Eps 453: Helping our kids avoid sexual exploitation with Alexandra Ford

Episode 453

My guest today is Alexandra Ford, and we’re tackling a scary subject today.  January is human trafficking prevention month, so I want to grow everyone’s awareness with Alexandra, and we’ll share ways to keep your kids safe. 

Alexandra kicks us off by explaining what human trafficking looks like in 2024 and how her own story inspires her to do this work. We try to articulate the difference between being sexually empowered and sexually exploited and the reality of the commercial sex industry. I ask Alexandra what she needed from her parents during her trafficking experience which spurs us to touch on teaching autonomy, consent, accessing help, & listening to your gut. We get into online safety and what to share and not share online (and what if you’ve already shared it?!) and how to safely introduce a device to your teen. Alexandra generously stays on a bit longer to share her wisdom on how we can make sure our teens really know they can come to us when they have a problem.  

Guest Description 
Alexandra, a former trafficking victim turned activist, embarked on her anti-trafficking journey at age eleven.  After ten years and personal hardship, she recognized her experience as human trafficking.  With a candid storytelling approach and strong academic background, she bridges communities, educates on tough subjects, and empowers change. She co-founded Uprising in Wyoming and her personal brand, The Laughing Survivor, in British Columbia.  Alexandra’s strength and resilience inspire others to persevere and foster compassion. 

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Takeaways from the show

  • What does domestic human trafficking look like in 2024? 
  • How do I make sure this never happens to my child(ren)? 
  • What’s the difference between being sexually empowered versus sexually exploited?  
  • Commercial sex industry 
  • Tangible online safety tips 
  • Creating an environment in which your kids know they can truly come to you & share anything 
  • “If your child has any online presence . . . it is not a matter of if a predator sees them, it’s a matter of when.” 
  • How to safely introduce a new device to an older child or adolescent – engage, engage, engage! 
  • Conversations in the car 

“When you make a mistake, which you will, I will walk with you through it and love you through it.  We will find a way to the other side, whatever it is . . . I am here.”

What does joyful courage mean to you

It makes me think of this thing I joke around a lot about. Becoming a mom is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done and been through, and am going through.  I never felt like “mom-ing” came naturally to me.  I’m so heavily trained in psychology and crime, I’m so overly aware of how terribly I can screw up my kids, so I had a really hard time finding any joy in parenting at first, because I was so scared of making a mistake.  In talking to my therapist, she told me, “We all screw up our kids.  They’re all going to be screwed up.  You just have to have the courage to keep going and to keep trying to do better. When you get new information, you can do better.”  It’s turned into this funny mantra I say, “The goal posts for me in raising my kids for me is understanding that no matter what, I’ll screw them up in some way.  The goal is to screw them up enough that they’re funny at parties but not so much that they’re serial killers.  If those are the goal posts, then I can find joy in parenting and the courage to keep going when I know I’ve made mistakes, and the courage to apologize, the courage to love, and the courage to parent.   



The Laughing Survivor 

Joyful Courage Episode 441: Exploring Sugar Dating 

Uprising Resources 

Alexandra on Instagram

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Casey O'Roarty, Alexandra Ford

Casey O'Roarty 00:03
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together, while parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people and when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead at Sprout double. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported today as an interviewer and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:26
Hi, listeners. Welcome back to the show. I'm really excited to introduce you to today's guest. Her name is Alexandra Ford, Alexandra, a former trafficking victim turned activist embarked on her anti trafficking journey at age 11. After 10 years and personal hardships she recognized her experience as human trafficking. With a candid storytelling approach and strong academic background. She bridges communities, educates on tough subjects and empowers change. She co founded uprising in Wyoming and her personal brand, the laughing survivor in British Columbia Alexander's strength and resilience inspire others to persevere and foster compassion. Hi, Alexandra. Welcome to the podcast. Hi,

Alexandra Ford 02:12
Casey, thank you so much for having me.

Casey O'Roarty 02:14
Okay, so with that bio, I'm sure everybody's bracing themselves. So I want to start off by saying, yes, listeners, this is a heavy subject. And my goal is not to stir up a bunch of fear and all of you, there's plenty that we already are freaking out about. But this month, January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. So my goal is to grow your awareness with the help of Alexandria, as well as to leave you with tools and talking points to support you in keeping your kids safe. So just That's my disclaimer. So Alexandra, what is domestic human trafficking? I'm going to ask you about your story, but not yet. First, I want to know what is domestic human trafficking look like in 2024?

Alexandra Ford 03:01
Predict the future. That's a good idea. We're

Casey O'Roarty 03:05
recording in December.

Alexandra Ford 03:09
I think the biggest thing to share about what domestic sex trafficking, specifically speaking to sex trafficking is is really to share first about what it isn't. Because I think in my experience, and certainly my own personal experience, I had this idea that human trafficking was, you know, this thing that happened to those people over there, like whatever that meant it didn't happen in North America. And it looks like the movie Taken really, there was a kidnapping a large crime ring or conglomerate or something. And people were sold on auction blocks sort of. And well, in a very small percentage of cases, that may be true. Domestic sex trafficking is much simpler. I hesitate to use that word because I don't want to make it less than it's still very traumatic and terrible. But it looks a lot more like if somebody is profiting from the sale of somebody else's body if they are compelling or coercing someone to use their body for commercial sex acts. To be clear, that's not just penetrative sex, it can be any sort of commercial sex act. So stripping pornography photos, and a third party is profiting so the person whose body is being used is not the one who's maintaining whatever thing of value is being given. So it doesn't necessarily have to be just money, it can be drugs, it can be a ride somewhere, it can be anything. So when there is an exchange of a sex act for something of value, and a third party profits, and in the US, you have the distinction that if someone is over the age of 18, there has to be force fraud or coercion present. So that is the definition and what it looks like can be you know, a boyfriend, getting their girlfriend Ready to go try and like meet up with the landlord to get some money off rent. If they can't make it, it may be some a boyfriend saying, hey, you know, we're just going to do this for a little while until I until I make it big with my, you know music career something we're just gonna have a strip for a little while. And I did use heteronormative terms there. Of course, it's not only boyfriends, being perpetrators and girlfriends being victims, but we do know, statistically it's high 90% that victims are girls and women and perpetrators are men. Yeah, yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 05:33
Tell us a little bit about your story and how it informs and inspires the work that you are doing.

