Ilonka Deaton was trafficked into sex slavery at the age of 12. She suffered for six years before finally getting free. Now, her brother, Jaco Booyens, runs a film company that brings the darkness of sex trafficking into the light. He’s out with a film called “8 Days.” Read the lightly edited interview, posted below, or listen on the podcast:
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Rachel del Guidice: We are joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Jaco Booyens. He’s the president and CEO of the film company After Eden Pictures. He is also the founder of SHAREtogether, a nonprofit organization fighting against the global crisis of sex trafficking. Jaco, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jaco Booyens: Thank you, Rachel. It’s great to be here.
The demand for socialism is on the rise from young Americans today. But is socialism even morally sound? Find out more now >>
del Guidice: Well, it’s great to have you. Can you start off just by telling us about your film company, After Eden Pictures, as well as SHAREtogether?
Booyens: Yeah. After Eden Pictures was born to transform culture through uplifting entertainment, so that’s our mission statement. We’re going to take social issues and then produce entertainment content, film, television, docuseries, books, media, broad spectrum media to speak to culture, to transform it positively through uplifting entertainment.
So it’s yes, family-friendly values, for sure. Yes, I’m a Christian, so that’s my root and my foundation. But we’re going to speak for big issues like sex trafficking, tackling heavy issues, because if a picture’s a thousand words, then a video, a film, can be so much of the start of a conversation, and then we can do our real work after that. So that’s the purpose of After Eden Pictures.
There’s an amazing team, great writers, producers. My wife is an amazing writer, by far more skilled than I am on every level—because we marry way up, because women are amazing. But no, an amazing team. I’m just humbled to have a voice in radio.
del Guidice: That’s incredible. So you directed a film called “8 Days,” which raises awareness about sex trafficking. It’s an incredible story. Can you go into that story behind the film?
Booyens: We wanted to make a movie, not a documentary, about sex trafficking. We wanted to make a film that spoke from the victim’s perspective. So in this film, [the victim’s] name is Amber. All the cases in that film are actual rescue cases that we were involved with. So these are real-life events that we reenact but in a feature film style, not a docuseries style.
It’s a gut punch when you start understanding what happens to a human being when they’re mistreated. What happens to a woman or a guy when they are sexually violated. What are the thoughts? What does that process look like? How does a person get to a place where their self-worth is stripped, their value is gone, their self-image? And then the guilt comes, and the loathing, and the justification, and just that process. So we wanted to do that, show the audience this is the result of predatory behavior when people come in and steal people’s innocence.
Unfortunately, we’re at a place in America today where we’ve got to bring humanity back to the conversation. We’ve got to remember when you’re talking about child sex trafficking, [it’s about] people, children, 12-year-old kids being raped and beat. When you talk about domestic violence and abuse, that is a woman with a beating heart, a real person with real feelings and emotions, right?
So we got to bring humanity back into it because so much of what we’re doing today is political. It’s political. It’s almost like it’s this … alternate universe that we’re talking about—it’s politics. No, it’s real. It touches families, it touches people.
del Guidice: In the film, is there a particular story about a particular young woman or girl that you highlight that you’d like to tell that particularly just draws the audience in? Is there any particular story that you’d like to highlight when talking about the film?
Booyens: Yeah, it’s Amber’s story, because Amber is sex trafficked out of a stable home. She’s not a runaway, she’s not a foster kid, she’s not in CPS [Child Protective Services]. She’s living at home. That is the No. 1 rising trend in trafficking girls today is girls who work at home. It’s not what you think it is and so there’s a huge misconception. [People] think, “Oh, yeah, OK, it’s that part of town. It’s the underprivileged community. It’s the black community.” No, it’s not.
It is today infiltrated suburbia, because now the softest target, the easiest victim—if you talk to any of these Secret Service guys that are here, they’ll tell you—the easiest victim is the victim whose radar is way down, who’s living at home with their mom and dad, not getting love, but money, and “stuff solves problems,” but her real emotions and her real feelings, she explores that avenue online and the real person comes out online.
Now, a predator trolls online and spots her, “That’s my girl. She needs attention. She’s got daddy issues. She’s void of purpose. She doesn’t feel like she fits in. She feels like nobody can understand her. I’ll be the one that comes and says, ‘I understand you, I get you. I know, I have the answers.’”
And then they’ll court her for a period, they’re patient, but there’s a Romeo effect [that] can win her heart. This is why so many of these women will tell you when they’re abused that it’s love, “He loves me.” They’re convinced.
