's no such thing as a child prostitute. So if you do call 911 and say, "Hey, I think this kid's being trafficked. Or I think this kid is being abused," then in Florida, we're all mandated reporters. And I just think as a good human being you're freaking mandated reporter.
[01:13:11] Jordan Harbinger: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.
[01:13:13] Amanda Catarzi: You would definitely call 911 at that point because a child is just like a non-negotiable for most states. So hopefully, you would get in touch with someone who believes that too, but definitely more so for a child than anybody else. Call 911 and try to get that child away from that person. Children are usually more grabbable, that's easier to get a child away from an abusive person than it is to get another adult away from an abusive person. So I would try to separate them and try to get them safe.
[01:13:41] Jordan Harbinger: What are red flags we can look at if a kid is being abused or trafficked? I know kids who are acting out in certain ways that indicate other things are going on. What are some of those tell-tale signs?
[01:13:54] Amanda Catarzi: A lot of hypersexualization in children. So there is no such thing as a promiscuous middle-schooler. There is such thing as a middle-schooler, who's been sexually abused, who's acting now. So just asking people to kind of reframe their mindset about that bratty middle-schooler or that child that's acting out all the time. That's indicative of something else. There's something else going on behind those scenes. So a lot of people will be like, "Oh, that's the slut in school." Well, where did this middle-schooler, elementary school kid learn to be a slut? That doesn't exist. Something else is going on there. So children are really great at giving you the cues of not wanting to hug that one creepy uncle. You should not make that child hug that creepy uncle.
[01:14:40] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[01:14:41] Amanda Catarzi: Teaching them that they're in control of their body. And they give consent over who gets to touch their body and honoring that is super important with small children. Because they know intuitively what good people are and what bad people are.
[01:14:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mmhm.
[01:14:55] Amanda Catarzi: And they have that sense. And also that something might've happened that you didn't know about why doesn't that person want to hug uncle so-and-so. There's a reason for that.
[01:15:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:15:04] Amanda Catarzi: Honor that. Honor your child's intuition.
[01:15:06] Jordan Harbinger: I guess it depends on the age, right? Because my two-and-a-half-year-old, sometimes I'm like, "Give daddy a hug," and he's like, "No," and I'm like, okay, well, that'll change in five minutes. I can ask him anything. And the answer is always no. But, yeah, I guess if the kid is like, what five or so, and it's always the same person, they don't want to be around that changes things.
[01:15:24] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. The average age for sexual abuse is seven, five to seven, right around that age. So that's when we need to start having conversations with our children about consent and nobody gets to touch you or see where the bathing suit covers.
[01:15:37] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's a good one.
[01:15:38] Amanda Catarzi: I used to teach classes in kindergarten and we would have these coloring books about teaching consent. And there's a difference between the secret and a surprise. And as a child, no virtuous adult would ask you to keep a secret. They would ask you to keep a surprise. Like, "Oh, we're having mommy's surprise birthday party. Don't tell anyone, but eventually, everyone's going to find out." Whereas a secret, that's a heavyweight to put on a small child and no healthy adult would ask the child to keep a secret unless there was something nefarious going on.
[01:16:07] So we teach children that or we did teach children that, and then they would color where the bathing suit covers. "Okay. That's where nobody gets to touch you or ask to see unless it's a doctor." And even then we'd ask them to identify three people other than their parents that they felt safe with, that they could talk to in case anything happened. Because in familial trafficking, parents aren't always the safe people.
[01:16:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I heard that most kidnappings are from a parent or a close relative. And most abusers, of course, are somebody that the child knows really well. Sure, it could be a neighbor like what happened with you, but could also just be like the uncle that lives in your house that your dad totally would never agree is a bad guy. Even though everyone, you know that he is—
[01:16:53] Amanda Catarzi: Yep.
[01:16:53] Jordan Harbinger: —or your parents are afraid of the person who is doing that to you. You hear that a lot as well. Like stepdad's doing it. Mom's afraid of stepdad. Real dad is out of the picture or live super far away or whatever.
[01:17:06] Amanda Catarzi: I can't tell you how many foster care cases I worked as an anti-sex trafficking specialist, and it was exactly that situation. And they were trafficking their stepchildren for drugs.
[01:17:16] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh.
[01:17:16] Amanda Catarzi: Super common.
[01:17:17] Jordan Harbinger: Horrible.
[01:17:17] Amanda Catarzi: Super normal, unfortunately.
[01:17:20] Jordan Harbinger: Aah, man. How has all this QAnon sort of nonsense caused harm or harm to the cause of human trafficking, right? Because of the whole like hashtag save our children, now, there's like 10,000 crappy fake tips about something people saw on a Twitter conspiracy theory thing or a message board.
[01:17:39] Amanda Catarzi: So for the longest time, this was a left issue, which was interesting navigating that when I first started working in this industry, because it was a social issue. And usually, that is of a left issue.
[01:17:53] Jordan Harbinger: Like politically left.
[01:17:54] Amanda Catarzi: Politically, yes, yes, yes. Politically left. Something that, you know, people who are Democrats care about and often talk about. And then when the QAnon thing went completely right, like alt-right, right?
[01:18:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:18:09] Amanda Catarzi: Hardcore.
[01:18:09] Jordan Harbinger: Crazy right-wing like not conservative, but just loony tune right-wing, yeah.