Alexandra Ford 05:39
Sure. I was trafficked when I was 20 years old. I didn't find out I was trafficked until I was in my early 30s. And that has a lot to do with that misconception that we just talked about, like I had this idea of what trafficking was. And that's not what happened to me. What happened to me was, when I was 20, I had already started going down a pretty negative path. I had been a really good kid from a really, quote unquote good family. Very normal, very boring. You know, parents raised my brother and I suburban neighborhood. If you know the movie, the Santa Claus with Tim Allen, it was actually filmed like around the corner from my house. So like quintessential, boring suburban neighborhood. And I actually started as like a child advocate, I learned about child labor and exploitation overseas. And instead of going to like my first school dance, I was collecting signatures for a petition to send our government like I was just like a super nerd. And I'm pretty sure my parents were like, You know what, I think we raised her like, she's good. Yeah, by 12 years old. They're just like, Okay, well, like she's done. You know, like she's raised Yeah, parented pat ourselves on the back. We want. Good job is exactly one parenting. Yes, unfortunately. And I hate when I say that, unfortunately, because it's such a sort of blase term. But just a few short years later, my best friend's uncle began sexually assaulting me. And that went on through all of my teenage hood. And so on the one hand, I kept up appearances, I got good grades, I was still a nerd, I did leave the advocacy work behind, but you know, teenagers pick up and drop things all the time. So it wasn't super shocking. But I did start getting embroiled in a world of drugs. And, you know, started smoking weed, doing mushrooms and went down a slippery slope until at 20 years old, I was doing math. And I had graduated high school, you know, there wasn't this dramatic change. People always ask Where were your parents? How did they not know this? Like I thought,

Casey O'Roarty 07:38
yeah, I mean, yeah, there's gonna be my crush, but also like, so do you attribute that substance use? Like it was happening simultaneously to this, you know, to the uncle, hurting you? Were you kind of trying to navigate, like, all of what came with the sexual assault you are experiencing?

Alexandra Ford 07:57
Yes. It's always a little easier to think back, you know, 20. You know, they say Hindsight is 2020. And of course, I've been through Sure, a very decades of therapy at this point. So I had an idea of what I was thinking then, though, then I didn't necessarily know I was thinking totally. So at 13 when a 30 something year old man, good looking 30 something year old man is showing interest in me, I thought I was special. I had been certainly taught about, you know, sexual abuse and body consent and all of that. But I had been taught that sexual assault looks like screaming no and fighting and a stranger in an alleyway or a boyfriend pressuring you or something like that. So that wasn't my situation. And though I consciously kind of thought that it was special, and I was special, I certainly knew something wasn't right about it, because I didn't tell anyone. Yeah, and my body and subconsciously knowing something. So wrong was happening. I think that's where I opened the door to drugs. You know, people say weed is a gateway drug. I say trauma is a gateway drug. I would agree. And I was just trying to make sense of it. And then the criminal justice system got involved. I reported to police and the involvement of the criminal justice system really kind of it sent me over the edge, I was kind of holding on to a boyfriend I had at the time, who was very sweet guy, and, you know, I was working, I was struggling, I was doing drugs and all of that, but I was like doing drugs in a very regimented way. Like the nerd like had me researched. And first of all of that, not saying it's was a good idea. I'm just saying I kind of had a handle on it, or I thought and then when the criminal justice system got involved, it felt like my life blew up, because any part of me that was still able to tell myself that this had been a clandestine relationship or it hadn't been that bad. Was ripped away when the police very rightly so labeled it. Sexual abuse. Yeah. And there was no no hiding behind the maybe This was okay, maybe I was special, maybe it wasn't so bad. And then also with that I became like a secondary character in my own story, because the police, I'm now a witness to a crime that's been committed against the Crown in Canada. So I'm being told, like how to talk about it, who to talk about it with being asked all these invasive questions being asked, Did I say no, like all of these things. And then with the court case coming up, we'd get a call saying you're going to court next week, and then they call us back and say he delayed, so we'll call you, you know, and this went on for two years.

Casey O'Roarty 10:34
Ah, Alexandra, oh, my gosh, it was

Alexandra Ford 10:38
I felt more brutalized by the criminal justice system than I ever did by the man who assaulted me. And I at that point, I got angry. I was angry at the world because I did everything right. I was a child advocate, and this man upended my life. And then I reported to the police. And now I'm stuck in this hellhole of someone else controlling my life and my story and telling me, you know, what I should think and feel and all of this. So I ended up breaking up with the boyfriend, the nice one. And then I over that sort of almost two years I dated series of ever worsening drug dealers, and you know, bad boys and all of that until I found sort of the king of all the bad boys in our town, he had spent most of his adult life in jail. I knew his brother was my drug dealer, his twin brother. And so I knew of him he was notorious, notoriously dangerous, and insane. And so when he walked into the tanning salon, I was managing and showed interest in me. I was like, let's do this. This sounds fun.

Casey O'Roarty 11:44
That status? Isn't that so interesting, right? Because even with all of the negative, all the bad things that you know about him that status can be so such an attraction.

Alexandra Ford 11:58
Yeah. And yeah, I had by this point, so I'm 20 years old. And I had in my 20 years now learn that I'm going to be blamed, or take the hits for men's bad behavior. It's going to, you know, hurt me more, I'd worked as a shooter girl at a bar. And I've seen this over and over and over again, it was my fault when something went wrong, or when guys thought or something like that. And I'd been socialized as a girl, teenager, a woman to believe that my looks were my currency. And how I looked and attracted men was the most important thing about me. And that I would never have true power unless it was somehow attached to a penis, basically. So when this guy who had a lot of social clout shows interest in me, I'm like, Yep, I'm here for that. It was also like, I knew he was dangerous, but he also provided me a level of protection from the other dangerous men that I had kind of been skirting around. So right, and

Casey O'Roarty 13:00
you already were in the pool? Yeah. in that realm. Yeah. Okay. So how'd that go? Alexandra?

