Stay Current With O.U.R. – Rescue Report

Stay Current With O.U.R. – Rescue Report

Live every Wednesday at 3:30 pm MDT on Facebook, Operation Underground Railroad’s Founder and CEO Tim Ballard will be presenting a special message to O.U.R. supporters around the world. The live event will also include operation updates, special stories from the field, aftercare efforts and much more.

The Rescue Report first launched just a few weeks ago with Ballard talking directly to parents and providing them with four ways to protect their children from sex predators. If you missed it, you can still catch a recording of it by going to Operation Underground Railroad’s Facebook page HERE. Ballard followed up the next day with answers to questions people wrote in during the live event. In addition to answering questions, Ballard shared ways in which he is able to get out of the dark place that he works in and fill his life with light.

O.U.R. is developing a number of ways to get its message out. The Rescue Report on Facebook Live is just one of many features. The ultimate goal is to involve everyone, as awareness generates interest, and interest results in new Abolitionist ($5/mo recurring donors) that make it possible to rescue and help more victims of sex trafficking.

The first Rescue Report generated over 40,000 viewers, which is huge, but it could be a lot more. With over 700 million subscribers to Facebook, O.U.R. is hoping to reach at least one million in the near future. Abolitionists can help O.U.R. by liking and sharing the Rescue Report on their personal Facebook pages, as well as other O.U.R. content.

Ballard says, “Good people don’t know about this plague because they aren’t searching for these kinds of things. It’s hard to get good people to fight a fight they don’t know about. We need to help people know about it.”

One way you can help is to like and share this message with as many people as possible. Awareness is the first key in stopping sex trafficking. Help people be aware; like and share!

Sex Trafficking Terms You Should Know

Sex Trafficking Terms You Should Know

Trafficking Terms:

The following list of key terms used in sex trafficking is published in the book Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children by Linda Smith.
To learn more, order your copy of Renting Lacy today.*

Automatic — A term denoting the victim’s “automatic” routine when her pimp is out of town, in jail, or otherwise not in direct contact with those he is prostituting. Victims are expected to comply with the rules and often do so out of fear of punishment or because they have been psychologically manipulated into a sense of loyalty or love. All money generated on “automatic” is turned over to the pimp. This money may be used to support his concession/phone account or to pay his bond if he’s in jail.

Bottom — A female appointed by the trafficker/pimp to supervise the others and report rule violations. Operating as his “right hand,” the Bottom may help instruct victims, collect money, book hotel rooms, post ads, or inflict punishments on other girls.

Branding — A tattoo or carving on a victim that indicates ownership by a trafficker/pimp/gang.

Brothel (a/k/a Cathouse or Whorehouse) — These establishments may be apartments, houses, trailers, or any facility where sex is sold on the premises. It could be in a rural area or nice neighborhood. Most brothels have security measures to prevent attacks by other criminals or provide a warning if law enforcement are nearby. The security is two sided–to keep the women and children in, as well as robbers out. The places often are guarded (and open) 24 hours a day, but some have closing times in which the victims are locked in from the outside. Victims may be kept in this location for extended periods of time, or rotated to other locations every few days.

Caught A Case — A term that refers to when a pimp or victim has been arrested and charged with a crime.

Choosing Up — The process by which a different pimp takes “ownership” of a victim. Victims are instructed to keep their eyes on the ground at all times. According to traditional pimping rules, when a victim makes eye contact with another pimp (accidentally or on purpose), she is choosing him to be her pimp. If the original pimp wants the victim back, he must pay a fee to the new pimp. When this occurs, he will force the victim to work harder to replace the money lost in transaction. (See Reckless Eyeballing)

Circuit — A series of cities among which prostituted people are moved. One example would be the West Coast circuit of San Diego, Las Vegas, Portland, and the cities between. The term can also refer to a chain of states such as the “Minnesota pipeline” by which victims are moved through a series of locations from Minnesota to markets in New York.

Daddy — The term a pimp will often require his victim to call him.

Date — The exchange when prostitution takes place, or the activity of prostitution. A victim is said to be “with a date” or “dating.”

