Robert Lung and EleSondra DeRomano
DescriptionRobert Lung (50) and EleSondra DeRomano (54) remember their first meeting, share about the work they do with survivors of sex trafficking, and talk about their own healing processes.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Robert Lung
- EleSondra DeRomano
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:00 Okay, starting with name. My name is Robert lung. That is spelled l u n g. I am 50 years old. It is April 13th 2021. I am in Highlands Ranch, Colorado and my interview partner is L. My name is Alessandra de Romano known as El on my agent. 54 is April 13th. 2021. My location is Colorado. I don't remember what you just said, but that's where I'm at with Robert lung and he will be my interviewer, and our relationship is my relationship to his brother friend and survival in Mentor.
00:52 If the robber and brother in French,
00:57 So how do the first question? I guess we could just do is back and forth. So my first question to UL would be as a child. What were your hopes for the your future? What did you think you would be when you grew up so much. I still had dreams in my dream. Was I love to read, I still do. And my dream was that. I wanted to be a lawyer. So when I grew up, that's what I wanted to be. But I still feel that even though life took a different term and everything that I I still am the lawyer that I dreamt of being because I help those that others don't give a damn about. I help the people that are underprivileged and out here that others don't know about or don't particularly so.
01:57 I want to take the time to Nova.
02:04 Okay, let me ask you a question. Do you remember where we first met? And
02:13 How we met? Yes, and that's probably my favorite question out of all of these because it was so much more about my vulnerability and your crazy ass personality. That really made it for the perfect meeting. We met and a Shared Hope conference in DC and the organ organisers had put together. This Survivor only pre-conference event for all the survivors get together and it was the last place on Earth. I wanted to because I was still sort of just coming out even to myself as a survivor.
02:52 And I walked in that room. Just wanting to wave my hand and walk. Right back out and somebody was Shared, Hope you just us.
03:02 Big personality took over and you walked me through the whole room. Introducing me that all sorts of people, and it was the first time I felt like I belong with other survivors, it was mind-blowing. So I definitely remember how we met and what it was. Like, I just came up to you and grab your armor would like to make sure that you are special and that you feel special. But when you came my question to you, is that when you came into the room, I remember if I closed yesterday, but when you came into the room, like I know you just said, you felt like, I like you just wanted to say hey by whenever whatever and then but once you got in there and you actually saw
04:01 That we were all nobody could be there but survivors but actually saw how many of us there were and how down-to-earth everybody was. I mean to make you feel inside. Like, was there a certain way it made you feel inside? Cuz he has some time still to this day when I go to share. Hope you dance or see a whole lot of us together. I see your ass. I just feel happiness. I feel. I feel like it's like I'm on a beach in a sunny place and I'm safe. And it's just all good. You know what I'm saying? And that's 20 years later. That's how I feel when we all come together. So you being brand new, a newbie. You were a newbie. I mean, how did, you know, really really feel what they did it, like, hit you in the gut or what?
04:48 Mostly It Was Fear for me because you know from my wife I was threatened over and over that. If I ever told anybody anything, I'd be killed until even walking in that room among people who work. If my people that were accepted me. I still felt a lot of fear of just even admitting that I belong in the room and being in the room is, as we walk to the room and if they got more comfortable and I accept you as like, well, this is her, this isn't a show. This is really her. If she's willing to accept me. Then, I don't really care. You know, what everybody else is thinking. And then it was later that conference after my presentation. I think after you were, but you were the first person that
05:39 Take your time. You're the first person that said I belonged and I don't cuz I didn't feel like cuz I told you that we were at the the evening that evening, I said, well, you know, I didn't have the pants and I wasn't on the street and I could distinguish myself from all the other survivors because of how different my life in my experience was, and I kept sort of discounting it and discrediting myself saying that I didn't belong. And you finally like that grabbed, me and said, Robert know, you're a Survivor. You were trafficked in like, even though I know intellectually new, and I don't think that I am emotionally knew it. I didn't really accept it. And so it was that, you know, in that whole experience that whole weekend was just, it was a big experience for me.