Alexandra Ford 13:10
Well, we dated for like, four or five months total. Yeah. And it was extremely violent, very early on. We were doing math. So we were awake, you know, sometimes 24 hours a day for days on end. And we're chemically enhanced. So the relationship just like, you know, developed very quickly, it felt like we fit, you know, a week's worth of stuff into one night sometimes. Sure. And very quickly, he was a drug dealer. He dealt math, and very quickly, he's like, hey, you know, we're doing more drugs than we're selling, you know, we need to supplement our income. And I remember feeling very warm and fuzzy at the Wii, because it felt like it elevated me, I wasn't just, you know, arm candy, or trophy wife or something like that, or Wi Fi. I was now a business partner. And I got to work alongside him. And that meant, you know, so I mean, work. It was, hey, if you use your body to distract people, I can snatch a few things, whether it was from bars or house parties, and we can pawn them. And I was like, Yeah, sure. Absolutely. So it started there. And I absolutely willingly was like, Yep, I'll participate in this. This sounds absolutely fine. It's not really hurting anyone, right? If we take some stuff like that doesn't hurt anyone. But really, it just spiraled downhill from there so quickly, and it turned into him putting me on stage at a strip club. It turned into him actually selling me to the manager at a strip club. Without my knowledge. You know, we when we first started dating, we sent each other some sexy photos. I mean, it's 2007. So thankfully, fuzzy, sexy photos. The millennial love letter, I think, I don't know that's how we show affection. And I found out he was trading them Selling them, I'm still not 100% Sure. And then he took to drugging me and taking photos of me when I was unconscious. And this all culminated in me finally realizing, after the third attempt on my life that I didn't know I was gonna get out of life, I needed to do something. And I ran. I went to school, I had applied to school beforehand, and he had thwarted my first attempt. And then I remembered he couldn't go to Ottawa, this town about six hours from where we lived. And so I went there. And I literally just took everything that had happened. And I put it in a box, I put it on a shelf in my head. And I was like, Well, that was wild. That was a wild time in your life. You don't ever think about that again. And I spend the next year and a half basically telling myself like, it wasn't that bad. Did I remember it like that? Did that really happen? Is that what that scars from? You know, just completely trying to rewrite my own history?

Casey O'Roarty 15:56
Were you able to get clean? Yes. Was the break like a break of all? Oh, that's wonderful. Well,

Alexandra Ford 16:02
so this is what can be a bit confusing. I stopped doing meth. Notably, the town meth dealer was trying to kill me. So I didn't have access to the drug. I had also been in a pretty severe car accident, which had left me you know, in a healing process for a couple of weeks where I couldn't get any drugs.

Casey O'Roarty 16:21
So you were able to go through a detox? Yes. And get back to a baseline and

Alexandra Ford 16:25
how I will say, when I moved away, like I went to school, and I started doing really well, but I did start, you know, I started doing speed a little bit or cocaine, like, it wasn't like, I just sort of like, you know, turned over a new leaf and was like, here I am. I'm healed. Yeah. And he showed up in Ottawa, about a year and a half after I'd run. And I remember it was St. Patrick's Day, and I was at the bar drinking my weight and greed and beer because college kid weigh, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. And I turned around, and he was standing there. And he said, I told you, I'd fucking find you. Oh, god. Yeah. And so over the next little while, I ended up going to the police. Then we went through a court case, he was charged, he wasn't found guilty on the heavier charges. He was released, he found me again, you know, we're going back to court. And then he ended up killed in a incident completely unrelated to me. And so that whole saga from when I met him, which was January 2007, to when he died, which was January 2011, four years. Over that time I was in school, I had to drop out, I ended up going back and then so you fast forward to about 2018, I think, and I'm now married pregnant with my first child. I have a degree in criminology, a post grad and victimology and honors diploma in community and Justice Services. And I was living in Wyoming and as a Canadian, I couldn't work with the views I had. So I'm trying to find volunteer opportunities. And I meet this woman named Terry Markham who's doing anti trafficking work. And I called her up and we met up and I said, I know absolutely nothing about human trafficking, absolutely nothing. But I have all these degrees, you can't pay me because I'm Canadian. And I've worked in and around this helping field, you know, in shelters and with victims and with offenders for the last 10 years. And by the way, I'm a survivor of domestic violence. So I do know some things about that. And she got talking to me and we shared some things. And for some reason, that box that I'd put on the shelf that I had, like, not paid attention to even through the court case, there was so much that never came out because it wasn't asked of me. And I was so ashamed of what had happened. It just like it leapt off the shelf and like, opened all over the table. And I started telling her things I'd never told another soul in my life. And she very gently introduced the idea to me that maybe, you know, it wasn't all my fault that there was actually another scenario and it was called trafficking. And it blew my life up completely.

Casey O'Roarty 18:51
I love Terry.

Alexandra Ford 18:52
I know me too.