Escort Service — An organization, operating chiefly via cell phone and the internet, which sends a victim to a buyer’s location (an “outcall”) or arranges for the buyer to come to a house or apartment (an “in-call”); this may be the workplace of a single woman or a small brothel. Some escort services are networked with others and can assemble large numbers of women for parties and conventions.

Exit Fee — The money a pimp will demand from a victim who is thinking about trying to leave. It will be an exorbitant sum, to discourage her from leaving. Most pimps never let their victims leave freely.

Family/Folks — The term used to describe the other individuals under the control of the same pimp. He plays the role of father (or “Daddy”) while the group fulfills the need for a “family.”

Finesse Pimp/Romeo Pimp — One who prides himself on controlling others primarily through psychological manip­ulation. Although he may shower his victims with affection and gifts (especially during the recruitment phase), the threat of violence is always present.
Gorilla (or Guerilla) Pimp — A pimp who controls his victims almost entirely through physical violence and force.

“John” (a/k/a Buyer or “Trick”) — An individual who pays for or trades something of value for sexual acts.

Kiddie Stroll – An area known for prostitution that features younger victims.

Lot Lizard — Derogatory term for a person who is being prostituted at truck stops.

Madam — An older woman who manages a brothel, escort service or other prostitution establishment. She may work alone or in collaboration with other traffickers.

Out of Pocket — The phrase describing when a victim is not under control of a pimp but working on a pimp-controlled track, leaving her vulnerable to threats, harassment, and violence in order to make her “choose” a pimp. This may also refer to a victim who is disobeying the pimp’s rules.

Pimp Circle — When several pimps encircle a victim to intimidate through verbal and physical threats in order to discipline the victim or force her to choose up.

Quota — A set amount of money that a trafficking victim must make each night before she can come “home.” Quotas are often set between $300 and $2000. If the victim returns without meeting the quota, she is typically beaten and sent back out on the street to earn the rest. Quotas vary according to geographic region, local events, etc.

Reckless Eyeballing — A term which refers to the act of looking around instead of keeping your eyes on the ground. Eyeballing is against the rules and could lead an untrained victim to “choose up” by mistake.

Renegade — A person involved in prostitution without a pimp.

Seasoning — A combination of psychological manipulation, intimidation, gang rape, sodomy, beatings, deprivation of food or sleep, isolation from friends or family and other sources of support, and threatening or holding hostage of a victim’s children. Seasoning is designed to break down a victim’s resistance and ensure compliance.

Squaring Up — Attempting to escape or exit prostitution.

Stable — A group of victims who are under the control of a single pimp.
The Game/The Life — The subculture of prostitution, complete with rules, a hierarchy of authority, and language. Referring to the act of pimping as ‘the game’ gives the illusion that it can be a fun and easy way to make money, when the reality is much harsher. Women and girls will say they’ve been “in the life” if they’ve been involved in prostitution for a while.

Track (a/k/a Stroll or Blade) — An area of town known for prostitution activity. This can be the area around a group of strip clubs and pornography stores, or a particular stretch of street.

Trade Up/Trade Down — To move a victim like merchandise between pimps. A pimp may trade one girl for another or trade with some exchange of money.

Trick — Committing an act of prostitution (verb), or the person buying it (noun). A victim is said to be “turning a trick” or “with a trick.”

Turn Out — To be forced into prostitution (verb) or a person newly involved in prostitution (noun).

Wifeys/Wife-in-Law/Sister Wife — What women and girls under the control of the same pimp call each other. (See Family/Folks and Stable.)
* Listed on Sharedhope International’s website. Quoted from the book: Renting Lacy

Operation Underground Railroad’s Aftercare Program: Unity and Collaboration

Operation Underground Railroad’s Aftercare Program: Unity and Collaboration

In a world of division Operation Underground Railroad longs for collaboration to serve those in need of safe and loving homes. At this time O.U.R. finds it most effective to partner with well-established existing facilities who understand the culture and the community best, according to O.U.R.’s Director of Aftercare, Jessica Mass.

