We had the good fortune of connecting with JILL BROGDON and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi JILL, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
Human trafficking is a complex and multi-faceted crime. Most people associate it with the white van abducting someone off the street, blindfolding them and chaining them to a bed. That type of scenario sensationalizes the crime and is actually very rare. The most common way a person finds themselves in a trafficking situation is by someone they know and trust. For instance, a romantic interest, a relative, someone from their church or school, a neighbor. When the victim is vulnerable, the trafficker picks up on that and takes advantage. The best way to combat trafficking is to educate people on the vulnerabilities and how to recognize suspicious activity that may be associated with trafficking.
Another factor that is important to note is that labor trafficking is most likely more prevalent than sex trafficking. Think farm workers, construction, restaurants, hospitality, nail salons, door to door sales, etc. Many of these individuals are experiencing some form of exploitation and likely do not realize that it falls under the legal definition of trafficking: Compelling someone to do something through the use of force, fraud or coercion except in the case of a minor, which does not require force, fraud or coercion.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I serve on the Colorado Human Trafficking Council as Vice Chair and have served on the council as survivor representative since 2015. The first year was like drinking through a fire hose and was full of triggers. It was surreal. Imagine attending a monthly meeting of 30+ professionals talking about a crime that happened to you, where the only thing you knew about it was that you lived through it? My entire first year, I sat quietly and just listened. I left each meeting and drove straight to my acupuncturist. It was critical self-care. My very first meeting on the council, I was asked by a fellow council member to participate in a documentary that would be used for the “John’s School” as part of a rehab program for purchasers. Thinking it was my responsibility as a council member, I said yes. I realized later that I was not obligated to participate, and I’m not sure if I would do it again. The experience was enlightening and empowering but biting off something that big early on was very difficult. I managed the triggers and emotional turmoil by ramping up my self-care going to acupuncture twice a week, practicing yoga and leaning hard on my dog and children for support. The film was nominated for a Heartland Emmy and I actually got to attend the ceremony. That too, was surreal.
What I have learned about this journey is that every person who chooses to combat trafficking in every profession has an invaluable contribution. There is room for every expert, and we need each other. During my presentations, I often tell people that I feel like I earned a free master’s degree in trafficking, learning from 30+ professionals from every sector of the community including survivors, direct service providers, judicial, social/human services, law enforcement, immigration, victims’ advocates, human rights, faith-based orgs, DA’s, the attorney general’s office, and many more.
There have been many successes on my journey, and one I am most proud of is my participation in the development of the Council’s statewide public awareness campaign (www.thisishumantrafficking.com), launched in November 2020. As a member of this working group from the start in 2017, I helped inform the campaign from a survivor’s perspective and have learned about the fascinating process of creating a successful campaign. I am so proud and honored to have been a part of the campaign, and it has not been without challenges. We listened graciously to push back from the community about survivor involvement, adjusted our approach, and plowed through, ultimately winning a Heartland Emmy.
My other greatest success is seeing the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act pass. Indeed, it is quite possibly the greatest victory of my life. During my experience being trafficked, my trafficker often spoke about the statute of limitations saving him from prosecution. I was too young to understand and by the time I was old enough and healed enough to comprehend what it meant, it was too late for me. At the time, the statute only allowed 6 years from the child’s 18th birthday to file charges. I learned that on average most people who were assaulted as a child do not begin to speak about their experience until age 53.
Being given the opportunity to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of both bills was both soul-crushing and an honor. It truly was the most difficult part of my journey so far. When SB 21-073 passed, I literally fell to my knees and sobbed. All the years that my late husband and I tried to find justice came flooding back. I am so proud that no survivor will ever have to hear the words, “I’m sorry, we cannot help you, the statute of limitations has expired.” I helped change a law that will change lives and that is truly empowering and heart-opening.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The first day would start with a visit to RiNO and my favorite spot for breakfast, Port Side on 25th and Larimer. Hands down they have the best Avocado Toast in Denver and a pulled pork breakfast sandwich that is out of this world. After we load up on breakfast, we’d take a walking tour of the beautiful murals in the area and take a stroll down to Union Station and then head to the art galleries on Santa Fe.
Next we would head to Red Rocks Amphitheater to catch a show because… helloooo…it’s Red Rocks! You can’t come to Colorado without visiting Red Rocks.
Then I would take them on a tour of the southwest part of the state to the Four-Corners area, and a ride on the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge train.
On the way back to Denver we would stop in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs and maybe a little bluegrass concert and then head home.
Action packed week!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It is difficult to choose just one person or organization that was instrumental in helping me achieve my success. This has truly been a life-long journey that I never dreamed would land me where I am today. In my most tender years my sister Teri provided love, support and encouragement – and a deep sense of hope. She is still one of my greatest supporters. When I began my quest for justice in the early 90’s, my late husband was my greatest support, constantly encouraging me to keep going and to never give up.
I later connected with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and everything shifted. They asked me to testify as a survivor in support of lifting the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault in 2004. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of committee. That same year, my husband died so I put everything on hold to raise our children.
Fast forward 10 years and I re-connected with CCASA and met the then policy director, Karen Moldovan. She asked if I would like to serve as a survivor representative on the Colorado Human Trafficking Council. My first reaction was, “Well, that’s not me. I wasn’t trafficked”. Then she read me the definition and let’s just say, it busted my heart wide open for healing.
This past year CCASA and then Policy Director Raana Simmons, sponsored Senate Bills 21-073 and 21-088, the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, and I again had the opportunity to testify in support of these bills. The Act did two things: SB21-073 lifted the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, and SB21-088 holds accountable institutions who knew or should have known that sexual abuse was happening in their institution. The Act passed, and I had the honor of speaking at the bill-signing for SB 21-073. After 28+ years of waiting, the statute was finally lifted. CCASA never gave up and for that I am forever grateful.
My first year of serving on the council was spent learning about a crime that happened to me from 30+ experts in the movement. About 5 months in, I finally got the courage to write “survivor rep” after my name on the sign-in sheet. That day, as I was walking to my car, a gentleman came up to me and said, “I saw that you signed in as a survivor?” I said “Yes” and he replied, “Me too.” That was how I met my mentor, my friend and my brother, The Honorable Robert R. Lung, a judge for the 18th judicial district in Colorado. Robert took me under his wing and taught me more about myself than any amount of therapy and self-help books had done in my previous years. He could empathize with me and helped me connect dots that, until then, were just disturbing lines with nowhere to connect. More than anything, he helped me navigate this space and learn to be a survivor leader and lived experience expert. He helped me write my first speech to the Colorado Children’s Caucus at the state capitol and invited me to speak on a panel at the Colorado Convening on Children, Youth and Families. Later, we spoke on panels together at local and national conferences. He will always stand out as the most compassionate, caring and genuine person I know.
So, in a nutshell, my sister, my late husband, CCASA and Judge Robert Lung are who I would like to dedicate this to. I would most definitely not be here today if it were not for their support. I am forever grateful.