Casey O'Roarty 18:52
Oh, man. Wow. Damn girl, what a story. What a story. That's just incredible. And I'm so glad that you found Terry and that she was able to help you make sense of your experience. And I'm so sorry for all the pain and suffering going all the way back to being a young person. Yeah. being hurt by an adult. Yeah. And so now here we are having this conversation with an audience of parents of teenagers who are wondering, my guess is, how do I make sure that this doesn't happen to my kid? Yeah. Right. So like, looking at all my questions, and I'm like, nope, not. No, that's not. I did a show last month, Episode 441. Everybody remembers because you're all listening about the increase in sugar dating in the United States, at least. And part of the conversation was about the difference between being sexually empowered versus sexually exploited. And, you know, in your story, even like There were those places, even as a teenager, where you were kind of in that tension of wanting, it sounded like and you can correct me if I'm wrong, please do. There is this whole towards wanting to feel like I'm empowered, versus exploited. And then there's, as you got older, and with this, you know, horrible boyfriend that, you know, feeling of I know my currency, and I'm using my currency, like I'm standing in my currency. Right? So how do you articulate the difference? And then then there's this whole and we talked a little bit about this on this other podcast, so we don't have to go too deep. But there is also this, like, sex positive conversation that exists around. I mean, that's where I think about my own like, yeah, sex work and stripping? And like, how can we articulate how do you articulate? We'll start with you? And then you can help us? Right? How do you articulate the difference between being sexually empowered versus being sexually exploited, and maybe it goes back to that trafficking definition that you gave us at the start? I don't know. It

Alexandra Ford 21:16
can. That is a big conversation, but it's definitely one that needs to be had. I can say for myself, and you know, several other survivors of trafficking and exploitation, and even people who worked in sex work, but weren't trafficked. Pardon me, who will say, at the time, I felt like I was empowered. Looking back, I realized I never was. And I'm still learning and educating myself on sex work in the sex industry, and all of that, because I do completely understand and I was of the community who said, you know, for lack of a better slogan, my body my choice, like, if I want to do this, then I should be allowed to, and the government shouldn't get involved in if I'm over 18, then like, I'm an adult, so I can make choices and blah, blah, blah. And I have since quite obviously changed my stance on that, for a couple of reasons. One, when I was existing in that world, and I was telling everyone loudly, how much fun I was having, and that, like I was sexually empowered, and I wasn't prudish like them. And then who cares? If I took my clothes off, it's not that big of a deal. It's my body and all of that. Looking back, a lot of that all of it really was because I was so aware on a very subconscious level that I had no freedom. I could not say no. And if I acknowledged that, I think I may have literally lost my mind. Yeah, everything comes crashing down. Yeah. And to acknowledge that I was a prisoner that looked free. And it was of in the way I had it. It was a prison of my own making. Because I had walked into that relationship. I had said, Yes, I had said there was no one holding a gun to my head, right? I wasn't chained in a basement. I was on a stage there were people staring at me. Hell, if I wanted to yell help me, I could have Why didn't I? So that was very kind of twisted up and confusing. And the other thing, the more as I went through more academia, and I came to understand, you know, the inequities that the commercial sex industry is based on.

Casey O'Roarty 23:28
Yeah, so yeah. And I really take bringing it back to what you said, like that piece around, needing to believe that you're empowered, because if you weren't, everything comes crashing down. So I'm thinking about people that are listening. And I'm wondering, for you, what did you need from your parents? What did you need during that time? Like, and I guess, hold on, let me let me go back because this isn't a blame thing, right? And we can do and my listeners have heard me say this 100 times or more, we can do all the right things, and shit goes down. Right? And we can do all the wrong things. And our kids figure it all out. And there's no trauma. So if this isn't about, like, what did your parents do wrong? But you know, and then there's kids, like, I want to have a conversation, how do we make sure this doesn't happen to our kids? I want to have a conversation around how do we be with this happening to our kids and be with it in a way that is helpful and not hurtful, right? How do we be with the unfolding of realizing this has happened to our kids and hold them in their healing? So this is going to basically be a five hour conversation. Getting

Alexandra Ford 24:52
we'll tackle this one bit at a time. Seriously,

Casey O'Roarty 24:54
seriously. So I guess I want to pitch it back to you like what do you think is going to be the most valuable Call area to kind of dig in for the people that are listening.

Alexandra Ford 25:03
I'm going to break it down into two kind of broad areas, one more specific than the other. I'm just going to be online safety in this day and age. Okay. Online Safety. Yeah, I can give you some tangible, you know, tips, tricks, conversation starters that we can dig into. The other thing is going to be almost taking trafficking out of the conversation, because you can protect your child from trafficking. I mean, I can't say 100% Because there's nothing 100%. But you sure sure provide your child with the tools to be protected from trafficking without talking about trafficking, starting at a very young age, because you protect from trafficking, you ask like what did I need? Yeah. Or a different way of saying that, like, what could have protected me from that. And that comes to things like understanding consent, bodily autonomy, healthy relationships, how to listen to your gut, how to access help, what happens when you made the wrong choice, or you feel like you made the wrong choice, and now you don't know how to come clean? And just Yeah, you think you're digging up? And you're absolutely not digging up? Right. So those are the two kind of sides, I think I'll throw to you. Which side do you want to start with?

Casey O'Roarty 26:15
Well, I mean, what you just said is, I want to talk about a little bit like that accessing help that coming clean. And, you know, my listeners, I talk a lot about that lip service that we paid to, you can tell me anything, I'm here for you, I have your back, we can say those words. And if we haven't created an environment that actually holds that as your truth, your kids aren't going to come to you. So I really appreciate like highlighting that because there's prevention, and then there's the shit our kids get into no matter how many amazing conversations you have about online safety. And I speak from experience, right? I speak from my own experience of my own kid coming to me with absolute terror in his eyes, realizing, Oh, God, I really fucked up was exactly what he said. And the aftermath of it, and realizing this is something that kids kill themselves over, literally. But he came to me was everything. Right? So there's that, whoo, I just got really hot. And there is room for this prevention conversation. So let's talk about online safety. Do you feel in your work and in your research like this feels like I mean, the internet, social media, the little fucking phones kind of feels like exactly the place where our kids are being lured into exploitation. So what do you have to say about online safety? Well,

Alexandra Ford 27:53
you and I chatted a little bit about not working from a place of fear. So I don't want to do that. But I am going to start this with a startling sort of quote that I heard do it. Okay, because I think it underlines the the necessity for these conversations. So I've worked with Internet Crimes Against Children, guys and women, and are heroes amongst people. And it was one of those guys who told me if your child has an online presence, and that may be their own, because they have a device and an Instagram, depending on their age, or maybe even that you've been posting about them since the day you got the first ultrasound and heartbeat, right? Okay, if your child has any online presence at all, it is not a matter of if a predator sees them, it is a matter of when. And predators are not only looking for sexualized photos of children, they are looking for all photos. So that adorable photo of your kid with their foot on a soccer ball and a jersey that's three sizes too big. Those are being stolen by predators. I myself, again, I'm going to shift away from fear. But I want people to understand where we're at with because people are like, I'm not posting naked pictures of my kid. Well, good. First of

Casey O'Roarty 29:07
all, yay, well, congratulations. But we have

Alexandra Ford 29:11
to understand that, you know, I've had to deal with accounts, Instagram accounts, where predators steal family photos, and they post them and then they all comment with graphic detail what they would do to that child if they had them in their presence.