Operation Underground Railroad has now partnered with homes in over 15 countries and that number continues to grow as Mass reaches out to potential partners that share the same vision and passion about empowering survivors of trafficking.

“One of the major factors I am looking for when vetting an aftercare home is the long-term vision of what it means to provide care,” says Mass. “This factor is vital because some facilities might have all the standard areas of care, but we have to find partners with the mindset, ‘Once you’re here, you’re family for life.’” Additional areas of importance when vetting aftercare partners are: holistic services, mental, physical, educational, medical, and vocational training, as well as transparency.

There is one particular aftercare facility O.U.R. has been developing a relationship with in Africa for nearly a year. Providing resources and expertise has been a top priority. O.U.R. has also brought in professionals to train workers, and assisted with many other additional needs. This collaboration has laid the foundation for a mutual feeling of trust and unity.

Community Collaboration:
This past month Operation Underground Railroad chose this aftercare home for its first official humanitarian trip. Vetted professionals assisted in providing skills and training in their particular area of expertise.

These humanitarian trips are also supported through those who want to help survivors but aren’t sure what they can do. As a result, O.U.R. has created Suitcases with a Mission that donors can assemble with family, friends, neighbors, church groups, etc.

There are several different themed suitcases that aftercare centers are able to use. Examples of the themed suitcases are: Sport Suitcases, Craft Suitcases, Kitchen Suitcases, Health and Beauty suitcases. O.U.R. provides a list of items that go into the suitcase. Donors provide the suitcase, which can either be used or new, however, all items put inside the suitcase need to be new. Once the suitcase is filled and ready to go, it will be taken by the O.U.R. Aftercare group on their next humanitarian trip.

On this particular humanitarian trip to Africa, Mass and her team took a few different Suitcases with a Mission; a Health and Beauty Suitcase and a Craft Suitcase to the aftercare home. These were filled with beauty supplies, hygiene kits, books, and journals. “The girls absolutely loved the journals,” says Mass. One girl, in particular, was overjoyed. “She started jumping up and down, running through the house with excitement; she was thrilled.” Mass says this girl enjoys writing and hopes to become an author one day. Writing can also be a very therapeutic part of the emotional healing processing.

The children in this aftercare home range in age from 12-18. Through the love and healing they experience here, they are empowered to continue their education. Eventually they will find a career they enjoy with the various skill-sets they have learned because of the aftercare help they have received. This often happens through the loving care of the staff that have the mentality of a family unit.

One survivor, now in her early 20s, has returned to help these younger girls who are going through the healing process- the same process that she once went through after being a victim of sex trafficking. She is studying to become a social worker and is giving back to those who helped her find a new life. This survivor told us that she has a strong belief that families come in all different ways. To those that were family to her, she now assists by being family to others.

This young woman represents the hope O.U.R. has for all those who are rescued; to become empowered to find their own purpose in life and help others along the journey. It can be a long and difficult road, but it is possible with the help of O.U.R. and its aftercare partners, who are full of heart.

We appreciate the efforts of all those involved in the healing process for victims around the world. There are so many wonderful aftercare facilities and individuals that provide critical support to the healing journey for these girls.

If you or your group is looking for a humanitarian service project in conjunction with the Aftercare program, please consider contacting O.U.R.’s Volunteer Coordinator, Jani Dix at Jani@ourrescue.org.

There is something EACH of us can do to make a difference through unity and collaboration. Thank you for being a part of the O.U.R. family!

A Voice Against Sex Trafficking

A Voice Against Sex Trafficking

By Monique Derr

A grain of sand on a beach. A drop of water in the ocean. What can one person possibly do to fight something as huge and catastrophic as sex trafficking?

Too often we feel like there is nothing we can do to make a difference. We see travesties in the world, and it breaks our hearts; weighs us down. We know it is wrong. We want it to stop, but assume that we alone cannot do enough, and so for the sake of self preservation, we go on with our lives. This feeling of insignificance is not accurate. It is a lie. We are so much more powerful than we realize. Every one of us has something to offer, every one of us is unique and valuable and needed. Every one of us can make a difference.

