Cascade Views: Andi Buerger Interview - Please excuse digital transcription errors (-:
central oregon, voices, predators, community, victims, trafficking, andy, people, human trafficking, rescued, trafficked, child, kids, book, reporting, problem, avada, thought, true, years
Michael Sipe, Andi Buerger, Narrator
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle in candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses Southern Redmond, Sisters, Tumalo, and Northern Bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that now, here's your host, Michael SIPE. Thanks for joining us on cascade views.
Michael Sipe 01:16
My name is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. My guest today is my longtime friend, Andy Berger. Andi's a lawyer, community leader, author, speaker and a nationally known advocate for homeless teens, and the victims of human trafficking. She has two books to her credit so far, a fragile thread of hope, and voices against trafficking. Both books are available on Amazon and I highly recommend them. And you knows of what she writes, as she's survived 17 years of sex trafficking by immediate and extended family members. Before that term even existed. In a fragile thread of hope. Andy recounts her remarkable journey to healing and personal triumph, her fierce determination to rescue others like herself, and the desire to give all victims and sexual predators, a genuine voice. A fragile thread of hope explores the epidemic of teen homelessness and sex trafficking pervasive throughout America, even in smaller towns. When it comes to child abuse. In particular, Andy asserts, the vast majority of homeless youth are not runaways by choice, someone knows, someone always knows. It's whether they have the compassion and courage to step up for what's right, what's necessary to save the victim. And after today, you and I will also know a little more and we might be changed forever. I've asked Andy On the show today to share her perspectives on abuse, homelessness and human trafficking in Oregon, and in Central Oregon, in particular. So Andy, welcome to the show.
Andi Buerger 02:48
Well, thank you, Mike, I appreciate that. We go back a long time. And it's great that you're doing this kind of podcast. So thanks for having me.
Michael Sipe 02:55
You bet. I remember. How long was it? Was it a dozen years ago, when you were first envisioning viewless? Place? And we were talking about it at Barnes and Noble? And
Andi Buerger 03:06
yes, yes, it was actually we have. It's been probably closer to 15 years. beulas placed has been around for 13 and a half. And so yeah, it's been quite a while we've done a lot of great work, thanks to people like you and others in our community.
Michael Sipe 03:22
Yeah, remember when it was just a dream? Yep. So it's very, very cool to be here now. So to kick off our talk, would you give us just a bit of your personal background, and how you've transformed that into the invaluable work that you're doing today?
Andi Buerger 03:37
Sure, well, as you said, Before, there ever was a term, I was trafficked from six months to 17 years old by immediate and some extended family members. And the things were so devastating, so, so horrific, that by the age of five, I basically decided that my birth mother had told me she could take me out anytime she wanted in life. So I was going to beat her to the punch. And that was my first attempt at suicide at that tender age of five. So I sat on the curb waiting for a car to become by fast enough. And while I was waiting, I just looked into the sky that was so blue and so huge. And I thought, Gosh, I wonder who made this? Or is there somebody bigger than the people hurting me? And in that moment, I just heard this voice in my heart that said, this is not the plan I have for you, and suicides, not the answer. And I trusted that voice and in my life, that's God, you know, and other people's it might be something else that so after that, it was still a very long, painful childhood. And my birth mother made her last attempt to end my life when I was 17 years old. But you know, back in the 60s and 70s, there just wasn't anything, no place to go to. People barely talked about child abuse in those days. So especially for someone whose family members which Now as the millennial trafficking when they're involved because they're covered by a bloodline, so judges prosecutors, think people in those positions, they would just be like, Well, every child should be with their family or every child should be with the mother or the father. And, and it never got any better. So anyway, you fast forward then to go into college, and then deciding to go to law school, because I thought I could help other kids like me, and realizing that that justice is not exactly the justice that I was looking for. So just went back to business, had success had failures. And at the end of the day, here I am.
Michael Sipe 05:43
Yeah, well, I've heard you speak numerous times about some of the most prevalent myths about trafficking. Maybe you could share some of those now.