Women that stand on the witness stand after the guy’s bounced their heads off the wall and defend the guy. “He loves me.” Because they’ve been conditioned, this is love. “I’m giving you worth. I’m the person in charge.” It’s so easy today. So that film shows clearly how a girl is literally sex trafficked from a stable home, both parents there, because it’s so easy today.
del Guidice: Wow. You mentioned the lack of self-worth and how that is one of the contributing factors to this problem. What would you say, looking at everything from a wide-angle lens, is the driving force of sex trafficking in the United States?
Booyens: We have, in our country, for decades now, made an agreement that we’re going to decay our sexual morality. The sexual revolution hit in the ’60s, we wanted sexual freedom. Historically, three generations after you make a decision like that, a society implodes. When there’s sexual immorality in society, they fall every single time. No society in history has ever survived a sexually immoral culture because, ultimately, it’s a drug. It’s the most addictive [thing].
You know the two things that are in every family? There’s only two things. Faith is not in every family, right? The two things that are in every single family on the planet is money and sex. Now look at the two things that I believe the enemy attacks people with most: money and sex. So if you’re going to corrupt a society, where would you go? Money and sex.
So if you now can introduce sex to a child early, that is now a corrupted “misguided young person.” Their vision of what sex is for, what love is—”How do I get love? Do I get love through sex?” Because this is what they want the girls to believe.
So you’re taking a direction, changing direction for all society by making them sexually immoral. Well, how do we get people to accept that? Through gender neutrality? Gender fluidity? Same-sex marriage? You go with teaching sex to 10-year-olds in school. You show them how to perform sex, which is going on at the moment. You normalize anal sex. This is what’s going on. So all of this is to create a culture that is immoral. And we have an immoral culture today.
So we can fight politically, sure. And for those who want to keep certain people in power in politics, that’s amazing. But the next morning when you wake up after an election, that election doesn’t fix the country morally.
My cry to you today is, Rachel, through every way you can, keep yourself morally strong. Because no government can fix that. Because if you’re not morally strong, you will attract people that will harm you because they’ll see it in you.
So how does Rachel keep Rachel safe? Have a moral compass. For Rachel’s sake, not even for our country, think of Rachel, for you. Because ultimately, if you’re corrupted there, it’s a difficult place to come back from. It takes a lot of rehabilitation, it takes a lot of therapy to come back from that.
Now we can go into the abortion argument. It’s self-justifying pleasure. People go, “I want to have sex as much possible. I don’t want any consequences. It’s my body and I want sex.” I go, “Well, cool, great, go have sex. But if you don’t want to fall pregnant, then use a condom.” Because once you fall pregnant, now all of a sudden we’ve elevated the conversation to a whole [different] level. Now it’s not just you—
del Guidice: There’s another life there.
Booyens: Now there’s a life there. Now you’ve got a real issue. … No. 1, I don’t think people should have sex with whoever they want to because that creates problems, but let’s just say that’s the individual’s desire. … You’ve now gone outside of yourself, but it’s immorality.
So now, if you’re a predator, if you’re a pedophile in America today, this is like a playground because we are socially normalizing a sexually immoral culture. And the predators are saying, “Thank you for doing my grooming work for me because before I had to work really hard to convince a girl to give it up. Now—”
del Guidice: Society encourages it.
del Guidice: Something that’s not talked about as much in the very little research I’ve done about sex trafficking [is] there’s a lot of mention that’s made—and I feel like we don’t talk about it much—about pornography and the link that’s between pornography and sex trafficking. Is there a link there in everything that you’ve done? What is the relationship you see? Is there one there?
Booyens: If I may, cut me off here if I’m too verbose, I want to show you how this works. The average age of young boys today that’s introduced to pornography is 8. That’s the average age, OK? So now you show porn to an 8-year-old boy, you instantaneously change his view of women, immediately. Because the natural instinct of a man is to hunt, as the hunter. The woman is to take care, to nurture, to grow life, and to protect life.
Now you tell that boy the woman’s here for pleasure, so you’ve already altered how he sees women. Now he makes decisions, immediately. It’s a drug. That drug progresses very fast. It goes from softcore porn, 100%, no question, porn feeds sex trafficking. It creates demand, 100%, can’t get away from it. So anybody that’s engaging in porn, you are in the system, creating demand for child sex trafficking.
[You go,] “that’s a leap.” No it’s not, because the ultimate drug for a sex act, which the entry drug is porn, the ultimate drug is sex with a prepuberty, young girl. That’s where you go. You don’t start on heroin, you start with an opioid that [you] steal out of your dad’s medicine cabinet or smoking a joint. Then all of a sudden you end up with heroin.