Recording artist Nicole Sheahan knows this well. For her, music has become her platform for creating awareness and educating the public on the realities of slavery today. “When I heard about human trafficking, I thought there couldn’t be anything worse for someone to experience and be trapped in. It moved my heart,” said Sheahan. “I think about Jesus Christ and his ministry, when he was here. I feel like if he were still here on the earth, he would be fighting this. Every person is precious, every person matters. I can’t imagine a more important cause,” she stated.

With two albums released, and having recorded in Utah as well as in Nashville, Sheahan is a light in the music industry. And not just because of her song ratings or album sales, but because of the cause she stands for.
After researching ways to get involved with the fight against sex trafficking, and coming across an article about O.U.R., Sheahan says she found her place to use her voice. “I saw the prescreening of the ‘Abolitionists’ and was in love with the mission…I am amazed by Tim Ballard. He is my hero. He is doing so much good. My heart felt connected to what he was doing.”

Sheahan supports the mission through her music in creative and meaningful ways. Fifty percent of all her proceeds from album sales go directly to O.U.R. She puts on benefit concerts to raise awareness and financial support for the cause. And something quite unique, is a message she includes at the end of some of her music videos about sex trafficking and how we can fight it. Sheahan uses “The power of the song,” as she eloquently put it, to bring about awareness and social change. She tells stories through her music; in a genre she has self titled, “The genre of life. I sing about whatever I am learning, whatever Heavenly Father is teaching me,” and through her music, she is teaching us.

We don’t all have a talent for singing, songwriting, and performing. But Sheahan does not want anyone to think that is the only avenue for joining this great mission to fight sex trafficking. “Every one of us has a skill or talents that can be used to light a fire and help fight against human trafficking. Everyone has a reach and can make an impact. Step out, do whatever you can do. All of those little actions add up to be huge and can help rescue children.”
Referencing a person who inspired her, Hugh Neil, Sheahan exclaimed, “Take your talents and where you’re at and use that to find a way to raise awareness.”

She called this, “Lifting where you stand.” You do not need to wait until you can move a mountain. Lift from where you are at now, because only then can we actually move a mountain, together.

Sheahan had some great suggestions. “Students can spread the word in class and talk about it every chance they get. You can become an abolitionist and donate. Get creative with a group of friends; put on a 5k race, a benefit concert, think outside the box. Realize that everything you do can make a difference, even if it seems small.”
After sharing ideas on how we can all be a part of this mission, she paused, and thoughtfully said, “It all comes back to rescuing the children. These precious children need us.”

Nicole Sheahan’s music is fun, inspiring, and beautiful. Check out her website for information on buying her album or attending her next benefit concert for O.U.R.

www.nicolesheahan.com
www.facebook.com/NicoleSheahanMusic

The Power of One

The Power of One

It is truly amazing what one person can do. Take 17-year-old Mark Tenney, a senior in high school from Irvine, California, for example. He heard Tim Ballard’s story about rescuing children from sex slavery and immediately felt impressed to help in the best way he knew how – organize a bike ride. Not just any bike ride; a 450-mile, five-day bike ride down the California Coast to benefit Operation Underground Railroad.

Ride The Railroad Participants
Ride The Railroad Participants in Irvine, California

It took over a year of planning, organizing and promoting the July 26-30, 2016 event, but he did it! Friends and family and even strangers helped out with 45 riders joining him on the excursion. In the end he raised $135,000 and donations are still coming in. In fact, if you’d like to donate you can go to yourrescue.org and find Ride the Railroad. Donations will be taken until August 30, 2016.

 

Mark Tenney raises $135,000 to help rescue children
Tim Ballard with a check from Mark Tenney for $135,000 to help rescue children

Operation Underground Railroad congratulates Mark Tenney, his family and supporters on a job well done. Children all over the world will be liberated and traffickers arrested due to their efforts. Thank you!

Operation Underground Railroad
Operation Underground Railroad
O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

The following are excerpts from a filmed interview with Tim Ballard on the progress Operation Underground Railroad has made in the first half of 2016.

