Part 2: Listen to Your Gut; Listen to Your Children

American Outlaws: The Plight of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Living Underground, Part 2

Melody Bannister

Read Part 1 here

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.

William Joseph Bannister

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.

Jay Tuhl Bannister with his wife

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;
  • 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;
  • William Joseph Bannister: 202-834-9442;;

Please sign the 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.

33 thoughts on “Part 2: Listen to Your Gut; Listen to Your Children

  1. I worked for our local sheriff’s department for 7 years as a corrections officer. After I left 2 officers were arrested for child molestation type charges. One of those I actually considered a friend. He was molesting his own kids and grandkids. I never dreamed he was capable of this,
    but we truly never really know anyone. Prior to working at the sheriff’s department a family friend and well known detective was also charged with the same crimes. His victim was his grandaughter. I’ve said all of this to say that I do believe you. The monsters I’ve mentioned above looked and presented themselves to be outstanding law abiding men when in reality they were monsters! I’m so sorry for what you all are going through. I’m praying for you and your children.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Why is one of the person to contact at the bottom is the dads name? And the justice system that was against them?

    And yes his wife looks terrified and you can tell something is wrong!


  3. Melody if you can read this, a news outlet has released that you were spotted in Lexington ky near alumni dr. PLEASE DON’T RETURN THERE! Its plastered on the news where you have been spotted in my home town and I don’t want you and your babies found. Praying for you all. I wish I could help if you are in my area


  4. I live in New York. If y’all ever need a place up this way, I don’t care when it is or for how long, let me know. Seriously ❤️ You are clearly a amazing mother! In times when the rest of the world heads turned dark your babies ha e you there showing them that you love them, you will protect them at all cost and believe them when they come to you. If some one had advocated for me it would have changed my life. God bless you and the wonderful people your children will grow into because they have you as a mother.


  5. Oh my gosh!! I’m on your side Melody and pray things get handled correctly for the safety of you and your children. The woman in the photo looks scared as shit if you ask me! I know each state is different regarding these issues but, I pray the truth wins and your children can truly start the necessary steps of healing. Childhood traumas such as theirs is not to be taken lightly. My prayers are with you all!!


  6. Please be careful if you are in Kentucky. The local news is saying you all have been spotted in Lexington and asking locals to help by reporting anymore sightings. I did not know the other side of the story, meaning the truth, until my friend shared that you had a blog on facebook. Many are unaware of the full story, only what the news is reporting. So very sad. So very wrong. My thoughts are with you and your children. They are strong and brave to come forward with all they have endured. You are strong and brave standing to protect them in the way you are!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dee, there is a form letter on the petition that you can use to help you figure out what to say! The numbers at the end of these posts are mostly for high government authorities who have not had any involvement in this awful miscarriage of justice. This is why we need to contact the Virginia and Alabama governors and DAs, so they can put heat on the people below them who have messed this up so badly!


  7. You all authorities involved, don’t cover your eyes and leave these mother and children be abuse any more. PLEASE have the guts to do something to help them, don’t be a coward, a mothers instinct is given from God, you all males will never understand what a mother is capable of doing for the safety of her children, but know that your own mother would have done anything for you. So please please if you can’t help this mother and her children at least don’t hurt her anymore by turning her in authorities. There are much in the law, authorities, religious and politicians that are dirty, crooked, untrustworthy and evil. Open your eyes and do something, don’t turn your back to the corruption, that just make you an accomplice!


  8. These poor kids sounds like they gave up life of luxury .and their dad and grandfather belong under the jail at the very least .i pray you find justice for you and your kids


  9. NEVER trust CPS EVER!
    If they come to your home saying they were called (usually anonymously) regarding you or your children, DO NOT LET THEM IN…they cannot come into your home without a court order and varies from state to state but you DO NOT have to let them in your home to question you or your children because they are trained to lie and twist EVERYTHING said to build a case against you. DO NOT even be baited at the door by being questioned. They will use anything you say against you. SHUT THE DOOR!! That being said, Melody, you and your children have a place to stay, visit whatever you all need here in Sunset Beach, N.C.


  10. Hello, I’m one of your 13 years old’s friends from school, I don’t know if you want me to say her name but please tell her it’s the kid with the red hair that sat next to her last year, she was a great friend and I had no clue this is what was happening, I thought she moved I miss her and I’m praying for you all non of you should have to go through this I’m so sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Melody, you mentioned Dr Gardner in this post. You and your readers might like to read this article about him. Quote from the article —

    “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a theory developed by Richard Gardner, MD, who claimed that PAS is ‘a disorder of children, arising almost exclusively in child-custody disputes, in which one parent (usually the mother) programs the child to hate the other parent (usually the father).’ The theory was developed in 1985 and was based on Gardner’s own clinical experience, and not on scientific research of any kind.”

    Also, I have read a fair bit about the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the names of the people who founded it. Dr Richard Gardner is not one of those names. You can research this for yourself if you go do a simple internet search for “Fiona Barnett Eyes Wide Open’. Fiona’s book is free: you can download it as a PDF.


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