Casey O'Roarty 29:27
Alexandra, this feels impossible.

Alexandra Ford 29:30
This is terrifying.

Casey O'Roarty 29:31
I mean, I will take my own extra I'll just speak for myself. Like, what else do I have to talk about? Social media, right?

Alexandra Ford 29:39
Yes. So let me be very, very clear. I am how do we clean this up? We're screwed. I'm not shaming anyone. Of course, you want to share your kids. They're adorable. They're funny. Sometimes they have their asshole pants on which later is funny. But you know, that's how you connect and when you become a parent, they become your entire world. So if course you're talking and connecting, and all of that. And so I'm not shaming about that. What I am doing is cautioning. So we understand the vastness of this issue. Now, where do we put protective factors in? What can we do? Right? Because I'm not just like, hey, help us with that terrifying never go there. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 30:15
bad news. I've been there for 20 years. And now, yeah, oopsie. So

Alexandra Ford 30:20
basic things like check your privacy level settings, and all of that you don't need all of those people on your Facebook, right? Like, if you've been collecting people, since you, I'll speak for myself, or star in 2007. You know, I probably don't need all those people on my Facebook, if I'm planning on posting pictures of my kids and stuff like that. The other thing is to think twice before you do post about your kids. Not saying don't ever post about them. But think about in our, you know, day and age and generations that came before us, it was like, oh, when you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you bring them home to meet your parents, the most embarrassing thing your parents could do is pull out a photo baby album, right. And now that baby album is on Facebook. And so when your kid goes to apply for a job and their future employer, you know, Google's their name, and maybe they come up and then you're as mom in there, you can click on Mom, mom maybe doesn't have the best privacy settings. And now suddenly, we've got pictures of everything the child has ever done, right? That we thought was funny. So maybe just kind of figure out a filter that works for you. I don't mean like a Photoshop filter. I mean, like, what do I want to share? And what would I want shared about me, right, and what is a 13 year old may be going to be embarrassed about you know, a few share that photo of the time they got into their diaper and painted on the wall with it or something, you know, so have a little bit of chats, especially as your kids are a little bit older, and they can understand consent, I will come back to this word so many times. But when your children are older and can consent to their photo being shared or not shared, always good to ask them. Be very, very aware of what you're posting. You know, the back to school photos. Hi, I'm so and so I'm this many years old, this is my teacher's name. This is my favorite color. This is where I'm going to school. All of that is

Casey O'Roarty 32:05
my address. Yes. When I walked down the street, it's

Alexandra Ford 32:09
yeah, you know, I will say I'm cautioning this not because it's the stranger danger thing. It's because when you give out too much information about yourself, and this is something I teach youth and parents can teach you, as well as when you give out tons of information about yourself, even information you don't realize you're necessarily giving out. It's really easy for a stranger to make themselves feel like a friend. All they have to do is a couple of things. It's literally human psychology. If someone you know, lives in your neighborhood, suddenly they're not a stranger. You've never seen them before. But if they tell you they live in your neighborhood, okay, then threat level goes down. Right? They tell them oh, I actually attend your school. I'm a few years above you. Threat level goes down. Oh, I see you play basketball for the Town team. Yeah, my friend, you know, used to play on that team or my brother did threat level goes down. And now suddenly, this isn't a stranger on the internet talking to someone anymore. It's a community member, a friend. So be very aware of how much information you're giving out. Because people who want to do harm are skilled in it. So we need to be more skilled, we need to be more critical about the information you're giving out. Yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 33:20
Well, and even I'm going to pause you because I just want to check in with the listener right now. Are you having the same experience that I'm having? Because I'm like, fuck, my kids are sitting ducks. Like, they're not they don't have any for me, right? Okay. I'm like, Oh, God, what have I done? And I'll be honest, I mean, my daughter has been on the podcast, you know, she shared very generously about some of her mental health experiences. And she did recently say, like, you know, Mom, I googled myself, and my entire mental health journey is just out there for anyone. And I was like, you said, you said it would be okay. I was kind of started freaking out. She's like, Oh, it's okay. I'm just saying. And I'm like, Yeah, well, you know, let me know. And we can do whatever we can do on the back end. I don't know how much we can do. But I think this is so important. And I think it feels so overwhelming for those of us of a certain age, who kind of just freely threw things out there with I mean, I think that parents with kids coming up right now, like younger kids right now are much more savvy to all of this. I think that those of us maybe with older teens, like me, realize, like, wow, this would have been great information 18 years ago, to have been exposed to right and then to make evermore educated choices about how we're sharing about our families online. So anyway, listeners, I just want y'all to know and for those of you that are like, kind of freaking out I feel you, I see you. So what can we like? I need to know what I could do. Yeah. Okay. So you said tighten up the privacy side, I know privacy, say, go through the Bazillion Pictures I have on my Facebook and decide Do they all need to live here? Probably not print them and put

Alexandra Ford 35:15
them in an album. I'm just saying there's like, that's so retro good. Yeah, I know, throwback, let me throw out there to your listeners like, you can only do the best you can with the information you have at the time. When someone gives you new information, you can then make new choices. There's no need to lament or berate yourself for the choices you didn't make when you didn't have that information. You can just yeah, no information and go Oh, okay. I didn't know that. I know that now. Yeah. So what can we do? So first thing I'll say is, you want to be savvy yourself. So those are some things you can do. And then of course, you said you made a joke, my kids are sitting ducks Well, not if they have all the protective factors, not a few, you've given them the tools because we have to think of online or the internet as a masterful tool. And when being used in a skilled way. And you know, through an apprenticeship for lack of a better term, it can be so wonderful. And so connecting and community building. And just like any tool, if it's not learned, like taught how to be used properly, and it has potential for danger, or risk. So how do we mitigate that risk? One of the things I teach and this is for parents of younger kids, much younger kids who don't yet have their own device, when you decided it's time for your child to have their own device. And I'm not going to give you an age hc 16.