Tim Ballard:

We have made huge strides this year. The thing I’m most impressed with is that half way through the year we’ve already seen as many or more rescues and arrests as we did last year. We’re probably close to double in terms of the countries we’re working in and the partners that we have.

We have been highly requested here in the States to work in several jurisdictions. We’ve met with several law enforcement officials in various states and set a goal that we would see at least one hundred pedophiles arrested in one year’s time. And just a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of summer we hit that goal. We surpassed it in fact, with over a hundred pedophiles.

These are people that were seeking for children on line as young as nine years old. And we were able to provide the tools to pull these guys out, and inevitably be able to find the children who were actually being abused. So we’re very proud of that accomplishment.

CET-COE:

One of the great accomplishments this year was the announcement of our CET-COE, Child Exploitation Targeting Center of Excellence which is housed at the University of North Carolina, in Charlotte.

We’re actually set up right now to be doing the very unique and different types of operations that we haven’t see a whole lot of yet, using a lot of high-tech strategies to go in and find children who need rescuing and get these horrible, perverted people off the streets.

Technology:

The technology we’re developing is for everybody. In fact, sometimes it’s geared towards law enforcement overseas who just have such limited resources and they don’t have a lot of man power so we can make up for that through tools that allow one cop to do the work of five. And it doesn’t cost them anything.

One reason that we created Operation Underground Railroad is because we saw this need. These law enforcement officers with great hearts, with a desire to help and make their country better, but they had no resources.

O.U.R. Short Term Goals:

We have quite a few operations set for the rest of the year. We’ve already hit our goals, so we’re going to keep pushing, and may exceed expectations. There are multiple countries who have asked us to come in. We’ve already started setting up shop there so we’ll be seeing more operations from now to the end of the year in various places throughout the world.

We’re not meeting our demands though. It’s very difficult for us to sit back and say, ‘Where do we go?’ because we could go almost anywhere now. This is why we need to grow financially. We need more people to become abolitionists because we are not even meeting the demands of law enforcement around the world who need these tools; who need our support.

O.U.R Long Term Goals:

We’ve always talked about setting up offices overseas and we’re starting to do that. These offices are like targeting centers; they’re labs. We are focused on the high technology side to attack this problem. And you’re going to see a lot of more permanent offices in the next several years, offices in various countries that are sponsored in part or fully by Operation Underground Railroad. These offices will be high tech in nature, in terms of the tools that we’re offering, and integrating because with these tools, one police officer can do the work of five officers.

We need to be a force multiplier in this problem. There are way too many kids out there relative to how many police there are looking for them. We built our tools with that in mind. ‘How can we maximize whatever resources are already out there? How can we maximize that?’ Become a force multiplier because with five times the cop power, we rescue five times the kids.

Partnerships:

Our partnerships are mostly focused on the rehabilitation end of things. It’s so important; in fact, it’s the most important thing that we do. We have to have in place something for the rescued children because so often the parents are not suitable or there are no parents or they are part of the problem.

We’ve really recognized that we need to put more into the rehab side and that’s a really delicate thing. We go into these countries that are very developing and we don’t always find the rehab partners that we want, so we have to spend a lot of time building them up.

One country that we are in right now, took us a year to get operational, even though the law enforcement officers in that country were green-lighting the operations. Now, we’re about to do our fourth operation in that particular country because that part (aftercare) is in place.

We hired a new director of rehab, Jessica Mass, who just does an amazing job. She’s partnered with rehab places, facilities, shelters, here in every state in the United States and in every country that we’ve been in, over 15 countries. She has gone and spent a tremendous amount of time finding our partners who we know, that when we have these children, we’re comfortable placing them there.

It’s so rewarding to watch some of these survivors become thrivers. We go back all the time, multiple times a year. ‘How are they doing? What do they need?’ This one wants to be a chef; this one wants to go to college. We can help with that. And we’re watching these stories unfold now. That’s a new development, an exciting development for us.

In 2016, I’d say one of our biggest highlights is the expansion and growth of our aftercare program and the wonderful partners that we’ve been able to make and trust, and watch the kids go there and know they have a chance.