06:29 Okay. Well I know is my car jumped in there? Another time with your childhood and growing up. What do you want to do? How has your life been different than what you imagined growing up a knighted states. Speaking to people on educating people on human trafficking, the difference from prostitution. I will never thought I'd have to be running a nonprofit for the second time doing multiple.
07:10 You just do it multiple, you know thing. That's just something that I never.
07:16 Would have thought coming to you. Now. I'm coming from Dad. That was a pill for Mom and Dad was a hoe. You know, it just the life that I live gang leader shooting, somebody locked up. You know, it's just, you know, it just amazes me sometimes when I look back and think about everything that happened, then to where I am now because I remember the people that adopt me and brought me to Toledo on I-17. I remember when I turn 21 my father tells the story often that he cried because he did not think I would live to be 21. So, you know, I think back, I'm back and I'm just, I'm just thankful that.
07:59 God allowed me to be able to, to do what I'm doing. You know, I have a strong faith in God and I know about him that I won't even be here. So he gave me the strength to endure. What I endured when that was that part of my life to to to say, you're going to be strong enough. You're my child when it's time. This is not going to hurt the way going to hurt now. And that's the truth. You know, it doesn't hurt me. You know, that's my password. Nothing. Nothing. It doesn't bother me any more. Nothing. So, I don't know if that answers your question. Did I ask?
08:41 What? Okay. Well, this is the question. I don't even know so I can't wait to get the answer. What is the biggest influence in your life?
08:51 That's another hard one for me. And I don't know what sort of a weird question, but I think they like when I hear that question when I think, is, you know, who was a big influence in your, what was what helped, you know, part of my, my growing up or whatever and I think, first and foremost is my mom mean she failed to protect me from my dad, who is my transfer, but in all the other ways, she didn't feel like she taught me about God, and Faith, and Hope. And she gave me when, you know, when we were away from him.
09:33 She know, give me a sense of peace and finding peace and finding calm finding good things in the world, you know, even if it's just for a little windows, and it was just tiny little windows in between all the stuff that went on. But there was one of my biggest influences, my life with my mom and, and her mom, her mom, because my, in my maternal grandmother, because it hurt. She's, she's passed away. But her nickname who we all called her was granny Franny. And she was the one person that was not afraid of my dad. Everybody else on the planet respected or feared or both my dad cuz he was such an imposing person when so powerful. So physically strong so security. So abusive didn't matter. My granny Franny was and she was Tiny. She was like, maybe 10 compared to him.
10:33 And she care, she wasn't scared of him. There wasn't anything he could do or say, or intimidate her, and she would stand up to him and call him out. She didn't know about, she knew about the physical abuse, but she didn't know about the sexual use for the trash. Can your torture, or any of that. But, like, just seeing her courage and sharing her face and then, my mom and her face, and her getting in those moments of Peace. Those were too. Probably the most influential people in my life. And my mom still is like, she's got Alzheimer's, not safe this. That's what influence my life.
11:25 I think that's I think that's a good influence in a lot of Our Lives is the faith in the Hope knowing that that there's something out there and we want to give that to others in the rock face. We want to give them hope that we made it so we can make it, you can make it. You know, I'm saying. And I think that's what we do when we talk to other survivors or victims even before they become survivors. They don't even know their survival building, know their victims, you know what I'm saying? So that's, that's a stronger.
11:58 My turn in you or to you to break the generational cycle. That's a no-brainer with the generation cyclist.