[01:18:14] Amanda Catarzi: It just totally turned into any real victim's story was just a conspiracy at that point. It ended up gaslighting all of us, essentially.
[01:18:24] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:18:25] Amanda Catarzi: Actually my Instagram account got deleted after nine years of having it because I was telling my story. I was posted an inspirational quote and I put sex trafficking victim as a hashtag. Apparently, that was banned because of all this.
[01:18:38] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, no.
[01:18:38] Amanda Catarzi: And my Instagram account was completely deleted.
[01:18:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[01:18:41] Amanda Catarzi: Instantly. It was, it was pretty wild. I was like,
[01:18:46] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah, because, of course, Instagram is trying to clean up disinformation and non-sense and they end up sweeping up legitimate—
[01:18:53] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. But then you end up de-platforming everyone who actually has a real story and has real facts and are trying to be a positive light. So it's a hot mess. It just made everything such a hot mess. And so now it's trying to get us back to this kind of, "Hey, this is a bipartisan issue. This is a real thing that's happening. Here's the actual facts about it and not getting accused of being some crazy conspiracy theorist." Before I had to convince people like 80 percent of my conversations was like, "No, this is happening in the US," and then it became like, kind of cool to talk about and everyone was cool with it. And now, I'm back to that spot to where, "No, this really happens. It's real. I'm a survivor."
[01:19:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Oh, I see. Because it was, you finally got to the point where people could discuss it and then it was, "Wayfair is selling children online," which everyone went, "Okay. So this is nonsense." And now we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater because we're like, "Oh, that's just a QAnon theory that this trafficking is happening." And it's like, "No, there's a lot of it. It's just not what these morons on 4Chan or whatever are spreading." Aah, that's so frustrating.
[01:19:58] Amanda Catarzi: So we're kind of back to square one on it to where everyone thinks it's our now alt-right issue when no, this is a bipartisan issue.
[01:20:07] Jordan Harbinger: That's so frustrating. It's so frustrating.
[01:20:10] I just want to say thank you so much. This has been really interesting. And most importantly, I think really helpful for everyone to get more awareness around this very real subject. And thank you for being so open about this and about your past as well—
[01:20:22] Amanda Catarzi: Yeah. It's my pleasure.
[01:20:23] Jordan Harbinger: —and your journey.
[01:20:24] Amanda Catarzi: Thank you for having me.
[01:20:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course.
[01:20:28] Now, I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a glimpse of my interview with the son of a Hamas co-founder before a change of heart had him working undercover for Israeli Intelligence against his former friends and family to thwart terrorist plots and save lives. Check it out.
[01:20:45] Mosab Hassan Yousef: Hamas is an Islamic movement. My father is one of the founding members of Hamas. Hamas for us was everything to the point where it became an army. It's a monster.
[01:20:58] I agreed to work with Israel with a hidden agenda, to be a double agent. The level of pressure that they had to go through. My heart stopped for approximately 30 seconds. Most human beings cannot make it back. I was tortured mentally and physically. Everybody in the city knew that I'm a dead man.
[01:21:21] Jordan Harbinger: For more, including what it was like growing up in one of the first families of which many consider a terrorist group and why Mosab considers it the greatest school of his life, check out episode 407 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:21:36] Man, what an episode, it's got to be so hard to combat this because you've got to find out about it. Then you've got to get someone to accept or admit that they're a victim and then they have to heal and be willing to kind of go through that whole process of both the legal stuff, as well as their own process. It's just such a high bar. There's so much emotional and mental manipulation that can keep, especially younger people in the dark on whether they're being trafficked, right? It's really easy to rationalize your way out of it. And the less life experience you have, like if you were raised in a cult or you're very young, the harder this process really is. You know I found it interesting that she had to get almost unaddicted to this type of treatment and the lifestyle to reprogram herself so that living in a normal house with a normal life is something where you can actually exist peacefully. And I'm sure that was not an easy process.
[01:22:25] And frankly, I think human trafficking and other abuses of humans, in general, is just going to get worse with technology, right? Technology is moving faster than our thinking and especially a lot faster than our response in this area. I mean, just look at stupid crap like Instagram and Tiktok, and you see the weirdest over-sexualization of kids. For me, as a 42-year-old man, it's awkward and unhealthy, but I can only imagine the sort of toll that this takes on younger teens and preteens. It's just a really horrific situation. And as a guy with young kids, it puts a lot of worry into the back of my head. I don't see this getting better anytime soon.
[01:23:01] By the way, very important here, if you or someone you know, is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, (888) 373-7888. That's (888) 373-7888. You can also send a text, 223733. You can just send a text to 233733. You can text HELP or INFO 24 hours, seven days a week. English, Spanish, they have 200 more languages. They are here to help, humantraffickinghotline.org. We'll link all of that in the show notes as well. And if you see something or you suspect something, freaking, say something because that's how a lot of people get saved. So don't be afraid to sort of step up in this area and set a boundary or help someone else do the same. It's a very important topic. This is not something we can ignore.
[01:23:52] Big thank you to Amanda Catarzi. All things from her will be linked in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books from the guests or support the sponsors. That helps support the show. Transcripts are in the show notes. And there's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel as well. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:24:11] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same system software and tiny habits that I use every single day. It's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well before you get thirsty. And hey, most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:24:34] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know anybody who is interested in the subject of human trafficking, or frankly just needs to know about it, please share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great. In every episode of the show. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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