Recruiting:

First and foremost our jump team members have to be brave. I mean, we’re asking them to do very dangerous things. Go into a foreign county. Go in undercover. Walk into a trafficker’s house who would just as soon kill them if they knew who they were.

We seek out law enforcement officers who have experience in rescuing children in anti-trafficking enforcement. It’s so important that these people have the utmost integrity; that they have good hearts. One thing we do, and frankly it’s on purpose, is when we do these tryouts and the training, we ask them to pay for part of that expense of coming over here. And that’s because we want to see who really cares.

I know that every guy that I recruited, especially in the beginning, had to walk away from pensions. They had to walk away from government security. And the fact that they were willing to do that told me that that’s who I want on my team. If you don’t have the heart for this, you’re not going to last long. It’s great to see these people who are willing to fly themselves here and sacrifice financially just to have the chance to make the team.

The Jump Team:

I think very few people are willing to do what our operators do. I mean you sacrifice your innocence in ways that are so incredibly uncomfortable and painful that it’s very rare to find someone to do this.

These kids are in hell. We’ve seen things that you can’t even imagine happen in hell. And the only way to get to those kids is to go in there. You’ve got to be willing go in there and not flinch while you’re there. Anyone willing to do that is just so amazing to me.

It’s like someone willing to run into a burning building. That’s what these guys do every day. It’s a different kind of burning building but it’s no less precarious, no less dreadful and they do it. And I’m so proud to associate with some of these operators that we have working for us – amazing guys – and girls.

Rescues:

It’s imperative to us that our policies on rescue operations are very clear to our partners and donors. We are not a vigilante group. We work with and under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies that officially and formally bring us on board. If that doesn’t happen, we don’t operate. But, once we are official we move forward.

Every operation is so different. Our operators will go, usually pretending to be like the other tourists, looking for illicit contact with kids. And then they infiltrate it, and this is where their expertise comes into play in that region; they’ll go in and know how to talk and what to say; how to dig in.

Other times it’s very specific; as specific as, here is this child who’s missing. We can come in with our technology, teach them. We’ve had cases where we look at facial recognition technology that allows us to go in and identify this child that was taken and maybe being sold in a different continent. So it really does vary.

A lot of what we’re doing now though, is targeting pedophiles and traffickers using tools that allow us to exploit places on the Internet where kids are being sold. The dark net is a place where people work with impunity because they think no one’s watching. We’re trying to build tools to help law enforcement to get to those places quicker and more efficiently and understand that world so they can pull these kids out.

Case Story:

In one case, this individual had this child that was being exploited. It was quite a distance from our office and we were expecting to go do the operation the following week. But our operators who are experts on line, were able to identify that this was a problem that couldn’t even wait three days.

And because we have such awesome donors and awesome supporters, they were made aware of the emergency without giving them details. One of our donors said, ‘You need to get somewhere to save kids? Just get to the airport. My plane will be waiting for you.’

I literally left the my kid’s basketball game that I was coaching with nothing, jumped in my car and sped to the airport, got on that plane and had that guy arrested and those kids saved, and those kids placed in safety within 12 to 15 hours. That was an emotional case just because we knew we had to get there fast. But, this is where we have the kind of comparative advantage where we can just go.

The whole flight over I have her image in my head. Five years old and we were able to get to her and pull her out of that situation and that guy’s in jail right now.

The Danger For Children

It’s usually men, perverted men have access to children in various ways; sometimes their own children or a niece or a nephew. They take advantage of the situation where the parents are out of the picture for some reason and they take this child under their wing, so-to-speak, but really they’re grooming them and exploiting them.

They go on line and start selling, sometimes they want to exchange this child for someone else’s child and they want to set up these horrific dark escapades. All I can say is that we have the tools and the ability to have law enforcement intervene in those deals. To find out where they’re happening and when they’re happening, intervene, intercept the deal, and then infiltrate and dismantle.

Eradicating Child Sex Trafficking:

That’s still the goal. We know that it can work. It works on a small scale. We go into one city, do several operations, and we shut it down. At the end of our operations, we can’t find anyone who’s willing to sell kids, all of them citing the previous operations that we previously conducted.