Andi Buerger 05:52
Yeah, absolutely. I think in general, whether it's Central Oregon, or Kansas, or anywhere in this country or outside the country, there's a myth that, well, human trafficking doesn't happen here in our community, not in our nice neighborhood. And that is absolutely not true. And we know this because Donald W. Washington, the director of US Marshal Service, said quite blatantly that every 40 seconds in America, a child 18 years and under is abducted, that means they are taken or they are lured into something that looks safe, maybe a job or model opportunity or something where they would normally not suspect there to be a problem. So every 40 seconds a child is taken. We know every state in the union has the problem. So that's one of the myths and then the other one, one of the others is that well, any prostitute 18 years and older, chooses to be a prostitute. That is not true, there may be a percentage that do. But overall, if someone's been sexually violated, attacked, victimized, trafficked, that sometimes is the only place that they know how to operate in or the trafficking ring itself is utilizing prostitution ring to cover their activities. And then another one, especially here in Central Oregon, when I got up here, 1995, they seem to be a prevalent thought, and in most communities, that only kids who run away are at risk for human trafficking predators. And that definitely is not true. The kids we have rescued at night have helped rescue over 300 kids in those 13 and a half years and housed 50 plus of them in safe house systems, you know, put eight through college, that that's not true, they are running from something worse than what they think will happen on the streets. That's the level of desperation these teams have, which is why I've got my first book going to, to highlight four stories from Central Oregon. One is traffic victim and the other three are different stories for different reasons why they ended up on the street. But we need to understand that just because a teenager is on the street doesn't mean that they chose it.
Michael Sipe 08:16
So you mentioned Central Oregon, obviously we're we're here in Central Oregon. And so how prevalent is the problem here and maybe just talk a little bit about perhaps if it is adding to the homeless issue that we currently face in in Bend and Redmond and throughout Central Oregon?
Andi Buerger 08:35
Sure. We don't have exact numbers, obviously, because it's all based on reporting. And many victims, like myself, I didn't become a statistic till I was in counseling in my early 30s. So many instances are not being reported. And with an influx of people all over the country. It's getting harder. So in Central Oregon, yes, it is a problem. However, law enforcement and district attorneys and all of those people involved have to admit that it is happening. We know a couple of years ago, Anita bells from in our backyard. Yes, she did a great interview and talked about specific examples that have happened here. Many of our kids were trafficked within the Deschutes. county borders, doesn't mean they weren't their predators weren't caught or prosecuted. But doesn't mean it didn't happen. So Central Oregon, I know we have four organizations that are prevalent in helping victims and when you hear the 60 or 65 Those are the the numbers that they have been able to help but that's not the only number that matters. What matters is why we're not getting the reporting why we're not making it safe enough for people for victims to come forward and do that proper reporting so we can get better numbers, but it is a problem. And again every 40 seconds applies to Central Oregon to a teenager that goes missing from school or wherever if they're not parented, or they don't have a stable home life or a stable support system, who's looking for them? And that's one of the major issues.
Michael Sipe 10:14
So what are some of the challenges? I mean, why, you know, like, why isn't this being more readily stopped? What what do you see as the as the block to this if it's happening this much? And there's the awareness that you describe?
Andi Buerger 10:31
Why is it still going on? Well, one of my basic beliefs, and it's been publicized that our own district attorney doesn't believe human trafficking happens in Central Oregon because he doesn't prosecute it. He has also publicly said that if you are 18 and older and a prostitute that you basically chose that life. And we know that's not true. So even if we have police that are doing the hard work of trying to make cases, but then we're not prosecuting the predators, or we're slapping them on the wrist, when the minimum sentence for a predator that has trafficked even one child is 10 years on the state level minimum, that should be the minimum, because that's what we have on our laws. Federally, it's 20 years up to 20 years, but we're not enforcing those mics. So if we're not enforcing the laws that deter or keep predators off the street, then we're not doing our job protecting our kids in the community. But we need leaders to do that. And if our leaders are not doing that, I tell people, if you vote for anybody, if you financially support somebody, ask them what their plan is to protect your child, your niece, your nephew, what have they done for you lately, basically, in terms of making your community, a community where there is awareness, there's education, where there are resources, if say, one of the kids on your block does go missing, or is trafficked, and you find out about it, because predators are brazen, we actually had someone drive up into our driveway in Central Oregon, two men in a red truck looking for their son. And they had no name. They had no photo, they couldn't describe them. They just wanted a boy that was seven years old. And they were going to different houses in the community. And my husband, of course, as you know, he, he got alert to it. And he called me out. And I started asking questions, and then they took off. And when I tried to report that to the dispatcher, it took me 10 minutes to convince her that these weren't just guys looking for somebody innocently, that with what I do. And what I've done in the community, I knew what I was talking about these were predators to Caucasian men, looking for a boy, No Mom, no girl, if it was one of our children, we'd be you know, hysterical or knocking on every door, but they were just going to where they thought they might be able to find a child that they could take?
Michael Sipe 12:57
well, you've been working on this for a long time, as we mentioned earlier, and I know that you've developed some ideas on on solutions for this. So like, if you could wave a magic wand and do what it is that you think ought to be done right now, what are some things that you do?