It’s the same with sex. You don’t start with abusing a child. You start with an introduction and it’s always, always [porn]. Rachel, there’s not a single pedophile in the world that’s not a porn addict. They all started with porn. They just progressed all the way. There wasn’t an interception or someone stepped into their life [saying], “It needs to stop.”
That’s what my cry is: You’ve got to stop engaging in porn if you’re involved because that is a vicious drug. Do you know that today the statistic is 68% of porn users are divorced?
del Guidice: And I’ve heard that the divorce rates are extremely high among porn users.
Booyens: Sixty-eight percent, which means that it destroys the family. It steals everything, robs you of everything. It is so destructive because it is actual chemistry alteration in the brain. There’s actual physiological makeup that changes because it’s sex. Why is sex so important? Because sex is primal, it’s foundational. So you can distort someone sexually, I mean, just throw anything else in. What else do you want to do with that person?
del Guidice: It compromises everything.
You talk to students a lot. I know you’re at the Turning Point conference this week, talking to students here. What is the best way you encourage them to help stay morally straight? I know that this is a conversation we’re trying to elevate more, and so what are some ways you encourage people to actually walk the walk and stay morally straight and to be accountable?
Booyens: I’d be completely off-kilter if I don’t say this, it’s a relationship with God, No. 1, 100%. There’s no way because you don’t have the strength in yourself to do this. It’s like me saying, “Hey, Rachel, you need to face the world on your own—all the temptations.” You don’t have it, right? You’ve got to dig deeper, and go to a place and say, “OK, where’s my source of power, of encouragement?”
So God, a relationship with God. And secondly, self-accountability. They know. Every pedophile that lays in bed at night with themselves know they’re abusing children. At some point they just stopped listening to that moral voice that says, “Hey, this doesn’t feel right.”
Pay attention to the moral voice and then small groups, hold each other accountable—sisters, friends, BFFs, best buds, the guys.
You see your buddy engaging in porn, pull him aside. Don’t publicly shame this guy. Don’t do it on social media. Pull the guy aside, according to what the word of God says to do, and say, “Listen man, I know that you’re hooked on this, but I want you to know what it’s going to do to you. No. 1, it’s going to corrupt you. You’re going to … lose it all. You’re going to lose your family. You’re going to marry the wrong woman. You’re going to maybe end up in jail. You’re going to end up abusing some people. So let’s get help now.”
Hold one another in love, not in judgment, but hold one another accountable, and then walk that guy or that girl. Do you know how many young students today at this summit will come to me and say, “I’m addicted to porn”? Staggering number. And women. There’s a crazy rise in how many women.
So, we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable. For me it is, connect with God because that’s where you get your encouragement, your inspiration, and your direction, according to his word on how to do this, how to tackle these very heavy issues.
del Guidice: How would you encourage people who don’t have a platform but still want to make a difference when it comes to fighting pornography, fighting sex trafficking? What do you tell them when they’re like, “Hey, I don’t really have a platform here but I want to do something.” What do you encourage them to do?
Booyens: I got that question five minutes ago. Go online and connect with us. You either connect with us, our organization, or we will connect you with a local organization and we work with 56 countries. We’re very connected in the U.S. So if you say, “I’m from Omaha, Nebraska,” I can get you in touch with an organization locally. But if you physically want to donate time, you can do it. Or if you just want to plug in with our organization and help what we do, then they can do it online with our organization as well.
del Guidice: So you mentioned at the beginning, when we started talking, that you have a passion for media, that’s what you do. How did you particularly get involved with sex trafficking? Was it a passion that you’ve always had or what was the story that led you to do the work that you’re doing right now?
Booyens: I love how you ask questions, by the way. This is real for us, this is not something we just read a book [about]. My sister—so we’re two brothers, I’m the oldest, a younger brother and a sister—my sister was sex-trafficked for six years, so this is real.
We wake up one morning and our sister’s gone, my brother and I and my mom. How did we learn what sex trafficking is? On the streets, talking to people, trying to find my sister. And everybody said, “Oh, she’s a runaway.” No, this is very real.
And then that harsh reality hit me when she came back. The person that left is not the person that came back. It took 10 years, it took a decade to get Ilonka healthy. Three suicide attempts.