Casey O'Roarty 36:39
Please, everyone, I feel like if everyone just decided on six, all the world's problems would be solved. Go on. Sorry, you're not giving us an age. That's very generous of you. But come on people, your 10 year old does not need a fucking phone. Okay, go on. Sorry. Carry on. Yeah,

Alexandra Ford 36:55
so I've decided on an age that makes sense for your family and your kids, you know, maturity and the ability to take direction and you know, learn and all of that. So when they get their first device, it's not like a, you know, well, this is very overwhelming. And here you go, good luck, right? I compare it often to teaching your kid how to cross the street. Like, as soon as they can walk, you're not like well, good luck, hope you make it across. Don't forget to dodge the traps. Like when you're teaching a child how to like cross the road, or when you're first crossing the road with them, you're holding on to them right there in your arms, they have no freedom of movement. And then maybe as they get a little bit older, they're walking next to you, but let's be real, you're holding their wrist and they have very Freedom Movement, they're not going anywhere. Next stage, maybe they're holding your hand and or holding your belt loop if your hands are full, because now you have other kids or whatever it is. But there's trust been built and they understand the dangers, but not quite enough that you're like you can do this on your own. Then as they get a little bit bigger, you might stand on the side of the road and watch them cross. And anytime there you see a regression so your kid just darts across the road doesn't look both ways. Lets go of your hand to chase the ball, whatever it is, then you're gonna go, we're gonna dial it back a little bit. So I know that these foundational things are fully ingrained, yes, it was a mistake. Oh, you're not in trouble. But I just really want to make sure these foundational things are in great. Same thing with online use. This may look different for everyone depends on your family, and your time and all of that. But things I will always recommend no phones and bedrooms or bathrooms. We know that is where most suggestive photos are taken. Again, not 100%. But most no phones and bedrooms or bathrooms. Secondly, cracking

Casey O'Roarty 38:40
up, I'm cracking up. I'm cracking up. I mean, the poop time would shorten. So some of the people that I live with, who are not necessarily my children go on.

Alexandra Ford 38:53
Right. I miss me change, right, there's ebbs and flows. But so when they first get a device, your device stays in the kitchen to charge overnight. And I will be going through it, I expect to have all of your passwords. This is a trust thing. So if I find out that you have an app that looks like a calculator, and when I open it up, it's a social media app, there's going to be trust that's broken there. And I'm not just going to go through your device without telling you because then I'm breaking your trust. This is how you earn privacy on your device. You are not owed privacy on your device, as your mother as your father as your caregiver. My first and foremost most important job is to keep you safe. So to do that, I am going to be going through this and blah, blah, blah. Now as you go through those stages of earning trust and all of that, maybe it's I don't go through it without you anymore. We go through it together, we discuss anything concerning we might see whatever it is. And again, anytime you see that you're like, I'm sorry, what is this? You have an Insta, fake Insta, for anybody who doesn't know what that term is? Okay, you've now lost you know, privileges to your phone. You can only use it in the family room. That's the only place you're allowed to use this and no It doesn't go with you or whatever restrictions you put on. Yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 40:09
Well, and I want to pause you for a second because I am having all of these interesting thoughts too, especially around the privacy thing, because, and I'm in agreement with what you're saying. And I think there's, you know, so those of us with older teens, we've just been like leaves in the wind. So this is real, like, we all know, I know who you are, we know who we are. But, you know, there's this conversation around, like, you know, when I was a teenager, if my parents had been listening in to my phone calls, that would have been super messed up, right. And so those of you that are thinking about that, as you listen to Alexandria, set up these limits of early device use, you can always get a landline, and let your kids be in conversation with their friends on the actual phone. Right? Like, I think we forget, it's easy to forget that just because these devices have been so normalized, that it's the same as a parent in the 80s listening in on our phone calls. It's not. And it's freaking messy, right? Because we're looking at this 12 year old who feels like I'm a part of the friend group, if I can't be in the group chat. And if you're reading the group chat that the and then they won't want to say, you know, talk to me. And even that, like, I'm watching your behavior, right? I mean, it's like, it's so messy and nuanced, right. But even inside of the messy and nuanced, there's opportunities to have conversations around, you know, how do you feel when this comes up? In your friends conversations? And is this something? Is this a way that your friends talk about things, when you're in real life? Or is it mostly, like there's so many juicy nuggets that come from being in the know of their online life that is bigger than just FeiFei, that you're doing this thing, then we're gonna rein it in, and there's consequences, they can also just be such a beautiful opportunity to connect with what is real life for them, like the minute you bring that device into their worlds, like, even as you do it, you know, like you were saying, I love that analogy of crossing the road, even as you do it together. There's so like, what I'm hearing you say is, engage, engage, engage, right, like in gauge in the process, whether they're 12, which, you know, in my opinion, is pretty young, but also pretty standard. Or even, you know, as they get older, it might be more curiosity and less monitoring, right. But you've set the groundwork, what I'm hearing you talk about is setting a groundwork where we have conversations about use, and we're having conversations around, you know, what they're seeing how they're feeling, helping them connect their own dots around this thing that just isn't going anywhere. Unless the hacker, there's a new movie out recently that I just watched that really highlights, we're all screwed if all of a sudden our phones don't work. But anyway, sorry, I could feel this like, because that's the other thing too, Alexander, I have a lot of these conversations. And I'm speaking it to around limits and boundaries. And it's like, easy to talk about outside of the moment. And then we get in there with our kids. Oh, god. Yeah. And it's like, Whoa, this is really hard to navigate, because they're also like, not, I need my device and my privacy. So I can do all the bad things. Because my daughter recently was like, I did something with her phone and she goes, Ah, she's 20. She said, Gosh, this is like the first time that I'm noticing you holding my phone and me not being full of anxiety. And I was like, Yeah, you were kind of freaky about it when you were young. Like she It was really tough with her. And she goes, You know, it's funny, I wasn't doing anything bad. I just didn't like you seeing what I was doing. But it wasn't anything bad. So that's an interesting, you know, they're tough, some of those kids 100. Anyway, I will say, Yeah,