Andi Buerger 13:17
Well, I believe, like I said, first of all, if, if we're going to have laws, we need to enforce them. But secondly, we need to take care of the community elephant in the room, we need to either have town halls, or have the means have the budgets in our towns and our communities. And our counties have a portion dedicated to education, to creating greater awareness to having speakers like myself who have survived and yet been able to be successful to show other victims that they can do it too. But also to educate, you know, pastors, business owners, community service leadership organizations, we need to get more aware of what it really means when somebody is taken from our community, and also when someone is rescued. But again, the laws are one of the things. The second thing is there are free programs out there that we could implement in the schools. And yet, I have had the hardest time trying to get to anyone who will listen and about, hey, look, if you just say, yes, we'll do the work and make sure you get the free materials, I'll do the training, whatever it takes, so that from age five up, we can do peer to peer vetting of issues like homelessness, trafficking, abuse and hunger, because you're right, when someone has been trafficked, or a victim is on the street, they have no way to get housing to get resources to get COVID testing to get any of that so they are going to be homeless, and that adds to the problem. So we need to do that. And that's what I I encourage people please go to our website voices against trafficking calm because there is a list of helplines and hotline numbers that you should have in your phone at all times. At the very least you could call an entity that will help View or help the person you think is in trouble?
Michael Sipe 15:04
Well, thanks for that. You know, certainly in my campaign, this is something I want to have as a focus. I mean, it's a grim and an ugly topic. But we've got to go after it. But it's not all darkness, you've seen some remarkable, I mean, your success. And you've seen some remarkable successes, many, give us a couple of examples of courageous survivors who beat the odds and managed to go on to some incredible success.
Andi Buerger 15:34
Absolutely. One of the gals that we rescued here in Central Oregon, homeless, reached out to as hadn't eaten for days and was just trying to get out of a situation where an older woman had approached her and befriended her. She didn't have a father, he was the perpetrator. And the mother was an alcoholic, so long, the short of it was is that we got her she finished high school, she is now in college straight A's Dean LIS wants to go on to be some kind of social worker psychologist so she can help other kids who are like her, because she's so grateful for the intercession that she had with us. And she's doing great kick, drugs, everything. So she's very strong, we have another young girl. And she's also in college. Never thought she'd ever get there, she had tried a couple times she'd been homeless, so much, she had bad relationships, because, hey, if you give me a coat, or you give me dinner, I'll sleep with you or do whatever it takes, right. So she now is going to graduate from major university, and go to criminal profiling, so she can help get predators off the street. So both these girls, no one would have given a second thought to, but they took the opportunity, and they ran with it. So we're very proud of them, all the kids that have gone forward.
Michael Sipe 16:56
Andi, it's so encouraging to know that there actually is hope. And with the right kind of care, and support, like you've put together, it's really possible for someone to, to break out of this. It's really a difficult topic. There's a lot more for us to learn. But we need to wrap our discussion up for today. As we do, would you mind sharing some resources for people who want to learn more, and also how people can get involved and make a difference in this really difficult issue?
Andi Buerger 17:27
Absolutely. First thing, go to voices against trafficking, calm, look at those helplines and hotlines, put them in your phone, ask your kids who have to understand to do the same thing. Second thing is we have an add your voice campaign. We want to get 1 million voices by the end of summer 2023 on a roster so that we can continue to influence legislation and decision makers. So we want to have those those names on our roster, it's very easy, doesn't cost anything. And then of course, for those who want to do a little bit more, you can certainly join as a lifetime member for $50. And it helps us keep our international forums that we do every quarter that are free to the public going helps us get the book that we just published through voices against trafficking into the hands of Congress members and governors, things like that. So our 501 C three voices against trafficking, and we would love to have your support.
Michael Sipe 18:23
Fantastic. And now I'm logged in as one of those voices. Yeah, I don't know if you saw me drop in there, but put me on the list. That's for sure. My guest today has been Andi Buerger. You can learn more about Andi and her work as she mentioned at voices against trafficking.com. Be sure to order her books on Amazon, a fragile thread of hope and voices against trafficking. Let's get informed and help Andiin her mission to end child abuse and slavery. Thanks for tuning in.
Thanks for listening to cascade views with Michael SIPE. To find out more about Mike the upcoming election. The key issues he's focused on and his campaign to represent Central Oregon in Salem as a state representative. Visit www dot a voice for Central oregon.com that's www dot a voice for Central oregon.com You can get your own copy of Michael SIPE best selling book, the Avada firstname.lastname@example.org. And finally, please vote in the upcoming election. Your Voice Matters