12:15 With thirteen women and my mother was his bottom and you know, he my mother came home. One day. She told him somebody called her a bit. She went and shot and killed the two men that did it. So,
12:40 We were taken from her. We were placed in a foster care outside of my house and raped the very first night. I was 4 years old, going all the way real quick to the, to the, to the, to the whatever. The important part to me was that
12:56 The abuse. They take me for my parents to where I wasn't supposed to be good or whatever, but then they put me somewhere where I'm getting abused and getting hurt. But you would ruin me because you say, they're not good, but you play way worse. So then eventually when I got out of foster care and back with my mother, her boyfriend was raping me. I was running away and then the people that my father kicked, Kiln at me and try to meet from 11 to 12 and 1/2 years old. So the generational curse and this part was to wear my my my hat and I have sons. They are, what changed, what changed me and what made me realize that I need to break this? Because I never want them to go to anything remotely close to what I went through, and I made a promise to myself that they would never have to go through that. So,
13:45 I got strung out on crack, you know, so I have my first son. I I let him go stay with my auntie cuz I want the system in my kid's life because of what happened to me have my second son. I let him go stay with my auntie cuz I'm smoking crack and I know I can't keep my keys. Some people did but I know what can happen with my son. Everybody to tell me you're going to get out and do something. I don't know what it is. But you're going to get out of this crap. Shit. And I'm like, yeah. Okay. So we my third son, on my ex husband came home from prison and he was like, you look less than let you know, let's let's get it together, you know, and then I was like, yeah, I need to get together for my kids. I need to do what I need to do. So I got my kids back and I decided then that I need to make a difference in the different needs to be that I used to be able to tell my story, and I need to cuz I know I'm strong, nothing weak about me. So I already knew that this is what God was positioning me for, and then,
14:45 Because the damn I have, I have broke the generational curse, not that I wanted to, I wanted to in the beginning, but I have none.
14:55 So that's to your question.
15:08 Is the favorite when it comes down to this, this is a very very very tough issue. Even with you sometime. I see that you're still healing Austin-Healey, but I guess I'm hearing different way, but I can look at you sometimes, you know and know that it's still whole lot of pain or or something might have just hit you when we're talkin. I can just see it all in you so
15:33 What what would you want to be your advice to the people that go through it? Like you go through, it seems like me and you, you know, I'm just different. I don't know how I'm just different but there's a lot of people like you.
15:50 In that category that when you say a certain thing, you know, I'm really bothers you and you still reliving and you're still going through it. Now. I 51 years old. So what will be your advice to do to them that of things they can do to
16:07 Calm yourself like you do, like what could they do?
16:11 So they sleep next to me that question would be like, what are your sources of grounding or resiliency or recovery? You seem like, what would, what would you recommend? They do if they're still suffering?
16:32 Oh my gosh. Go ahead. Go ahead. Judge Robert. What would be their grounding to us? So it's I think it's special for everybody. But the first step is to figure out what helps the individual for me. What am I go to Sue's music. I just literally feel like I am taking some where else depending on the song and so music is something. If I feel like, I'm either if you know, if the bad thought to come in or a flashback or, or your body memory, or something music and help me reset pretty strongly, pretty quickly. I did a lot of work and my therapy for was called. Well, I don't know if there's an official name for it. But what I figured it out, or what I called. It was like, inner child work, where I would with my first air.
17:32 I would visualize it was kind of like a meditation and I would visualize going to a place where I could physically see in my mind, one of the children of me for the child. I was. So when I do my inner child work, I go visit the, the six-year-old me or I go visit to a nine-year-old, me or I go visit their, the thirteen-year-old me and that helps me to connect. Like if I'm feeling really overwhelmed or something just came out and surprise me if I've been stupid triggered, if I go to visualize visiting them, know, my first instincts, as I want to comfort them and tell them it's going to be okay or that I'm here or that I'm listening or that they're safe, whatever. But I get back from them, to of like, this is what pissed me off. You know, this is why I'm triggered me. So I could be from my youngest sell for my middle child or my, you know, in a child of like, why am I feeling like? I'm triggered. Her feeling like nobody's listening or feel like I'm in danger.
18:32 Connecting that way helps me. Try and process cuz sometimes you do for me at least the brain takes over and Reptilian Brain. Is there a higher functioning brain is shut off and isn't listening in? So I have to try and figure out why am I so emotionally reactionary instead of a control and you know, who I want to be? So like in a music some kind of like meditation or therapy thing since you don't have you can see all the stuff. I got it all over the house. So those are grounding techniques your fresh air talking to Sunny. If I can talk to you somebody that I trust. That's really, really difficult for me to do cuz that goes back to the whole tell somebody and I'll kill you.