Alexandra Ford 44:09
over the years that I've been teaching sort of online safety. I've found that we have such an this isn't a place of shame, or blame or anything like that. But we have such a laissez faire attitude to online safety because it feels so overwhelming. It's like, I can't possibly, you know, plug all the holes in this. So good luck. Like I just learned to swim. Yeah, totally. Like, I hope you figure it out. I have no idea how to handle this. Yeah. So I've learned that when I give examples. If I give the absolute most restrictive extreme path you can take, then people kind of go, Okay, well, I'm not going to do that. But I can at least check in on my kid and what they're doing sure, you know, yeah, once a month or something or sit down with them. I get asked all the time. What is the best app to put on my kids phone to keep them safe? And I'm like you are Yeah, you are engage, as you're saying, engage with them, yeah, help them understand and navigate what they're seeing. Because before they get a device, the information coming at them every day is like drinking from a garden hose, the TV commercials, books, music, billboards, depending where you live, you know, pure influence, pure sibling influence for older siblings like all of this. You give them a device, and it is now a firehose of information. And that they have not asked for Yeah. So the best thing you can do is, again, try and be that filter as much as you can to be like, Hey, how can I help you figure out how to ingest and digest the amount of information coming at you?

Casey O'Roarty 45:40
Yeah, yeah. And normalize that we're going to talk about, yeah, like, that's what I talked about too, is like, normalize, that we're going to check in. That's just what we do,

Alexandra Ford 45:50
you absolutely have to be willing to have the hard or uncomfortable or whatever conversations with your kid. Because if you aren't willing to have them, it doesn't mean they're not going to learn about that stuff. It just means they're not gonna learn about it from you, right, you're gonna learn it better from the bowels of the internet. That's not what you want. When it comes to sexuality and consent, and those sorts of things, healthy relationships, you don't want them getting their first nuggets of information about that, from you know, the bowels of the internet, you want them coming from you, and having that first conversation with you. So the other piece I talked about, and this is, you know, for any age, this works in quite well, because have conversations with your kids about everything consent, bodily autonomy, healthy relationships, you can talk about healthy relationships before your kids are exploring their sexuality, because relationships also mean with peers. And if someone's bullying you or a bully on the playground, how does that make you feel? How would you react to that? Like, how did you react to that. The other tangible tip I love to give is because as kids get older, you find yourself in the car with them a lot as you are driving them to practices and meats, and whatever they're involved in friends, houses and all of that. And it depends if you're carpooling, this may not work, but you may have those moments where it's just you and your kid in the car. Now, psychologically, it's actually easier to have hard conversations when you're in a car, or when you're walking or anything, because you're not in a confrontational, you know, position, you're not in defensive mode, looking at each other reacting to everyone's like wide eyed or squint or smirk or anything. So you're looking ahead, not reacting to each other as much. And if you find something that you like, drive past a billboard, I don't know about abortion, that might be a way to talk about sexual intimacy, depending on the age of your kid, or whatever it is, find something that gives you a way to bring something up, have the conversation and allow it to be done. The second the door opens, when you get where you going. It creates this sort of the car is Vegas, it becomes a safe place to talk to you. And they know that you're not going to kind of chase after them as they walk into swim practice. And yeah, I'm sorry, but what were you say? Did you say that you're about to have sex with your girlfriend, oh, my God. But you just create and you don't keep pressing? And if they change the subject, let them Yeah, because what you're doing, they're setting the foundation for consensual conversation, where you recognize their discomfort, and they come to trust that you won't push beyond their discomfort. Obviously, in you know, serious situations, if there's allegations of something like anything like that, that kind of goes out the window, you need information. But I think ways to create that sense of safety and like as a mom, I mean, my kids are really young, but I just want to be like, I'm sorry, what, like I need some more information about that. What just happened or whatever it is. Yeah. And my son will start reciting animal facts to me when he is like done with the conversation. And that's one of the things I've learned if I don't push them, even though all of me wants to get whatever information it is. Usually later that night, he'll come up to me and be like, Oh, this is whatever it was. Now I'm dealing with little kids little problems, right. But kids bigger problems, they say, but yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 49:10
well, there's also something to those, you know, the big kids, being someone who is willing to have hard conversations. I think there's a signaling in those car conversations that, hey, I can hold this, right, like I had mentioned earlier, you know, the work around, can I truly trust that my parent can hold this? This is part of those actions that is actually solidifying. Yes, this is a space where all of you can show up The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and I'm not going to abandon you energetically, emotionally, mentally, physically. I am here for you. I'm here for it. We're going to figure this out. I've got your back. It starts with you know even being willing to like so this is going to awkward and what do you think about This or how does this show up in your friend group? Or, you know, have they talked about this at school or I read this article, like having that bridge into some harder conversations and doing it in that side by side. I also think and I love what you talked about with the billboards, like the shows that we're watching with our kids, if our teens are willing to sit down on the couch with us, well, if we're willing to watch what they want to watch really is what it comes down to. It's a rich experience of like, whoa, you know, like, what did you think about that? I remember, I think I've talked about this on the podcast, watching a show, and it was a party. And then all of a sudden, there was jello shots. And my kids were probably elementary school age. And I was like, Oh, do you guys know what jello shots are? And you're like, No, I was like, well, they're, you know, jello. But instead of making it out of water, you make it with alcohol. So it's like having little shots of hard alcohol. And it can become really dangerous, because it tastes good. But it's, you know, blah, blah, blah, whatever. I explained what Jello Shots were, and I used it as an opportunity to kind of couch it inside of here's why it's not a great choice, not thinking that anytime soon, they were gonna see jello shots, but just dropping those seeds and having those conversations and using what's in round you in in front of you to inspire and inform those conversations, I think is really useful. Yes. And doable.