If it works on a small scale, why can’t it work on a large sale? We just need more people, more organizations, and more governments on board. If we made the response to selling kids for sex so powerful, you could literally scare people from thinking about doing it. That’s our goal.

I do believe that we can eradicate this. It’s going to take a long time, but with enough support and enough growth, we are building the tools that can eradicate this.

What You Can Do:

We need your help to make a difference. If you haven’t donated to our cause, please visit our web site at OURrescue.org and start today. Every dollar helps rescue children and ensures they receive the recovery care they need. If you already donate, please take the opportunity to evaluate if you can give more. We’ve already completed more rescues to date in 2016 than we did in all of 2015. We need your support to continue at this pace and fund additional rescue operations. We can’t do it without you. Thank you!

Protecting Our Children from Sex Trafficking

Protecting Our Children from Sex Trafficking

By Monique Derr

 

Being a parent is arguably the most joyful experience in the world, but it can also be the most terrifying. It seems we have to always be on our toes, fighting for the balance between safety, and living without fear. With so much media focus and growing awareness of sex trafficking, we find ourselves in positions of both worry and confusion. Can this happen in my state? In my city? Could my child be at risk? While the answers can be overwhelming, we can feel security and empowerment when we are armed with accurate information. Understanding what we can do to protect our children is critical to not only our children’s safety, but our sanity and peace of mind as parents. But first, we have to understand what it is.

 

WHAT IS SEX TRAFFICKING?

Though hardly new, sex trafficking is a growing criminal industry. There are an estimated 3 million human trafficked slaves in the world today, and most of them are victims of sex trafficking specifically. It is often mistakenly believed to be something that only occurs in developing countries, and only across country boarders. In fact, sex trafficking can and does occur within developed countries, such as the United States, and within our very cities of residence. Victims range from all demographics. The actual definition of sex trafficking is any person engaged in a commercial sex act as a result of force, fraud, or coercion, OR a minor involved in commercial sex behavior. In the case of the latter, consent is irrelevant; a minor is always a victim of sex trafficking. It is important to understand that there is no such thing as child prostitution. It is always a crime against the child.

 

WHO GETS TRAFFICKED?

In the United States, there are high risks groups. Runaways, immigrants, refugees, children in foster care, and those suffering from drug addictions are targets for traffickers. But the reality is that it can happen to anyone. It is not unheard of for sex trafficking busts to include the rescue of children from affluent homes, in “safe” neighborhoods, who return home at night and go to school each day.

 

WHERE DOES IT HAPPEN?

Popular areas for traffickers to target minors include playgrounds, malls, walking to and from school, bus stops, and truck stops/gas stations. The internet is a very popular place for minors to be targeted and deceived. Social media in particular poses many threats. Places where victims of trafficking are likely to be spotted are hotels, bars, truck stops, busses, the streets, popular political or sporting events, escort services, and even “front businesses” such as some massage parlors and nail salons.

 

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

Kidnapping and force do happen in the United States, but those tactics are far less common than other methods used for trafficking. Only about 5% of victims are physically kidnapped and restrained, the majority are recruited by someone they know and trust or by new “friends or “boyfriends.” Blackmail, threats to families, drug dependency, and manipulation are common tactics used by traffickers. A trafficker often has what is called a “bottom,” who works to recruit young people by means of deception. They may pose as a mentor and friend or an older boyfriend. Depending on the situation of the individual being targeted, they may be blackmailed with embarrassing photos, they may be threatened to be reported to the police if their family is undocumented citizens, they may be coerced to engage in commercial sex for drugs based on a developing dependency and addiction, or they may be told their parents will be harmed if they do not do as they are told. There are phases that a person is put through as they are trafficked. They are first recruited, then groomed, then seasoned. There are key signs that a person has been targeted and is at various stages of being trafficked, and knowing what to watch for can make all the difference in identifying someone being victimized.

 

WHAT DO I WATCH FOR?