19:32 That'd be my, some of my I just and, you know, just self-care mean, just, you know, as much as I suffered and it started, you know, I was getting abused before I was out of diapers. I remember him taking photographs of me and him taking a photograph of me, posing for him, and being proud that I wasn't wearing diapers. And so I know from that memory that it was happening when I still had diapers on. So I know it's probably 3 or 4 years old and it was the sexual abuse. And then the trafficking from 6, to almost 10 and then more sexual abuse and torture till 12 or 13, you know, that was such a long time and there was the constant threat of being killed. So
20:27 A lot of that stuff is really hard to know, what this your whole life, you know for for so long to say this before we got started, people can hear me laughing on here and everything else. That's why we made it through and we're trying to help other. So we have to do this in order to, you don't have to be ourselves. We can't be anybody else. So, you know, I just want people to understand that this is part of me. This is part of how I deal with everything. But, but okay, with that being said, don't you think that is that is something else that a lot of normal kid? They say, don't remember things. I haven't seen them when they're 3 and 4 years old, but, but I can guarantee you a whole lot of us as survivors. Remember that stuff. You know what, remember it very vividly, you know.
21:27 I'm saying like it's a good thing, but it's but it's not. So that's funny. You said around that time you remember back?
21:38 Mid Placer, maybe towards the end. I don't know, but it describe your community. What do you love about it? What would you change? But I want to hear about your communit, you created.
22:01 Toledo, you know, you talked about, tell me the direct question.
22:19 So you have created a community of people, whether it's it's no and I don't think it's just for traffic youth. I think it's rat rescues. So, think about that Community. Like what do you love about the community? What drives you with, what compels you, what do you hope for for your community people that you were helping?
22:44 I'm different. I'm Cut From a Different Cloth. I am I don't have time for all the BS. I ain't got time for that. I ain't fake. I'm just real so it's either you like me or you don't there's no gray area. So they cover anything that I do. So what I love about what I do is that
23:01 Trying to save people's lives and whether they're a child or what do they do. When I meet them, they can see that I'm genuine and that I'm real. I'm not going to push it. Then I ain't got time for that. If you ask me, do your hair look good and you know that your hair is fuck. The bo asked me if it was good. Cuz I know it looks terrible. You know, I'm going to tell you the truth and people know that about me. So what I'm so happy about is that they use in the city of Toledo and anywhere. I go all over the United States after I read to them, the my real story and after I connect with them, they trust me, you know, I'm safe, and they listen to what I'm saying because I'm just putting it out there for. I'm not saying I read this out of a book. I'm not saying. Oh, well, you know, I was texting me abused and I like that, you know, I'm saying? Don't misunderstand me. And this was terrible and I'm like, I was fuked up in somebody's. Fuck me up and it has to stop. So, let's listen.
24:01 We can do it when I'm talking to adults and then with the kids. All right, let's let's make a change. So what I'm most happy about is that when I come in contact with people, no matter where it is, they can see that. I'm a very genuine person and they can see that. I'm not going to push it there and I'm not going to lie with them and that I'm going to do the best that I can. And it takes a village and take some Nations or where I would like to change it that people stand up and realize this is something that we didn't ask for. This is something that was put on, I don't care if she was traffic and then she's 18. 19 out here. Smoking crack here on out. But if you went through what we went through, so how you going to come at us and call us names cuz you ain't cuz you would have been able to handle it. So I would just hope and pray and I'll continue to because I do see subtle changes. I do see people trying to take notice just like these interviews right now, you know what I mean?
25:01 And he's can make a huge difference. You know, I do see some progression, but I would like to see a whole lot more.
25:09 That answer your question.
25:17 This is a good one. Okay, how would you like to be remembered?
25:29 I don't know that I was Meet the mark.