Alexandra Ford 51:22
100% Yeah, I love that. I think having those conversations, being willing to, you know, you touched on earlier, sharing a story about your son, that, you know, he came to you and said, like, I fucked up something to do with online. And so often, you know, there was just a case, here in BC in British Columbia, where I live another case, I should say, of a young boy who died by suicide after sending photos of himself, I think it was, um, he was being exploited, he was being harmed from that. And so, you know, I was being interviewed, you know, how do we prevent this and everything, I can give tips, like I'm giving you about, talk about consent, talk about relationships, talk about not sending these things online, and online safety, and all of this. But all of that needs to be wrapped in the end when you make a mistake, because you will, you are a child, you are supposed to make mistakes. And not just if you make a mistake, when you make a mistake, because you will, I will walk with you through it. I will love you through it. Yeah, we will find a way to the other side, whatever it is, whether you did something that is morally wrong, you know, or against our family values, or has gotten you in legal trouble, or you're scared, I am here. This is what we can do. This is how you can tell me I had a friend who's the cop. And he was telling me because I'm like, how do you have kids? I just had my first kid. And you know, I was like, I can't go to these conferences anymore. Like how do I listen to this? This is horrific now, like how do you trust that your kids are going to come talk to you if they get in trouble and all this. And he said we set up this thing because I'm a cop? And so even my kids are sort of like I'm not telling dad? Holy crap, no way. And he said, So we set up this thing, and it's in our junk drawer. And it's like a little card that was laminated. And I can't remember if it was like a little poem they'd written or a little contract they'd all signed. The idea of it was if you are ever too scared to tell me something that you're going to make a choice to try and cover it up. Bring me this card. And it is a reminder to me that I love you first. And we're in this together. And it will remind me not to yell not to use my cop voice not to say what the hell were you thinking? To give me a hug first? Right. I'm terrified. I'm so scared to tell you this. I need your help. Please help me first.

Casey O'Roarty 53:53
That makes me really emotional. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Alexandra. I've got like so many questions that I'm nowhere near asking you. So we have to wrap up. Thank you for this wild ride. I feel like spike as episode has been a wild ride. And I so appreciate you and the work that you're doing. And I know there's so much more to this. And what I'm really hearing is like, again, you know how powerful the relationships that we nurture with our kids are? Right? Yes, all the preventative things, yes, quit posting photos of your kids, and tighten up your privacy online. All of that. And the end of the day. The most powerful tool we have is the relationship that we nurture with our kiddos and you're just kind of touching on that again and again and again in my mind. So with that my last question that I asked all my guests is What does joyful courage mean to you? That's the name My podcast in case you forgot, just in case, joyful

Alexandra Ford 55:04
courage, it's making me think of this thing that I joke around a lot about. Because becoming a mom is the most challenging thing that I've ever done and been through going through. I never felt like, you know, mom and came naturally to me, because I'm so heavily trained in psychology and crime and all of this that I'm like, so overly aware of how terribly I could screw up my kids, that I had a really hard time finding any joy in parenting at first, especially because I was just so scared of making a mistake. And then in talking to my therapist, and her, she was telling me, you know, we all screw up our kids, they're all going to be screwed up. You just have to have the courage to keep going and to keep trying to do better. And you know, that whole piece about when you get new information, you can do better. And it's turned into this sort of funny Monterey, say, of the goalposts for me and raising my kids is understanding that no matter what, I'm going to screw them up in some way. The goal is to screw them up enough that they're funny at parties, but not so much that they're serial killers. And if those are the goalposts, then I can find joy in parenting, and I can find the courage to keep going when I know I've made mistakes, and yeah, the courage to apologize and the courage to love and the courage to parent. So that's sort of what comes to mind for that. Love

Casey O'Roarty 56:30
that. Thank you. Where can people find you and follow your work and dive into all the things that we didn't even get into? Best

Alexandra Ford 56:37
place to find me is Instagram at the laughing survivor. Parents if you want some more tips, trafficking, specific healthy relationships, boundaries, consent, all of that. I'll also direct you to my nonprofit, I have an American nonprofit based out of Wyoming called uprising, and that is uprising y o.org. So uprising wy o.org, and it has a specific tab on there for resources for parents, and there's some resources directly for youth I believe we kind of put it at 12 and older but obviously you know your kids that's my people. Yeah, yeah, check that out. It's got some videos you can watch with your kids and all sorts of different ways to talk about subjects that maybe are a little harder. And then if you go to my website www dot the laughing survivor.com You can throw your email in and sign up to find out when my memoir is going to be published. I promise I will not email you other than that because I don't have time for newsletters so you will not get newsletters from me or spam from me but you will find out when my memoir is getting published. So well

Casey O'Roarty 57:37
like what's the timeline on that because as you were telling your story I was like this needs to be a limited series on apple plus I would tune in the amount

Alexandra Ford 57:45
of times I get told like is this going to be a Netflix series or like a mini series? Like if there's someone out there who knows how to do that get at me because I yeah, I'm full up on trying new things and sucking at new things right now so I can't suck at creating

Casey O'Roarty 58:03
too well when's your memoir like what's the tentative don't

Alexandra Ford 58:06
have a timeline on mine just yet I literally about to be queering agents in that's so exciting new year this coming out in the new year. So again, if there's anyone out there who is an agent then let me know because it is written and it's pretty exciting. And it is very much set the same way I talk which is informative but a few swear words and some dark humor because it makes yeah more digestible that

Casey O'Roarty 58:28
way. Alexandra, thanks so much. This is really great to get to know you. Thank you for your generosity and sharing your story and your passion for the work that you do.

Alexandra Ford 58:37
Thank you so much for having me on.

Casey O'Roarty 58:45
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at beasts brothel.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace

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