I mean, it is a disaster. The suicide rates with these victims are through the roof because they come back to people who think they should be normal. But when you abuse a woman sexually, you strip her of everything, everything—personality, identity, self-worth, purpose. It’s a shell. The life expectancy of people that are trafficked is seven years. They don’t live because they commit suicide.
So if you look at [the] teen suicide rate today, and then draw the correlation with the sex abuse, it is staggering. Because they feel like they can’t talk, they can’t tell anybody, nobody will understand. So for us it’s very real.
So then, I started witnessing sex trafficking in the USA. And we just made a decision. My wife is a writer, an incredible writer. … And we said, “Listen, we’re going to fight this fight because no child, no child—” … And again, yes, I’m a Christian. I’ll fight for the Muslim kid, the Buddhist kid, the Hindu kid, any American child. We’re focusing on American children. We fight in other countries, too. But it’s such an epidemic in the USA, we said, “Listen, we’re going to focus on the USA. No child should be sexually exploited. Zero.” And unfortunately today, the rising trend, as I told you, is in suburbia but it’s also parents trafficking their own children.
del Guidice: That is just unreal.
Booyens: It’s the No. 1 rising trend.
del Guidice: And what is behind that? Is it just money?
Booyens: Financial gain. Huge financial gain. And it’s a sickness. You’ve got a dad who’s a pedophile, he used to go out of the house. Now, society said, “No, it’s normal.” Now dad goes, “You’re making it easy, now I can just do it in the house.” Because now the dad knows, “Oh, I’ve learned how to get my wife in a position where she won’t say anything.” This is massive manipulation and coercion. …
So it’s an epidemic, but for us it’s very real because … I didn’t learn about this because I’m passionate about some movement. We had to find our sister. And now Ilonka is healthy, she runs her own industry in Nashville, Tennessee. She goes to the bedside of these girls at hospitals and tells them, “I was there. Six years.”
In the movie “8 Days”—and that girl is from California—she was gone for eight days, 52 men had abused her in eight days. And she was found, praise God.
My sister [was sex-trafficked for] six years. And she’s got a book out, “Keeping Secrets,” which talks about why women keep these secrets. Why do you see a woman being beaten up and then go back to the same guy? It doesn’t make sense. No, not to the logical, healthy mind. But when a woman gets violated, logic’s out the window. Survival mechanism—it’s about just getting through life.
And guys. Look, boys are abused, absolutely. But 97% are girls. And I pose this question: I don’t have single feminist group in the country that’s fighting this fight—
del Guidice: That is tragic. That is so tragic.
Booyens: … I just gave you a stat, 97% of child sex trafficking victims—the average age is 12 in the United States, by the way, lowest average in the world—are girls. We’re not even talking about the girl in the womb, we’re talking about the walking around, 12-year-old woman.
And feminist groups won’t defend them because if they do, they know the second they acknowledge that child sex trafficking is real, they have to investigate their own. All of a sudden, they have to look at, where are the kids coming from? All of a sudden it leads into a border conversation. All of a sudden they go, “Well, wait a minute, if we’re going to fight child sex trafficking, it’s going to go against our political views.” And I go, “Yeah. But remember, it’s people.” And they go, “Ehh—”
del Guidice: Hands off.
Booyens: ” … we’ll sit on the sidelines on this one.” And I go, “You hypocrites. You’re not feminist. You created a movement to justify yourself and the things that are important for you, but you’re not really for every woman. And then I’ll go and say, “If you’re for every woman, why are over 60% of the babies aborted, black babies, girls? Fight for that girl.”
del Guidice: You just mentioned the border crisis and something else along with pornography and sex trafficking, another link that’s rarely talked about is the situation we have at the border and how sex trafficking feeds into that as well. What is the situation there? What are you seeing in regards to people that are brought over illegally and how they can be trafficked into slavery?
Booyens: … I sat with the head of CBP [Customs and Border Protection] recently in D.C. … and I said, “Come on … talk to me.” … He said, “Jaco, here’s the deal. Our guys drink from a firehose. This is the process, that family comes across, as you know, Jaco, it is almost impossible to know, is it her dad, is it not? You need time, we don’t have the time. We’re getting incredible pressure for not interrogating …
Thirty percent of the children that [are] coming across that border today will be in the sex trafficking rings. Thirty percent. That’s not even fearmongering, that is a fact.
Sixty percent of the children who come across the border have at some point, or will be at some point in their lives, at least be sexually violated once. It means rape, whatever. … But 30% of them coming over will go into sex trafficking.
But here’s the most shocking stat that I learned: When CBP hands that child over, that child goes to HHS, Health and Human Services, that has zero training, zero experience on even identifying a child sex traffic victim. All they care about is their disease, is the child nourished or malnourished, and food.