25:45 What is this a? I don't know that I always hit the mark, but I'd like to be remembered as person who was good at listening to others, especially for what I do for a living. But also for the, the kids that I helped that, they know that I heard them that I was listening to them. And then I was kind and generous, I think, you know, I don't really care where I end up with her. It's, you know, something. Now the middle of nowhere with nothing or if it's, you know, some top of the food chain. I don't really care about that. I just want to know that I was kind. I was generous and listen to people, I helped someone and it came up with the bench sitting down. Hollering at me. I would have, I would have changed.
26:45 What Legacy do you want to leave for your family? Your boys at for the community?
26:55 For my boys just that they're healthy. Good. Men. You know, when is I look at both of them there and they're so different but that they're both, you know, kind respectful good men. Men of Integrity people who can be trusted that they respect everyone else, you know that they're just a good people that you want to leave yourself and your kids. Cuz that's what you are for real. I'm just telling you I think that you know, I look at them like to see all their potential in a distinct. Okay, just no make good decisions, be good. People respect others, contribute be generous. That's what I hope for them. If it was for like a bigger picture like in cider Community, whatever.
27:49 You know, I think about the anti-trafficking world and I think well, you know Legacy of either that I made a difference for other boys and men know because they're so ignore it. And we're so off the radar screen and every Google in the traffic, you know, especially Google sex trafficking, 90% of the images are girls as if boys are trafficked and they don't count. You know, how painful that messages that we don't count. We don't matter. Nobody's out there to help us. Nobody's at the rest of us that, you know, there is a absolute tiny, little handful of groups. That would actually help me specifically help poison Vine for a thousand organizations to exclusively. Help girls, and women.
28:32 But, tell me named Fox that help voicemail and exclusively help poison it, okay? Now.
28:44 I'm a man. So, I mean, I've had a lot of young men that came to me. They hadn't told nobody else. I cannot tell a young boy.
28:59 Hi, he would feel being raped by another man. You get what I'm saying? I can't do that until a girl cuz I ain't gay but you haven't had sex with women and girls being trafficked deal yet multiple, but I can't see. So I would love to and you know, I would I would love to do that. But there's certain things that I can't do that, only you can and you're only one person to. So there's not a lot of male survivors that are coming out and I'm going to say it cuz I ain't no punk. So I ain't going to be week. I'm going to say what I want to say. I like there's not a lot of real male survivors coming out whose intention and integrity is to actually help these boys and not profit or not gain from what they're doing. And that's just how it is. I'm sorry to say, so yeah, you are right. There's not a lot of arm of organizations. So that's something we got to try to fight for, you know.
29:58 To the Future. So, you know, I got your back so we will work on that.
30:05 10 minutes. I was there a specific person or event that inspired you to start this work. I feel like you said, your boys already. What do you wish more people knew or understood about human trafficking in the site to ended?
30:27 I just wish they open their eyes and listen, you know what pisses me off? Is that I understand and I say this people get pissed at me all the time, not being like that. Let me say this to you real quick. I'm going to say what I'm going to say. I apologize. But I stay and did not say they look just because you have alphabetical letters behind your name. Does not mean that, you know, more than us because we have alphabetical letters behind your name to and their soht Survivor a human trafficking. We didn't ask for these letters. We didn't want to, but we have them. So just cuz you went to school and got master degree doctorate, degree in all of this stuff. That don't mean that, you know, more than that because you ain't live it. So why can't we just work together?
31:25 And then we can make a difference. It's all about working together. Don't just ask, don't just seemed cuz you went to school for 15, freaking years that you got more experience and you're better than me because I was on the traffic for 2 years old. I would hope that people will start having no more open mind when it comes to that. The people that have degrees are the people that think, I wish they'd come down a little bit off of your high horse and say, Okay, let's listen, and what can we do together?
31:59 You don't have to be on a paper if you can I know something else question, but I just want to say that you are.
32:18 You are awesome person, and you are.
32:23 I have so much to give and you give so much and I just want you, where you are and I love you to death, but I just want you to know that that your story is very
32:34 If not unique.
