American Outlaws: The Plight of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Living Underground, Part 2
The sound of frightened whimpering escapes from beneath the large quilt, as he rocks himself back and forth. I lift it up to see his little face full of tears as he hugs his beloved starry blanket close to his heart.
“What’s wrong, honey? Why are you crying?” I ask my seven-year-old boy. I had been gone for only five minutes, and returned to find him in this state.
He throws himself into my arms and clutches me as if for dear life. “I thought you were dead, Mommy. I thought the bad guys killed you. I thought you were dead.”
“What bad guys? I ask him. “Why did you think I was dead?”
He will not answer; he simply dissolves into tears again. The only thing I can do is wrap my arms around him and comfort him, and wonder what all his sweet blue eyes have seen.
Why now? Why did the children wait so long to tell you, their own mother, what was happening to them in the dark watches of the night? A legitimate question I have been asked repeatedly.
When abusers demonstrate in graphic detail just precisely how they will murder and dismember a child’s mother if ever he breathes a word of his abuse, it has the tendency to render him mute on the subject. During the course of such extreme trauma, a part of the child’s mind involuntarily fragments from the conscious experience. The memory of that traumatic event is then locked deeply away in the secret, hidden vault of the subconscious. This built-in survival mechanism in a child’s mind prevents him from being rendered comatose and enables him to cope with everyday life after the trauma occurs.
Only when his mind and heart feel safe and validated do the subconscious memories begin to surface. Thus begins the arduous labor of processing the excruciatingly painful memories. Simply getting out of bed in the morning can become a herculean effort, as the hidden terrors of the night start to bleed into the normal activities of the daylight hours.
This is also where the healing begins.
A word on the whole False Memory Syndrome, in regards to children allegedly making up stories of abuse. It is just that: false. If you dig into the past a little ways and do some research, you will find that Mr. “False Memories” himself, Richard Gardner, along with his cohorts, advocated for the right to freely live as a pedophile, seeking to reverse laws that protect children and to influence society into thinking that raping little girls and boys is not actually a bad thing to do. Oh sure, they didn’t put it in exactly those terms. But a carrion flower by any other name is still precisely that. And it always smells of death and decay.
It simply would not do for the child victims of such predators to reveal the truth of the sickening acts forced upon their innocent bodies and souls. They must be silenced and discredited, and swiftly!
How many men and women are walking among us today, bearing the cruel hidden scars of child sexual abuse? How many still carry the weight of undeserved shame and the painful memory of having no one to rescue them? How many were told they were lying when they gathered the courage to speak; how many more never dared utter a word because they saw what happened to those who did?
How in the world did this happen to your children without you realizing it?! Fellow mothers especially ask this question that I have demanded of myself again and again.
My husband of nearly fifteen years, William Joseph Bannister, had the outward appearance of caring for his children. He provided a good living and recurrently proclaimed his readiness to defend his girls and little boy against any potential dangers from the outside.
He described how he would want to attack and eliminate anyone who harmed his family, and patrolled our house armed with a handgun if ever we heard a suspicious noise in the darkness. He gave no indication that he was periodically waking his tiny children in the dead of night while their mother slept trustingly in the master bedroom, in order to deliver them up for torture to the barn of his father, Jay Tuhl Bannister.
Looking back, my husband’s bravado was quite the impressive performance. Congratulations, dear. You sure had me fooled.
Furthermore, the children have spoken of being given strange substances in the barn that made the world swim before their eyes and caused the taunting faces of their abusers to converge together in a dizzying blur.
Is it possible that some of those same substances were covertly administered to me on the evenings when it was necessary that I have an uninterrupted night’s sleep?
Because it was not uncommon, especially in the early years, for me to wake up and check on each of my sleeping babes, be it a toddler’s bad dream or stuffy nose, a bathroom visit, or a 2 a.m. infant feeding. Not once did I discover an empty bed with a child missing from the house. That indeed would have been cause for alarm, a call to the police, and a volley of questions. How would the abusers have explained away such a scenario?
We as a society have images in our collective mind of what a child abuser looks like: the disgruntled man in need of a shave wearing a stained white T-shirt, or the shifty-eyed loiterer with greasy hair and a trench coat.
In actuality, the majority of child predators probably look more like the courteous, well-dressed family man with a six-year university degree who sits next to you in the church pew every week.
This is a terrifying thought for every loving parent out there, begging the question: what can we do to protect our children?
There is no handbook or formula sufficient to thwart these foul specimens of humanity. The best thing you can do is to always, always trust your gut instinct. If someone or something feels “off,” if you have a sense of unease in the very core of your being -even if you cannot explain what or why–do not disregard it.
Too many of us have been taught to ignore that still small voice inside each of our hearts. It takes time to get into the practice of listening to it well, and to teach our children to do the same.
Listen to your gut, and listen to your children.
It could save their lives.
If you would like to help these children, you can contact the following to let your voice be heard.
- Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring: 804-786-2071; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam: 804-786-2211
- Alabama Governor Kay Ivey: 334-242-7100
- Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall: 334-242-7300
- Richmond, Virginia FBI: 804-261-1044
- Stafford, Virginia Detective J.G. Wright: 540-658-5210; email@example.com
- William Joseph Bannister: 202-834-9442; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Please sign the Change.org petition here. This petition includes wording you can use when contacting any of the above.
Our Alabama Family Court case number is DR-2019-500538.
Virginia Family Court case number is JJ053144-01-99.