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Escaping Modern Slavery: Rebecca Bender’s Resilient Journey (ep. 222)

Rebecca Bender

John O’Leary welcomes human trafficking survivor Rebecca Bender to the Live Inspired Podcast to share her triumphant + resilient journey.

Human trafficking is a massive, worldwide problem. It’s estimated that between 20 and 40 million people are in this form for modern slavery, and our communities are not exempt.

Today I welcome survivor Rebecca Bender to share her harrowing journey from being human trafficked for nearly six years to now helping other survivors escape + rebuild their lives. In Rebecca’s story, you’re going to hear what she’s been through, what she learned along the way and most importantly that you’re not defined by what you’ve been through.

My friends, today’s conversation is incredibly emotional, important and timely. Human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking is a topic we seldom talk or think about, but one that’s happening, quietly, all around us.

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  • Rebecca grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a typical  “small-town farm kid” until her parents divorced when her father became an alcoholic and her mother became involved in a series of unhealthy relationships.
  • Wanted + engaged: In high school, Rebecca was not considered “at-risk” because she was a varsity athlete and even graduated high school as a junior.
  • Unexpectedly, Rebecca became a teen mom, pivoting from attending Oregon State University to staying in her small town for community college.
  • “It was all a trick.” Rebecca moved to Las Vegas with her boyfriend where immediately their relationship drastically changed.
  • “You think your situation is different the whole time until you meet other girls just like you.”
  • Power + control wheel: Rebecca refers to domestic human trafficking as a mixture of domestic violence, cult-like behavior, and prostitution.
  • “If you give me the same amount of time you gave the enemy, I will never be outdone.”
  • Rebecca’s advice for anyone feeling hopeless:
    • There is nothing that you have been through or done that can’t be undone and redone.
    • Redemption is available for everyone; start today.
    • Have grace for yourself and others.
  • “I want people to know they are more than what they’ve been through.”
  • After Rebecca escaped, she created Elevate Academy and has helped hundreds of survivors of the commercial sex trade industry by providing resources to explore new careers and professional development. Learn more about Elevate Academy here.
  • “There are 25 different forms of human trafficking and it’s happening in every community in America.”
  • Today, Rebecca is married with four daughters and through the Rebecca Bender Initiative, works with law enforcement, FBI, Homeland Security and aftercare programs to provide expert testimony, trainings and consultation across the globe.
  • Get a copy of Rebecca Bender’s book In Pursuit of Love here.
  • Get help: Confidentially call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, text 233733 or chat online on their website.

On Live Inspired Podcast ep. 82, I welcomed Christine Caine to share her story. As a global anti-human-trafficking abolitionist, Christine was honored with the 2017 Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice for her work. Listen to Christine Caine on ep. 82.

Pre-order your copy of IN AWE today to receive access to fun, interactive bonus features emailed to you in the lead-up to the book’s release! Visit ReadInAwe.com.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? God’s Leading Lady by T.D. Jakes.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? Innocence and trust. I wish I walked into situations almost more expecting the good.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? The Bible from when I got saved 17 years ago. It has every note and every promise God has ever given me, highlighted and dated.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? Martin Luther King Jr. and I’d ask how he got through the pressure, how he radically changed a nation, where did he start… I have so many questions!

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? “Run now, you can do it.” If I couldn’t run, I’d say, “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Your daughter is going to be okay. You’re going to get through this.”

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? Against all odds, I will shine.


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1 reply on “Escaping Modern Slavery: Rebecca Bender’s Resilient Journey (ep. 222)”

Rebecca – shine on!!!! I am so moved and encouraged by your story of redemption. This last Christmas season the phrase…A Thrill of Hope…(from the song O Holy Night) rang a bell in my heart that is still ringing inside me. Your story is A THRILL OF HOPE! Thank you for your bravery to share your own horror and the fact that you rose from that grave of degradation and abuse. Brave, lovely woman…may GOD speed your message like an arrow to a bullseye!