Now Health and Human Services holds that child, and releases them into the system. And then we find children all throughout America [who] can’t speak English being rescued from sex trafficking, [and they] don’t know who they are because the child’s a ghost. [There’s no] birth certificates, nothing on that child. Where’s the child come from? Who’s that child?
If you’re a trafficker, think about how amazing that is to traffickers. You mean, you’re just going to bring children in here that nobody’s going to look for? And when they find them there’s nowhere to send them? And oh, by the way, we don’t have enough facilities to house the kids when they’re rescued so the trafficker picks them up from juvie, picks them up from the shelter.
It’s a disastrous system, and the longer the left placates and is not willing to publicly recognize that even their own people, both sides of the aisle are perpetrators, it’s being aided and abetted.
del Guidice: We have our work cut out for us.
So, final question for you: It’s no secret that the work you do, it’s draining emotionally. I mean, just reading about it a little bit, it’s tough stuff. You mentioned your faith in Christ. I know that must be a huge part of what keeps you going, but how do you stay strong and committed to the fight when it can be so hard, especially given you do not everyone’s job, every day-to-day 9-5, I don’t know what hours you work, but they don’t always have to face the kind of things that you face. So how do you stay grounded?
Booyens: It really is my faith. It’s a core belief system for me that every life matters. As we talk in here, you know what goes through my mind as we’re sitting here? I see my sister’s face.
Every day I remember and will never forget the moment when that girl sat in front of us as a family—just me, my mom, and my brother—and the truth came out. And I had to hear what men did to her. And not once—although one rape is horrific—but six years. And I had to listen to explicit details because it was part of her healing process. There’s no words for the emotions.
So I see that face in that conversation every day. So I wake up and I go, “Stop it. Get up. Save the kids. Get the bad guys.”
And yes, Christ brings the power. And then we’ve got an amazing team, and my wife does it with me and my team does it with me. … So there’s an amazing team and it’s people who really love people, they really care about people.
And I can tell you, 90-plus percent of the people who end up being involved in rescue or whatever—it’s not like we’re going to rescue the Christians. This is not you going for your kind. No, it’s every child. But also, now, every pedophile. I’m putting my sights squarely on the men, those who are paying for sex with children, I’m coming for those guys.
Fortune 500 company CEOs, congressmen, senators, I don’t care who you are, what your name is, who your father is, what may happen to society if it gets out. Run, hide, or repent, change your ways, because we will get you.
[Jeffrey] Epstein was tip of the iceberg. Epstein was a minion. Wait until you see what comes out this year—the people above him, the people he answered to, the people who pulled his strings.
It’s going to rock society … and it’s going to scare people because it’s among us. It’s here. I mean, it’s here at this conference. That’s the reality. It’s in the church. Every church. Deal with it, pastor. Start getting your people safe or you’re not doing your job. It’s in every corporation. Because, why? It’s sex. It’s in every family, right?
So fathers, do your job as a dad. Get involved with your daughters. Know their hearts, build them up as young women, tell them who they are, give them real identity. Make sure that the first time they really believe that they’re loved is not from some creep online. Make sure it was you, dad, and mom, and brother.
Teach your sons how to respect women, teach your sons how to protect women. Not that I’m saying women are weak and can’t protect themselves. But man’s job is to be a watchman, to go out there and hunt and look for the bad guys. But dads are not doing that. So, ultimately, it comes down to the father.
Now look at what’s happening to the African American community. Fatherless nation. We got to bring those dads back—got to get them back, got to get them involved so those young girls do not go trust some weird guy to tell them what love is, what their purpose is in life, what their worth is in life, because they’ll do it.
del Guidice: Jaco, thank you so much for joining us today on The Daily Signal Podcast, we are honored to have you and thank you for sharing everything you’ve shared.
Booyens: Thank you, Rachel. You guys are amazing. Thank you for your work. It’s an honor.
del Guidice: Thanks for being with us.
Booyens: Bless you.
Rachel del Guidice is a congressional reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program. Send an email to Rachel. Twitter: @LRacheldG.
A Note for our Readers:
With the demand for socialism at an all-time high among our young people—our future leaders and decisionmakers—the experts at Heritage stopped and asked a question that not many have asked:
Is socialism really morally sound?
The researchers at The Heritage Foundation have put together a guide to help you and our fellow Americans better understand the 9 Ways That Socialism Will Morally Bankrupt America.
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