32:37 To some other people because they're actually live in it or have just or have just lived it or have lived it and buy you coming out saying the things like you said, it's all kind of girls out here kind of women is a whole lot of us out here that we have been trafficked almost the same way or even if we were to happen familiar, it was inside of my family and this is what happened to you, raising you, raising Sons. Now, you know what I'm saying? So is very commendable what you do. And I just wanted to say that that I'm I'm very, very proud of you on myself. So let me ask you this. My last test question.
33:23 In this movement.
33:28 Mommy, daddy.
33:33 Okay, this is a good one. This can end on a happier. Note. Do you have any favorite stories from your journey?
33:44 Hopefully, I can do that too. Cuz I got to go with us at the end.
33:52 Ms. Word.
33:57 I don't know.
34:03 And say, it's the 90 cover that. And, you know, that there's the Gap is that there's not enough services for boys and men.
34:09 I don't know. I'm stupid.
34:15 Okay, how about this one?
34:17 That's a tough one. I thought about skipping that one.
34:31 Stop hating and hurting yourself. When I feel like sometimes I've done as much damage to myself is to as many times as I was trafficked in. This many times. I was tortured and everything else. Sometimes I feel like I've done as much damage to myself as was done to me and it's so hard. I mean, I know I can say that same thing intellectually. I know it wasn't my fault intellectually. I know, I'm not to blame into life that I know that there's no reason to hate myself. I hate myself.
35:06 You know, I can't I can't get there. I haven't gotten there. Either to forgive myself or forgive those who hurt me? Betrayed me. So yourself to being stop hurting yourself. Stop hating yourself. It wasn't your phone. And now it feels like that, but it wasn't, you know, start loving yourself easy. If I forgive myself for this hard, if I take
35:31 What advice would you give your younger self?
35:35 Me I won't get mine. I don't give my stuff. No advice. I think I'm pretty damn cool through what I went through and I believe this, I said, when I speak, I went through. What I went through because God had a better plan for me, even and I tell that you've heard my story, even when all those things were happening to me. I was up there playing with God. They were just violated my body, you know, that's why I lose my mind for real. People must have lost my mind. That's why. That's why I'm able to do what I do without the without the, I'm just blessed. I don't have the triggers. I don't have the, it's like, it's gone. It's like you say yesterday.
36:24 Is why I thought just like you said, you can't get it back. That's exactly how my past is except for when I when I tell it to people but just sit and in it and it pops up and just hurts me know. I don't get that part. You don't have that kind of power over me cuz I already know they had that kind of power over me. It would destroy me that I haven't moved on from where I was still holds power in selecting pimps. Dim the tricks. And hold. I'm refusing to anybody but God had that kind of power over me again. Ever in my life. I'll die first.
37:00 So, I Mark, I had in this time to call 224, I had marked. One question, is the last question I wanted? And it was what you already asked me. Which was, how would you like to be remembered or what Legacy would you want to leave behind for your family or your community? I will want to be remembered as the crazy lady that lives on everybody, that no matter whether she knew you or whether she did it. She was going to love on you and trying to show you that you are somebody that you deserve to be your cat. Where you at? What you doing that, you deserve to be loved on that? You are somebody. You are a human being and no matter what happened to you and your life, you still deserve love. So I would like to be remembered the back and that I'm just the type of person that I don't. I don't just have time for games. I'm a straight-up person. I like to be remembered that. I don't talk that bullshit. That I'll talk to talk and I walk the walk that I ain't got time for no BS.
37:59 So that was the two for. Did I answer both of the two four questions? That's what do you mean? Remember by or what's Legacy? If you feel like there's something else, I forgot what I said, it was. My thought I did whatever my now.
38:19 You asked me to and then you asked me to add you back to you, which was the
38:27 Story of your journey. You want to share a story for me? Where is that Linda Smith have come from all over the country and we just love on each other so much that our Journeys together. Make us some who we are. And if she didn't give us this opportunity, I would have never been able to meet Robert and so many other survivors. So I give a shout out to Linda Smith, but I give a shout out to all of us coming together and we learn from each other cuz one person can't change the world but together unified we can't. So that's my story about my journey.
39:21 I'm done. With who?
39:26 Is the