Recruitment-

  1. Older adult showing interest in child, asking questions about their life, family, hopes, dreams
  2. Excessive flattery
  3. Buying gifts
  4. Romantic interest, often by someone older

Grooming-

  1. Isolation from friends and family
  2. Controlling activities, behaviors, dress and time
  3. Encouraging sexual activities like modeling, stripping, and pornography
  4. Drug and alcohol use

Seasoning-

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Emotional and verbal abuse
  4. Forced sexual education
  5. Confinement
  6. Re-naming or re-programming
  7. Removal from familiarity
  8. Creating dependencies
  9. Branding (tattoos)

 

START TODAY

Ask your children questions about their relationships. Talk to them about predators, sex trafficking, drugs, and sex. Research these topics together and discuss them often. Monitor their online presence and interactions. Teach them to never meet up with someone they met online. Know their friends. If you believe someone you know and love is being targeted or currently being sex trafficked, reach out to your local police, or call the national human trafficking hotline: 1-888-373-7888.

Operation Fortuna: A Series Of (Un)fortunate Events

Operation Fortuna: A Series Of (Un)fortunate Events

 

 

The Caribbean –

5 Minors Rescued – 1 Trafficker Arrested

 

It was obvious right from the very beginning that the suspected trafficker was greedy, ambitious, and inexperienced. And it was ultimately, what led to her downfall and the rescue of five girls between the ages of 14 and 17.

Operation Underground Railroad had initially come to this lush Caribbean country at the invitation of the American Embassy and the country’s government authorities. They were establishing a working relationship with the national police in order to conduct undercover operations and rescue children from sex trafficking as O.U.R. does wherever it goes.

An advance team from O.U.R. had come to scout out the resort areas of the island and gather intelligence. Three suspected traffickers were identified, each with his own cadre of young girls to offer the western tourists. “These traffickers readily give up personal information: real names, cell phone numbers, pictures of the girls, and where they live, because they don’t suspect anything. We’re not locals,” the team leader said.

Three traffickers translates into three different trafficking networks, each with his own group of business associates, girls and clients. Of greatest concern was that some of these girls were not only for sale for the evening; they were “for sale” for sale as in, “You give me $10,000 and you take the girl forever.”

Plan Disrupted

This was more than enough to have the government support a rescue operation. A date was set with the national police and O.U.R. started mobilizing the rescue team. Unfortunately, the O.U.R. team returned to the country only to discover that not all of the preliminary work had been completed. “They had not done the lead work ahead of time. They had not gotten the court orders, they hadn’t gotten the judicial orders, they hadn’t gotten judge approval for us to actually move forward,” said the team leader.

Operation Underground Railroad is not a vigilante group and will not move forward without everything in place. “We do everything we can to lay the groundwork ahead of time and to prepare, but when we get down there we’re in their hands, ultimately, we’re in the hands of the foreign government,” the team leader explained. In this case, the foreign government told them to return in two weeks and they would have all the paperwork completed and be ready for the rescue and arrests.

New Plans

It was Friday. O.U.R. had been expecting more team members to arrive the next day to help with the rescue. Now everything had changed and the rescue team was put on hold. Stuck with no way to leave the island until Sunday, the team leader asked the host government, “Can we at least meet with the traffickers to talk about maybe giving them some money, seeing the pictures, seeing the actual girls, and can we introduce one of your undercover operatives as our taxi driver or as our middleman, something where when we leave, the traffickers will trust that this trusted local is with us?” That way the traffickers can continue to deal directly with the local, thinking he is just some fixer/middleman/gofer, when really he’s a federal police officer. The national police gave the green light and the plan was set for the next day.

A Fourth Suspected Trafficker

Then plans took a sharp turn – again. A fourth suspected trafficker, a female, reached out to one of O.U.R.’s undercover operatives. “Because of human nature and greed and rumors, the word started spreading around this town on this Caribbean island that there were Americans looking for a good time,” said the team leader. The woman said she could provide five young girls – one of them a virgin.

O.U.R. took this information to the government, hoping to add her to the other three suspected traffickers that they anticipated arresting in two weeks. Unfortunately, with the limited resources of the government they told them, “We aren’t able to add her now. We think we’re at a maximum with the number of kids that we are planning on saving from the three networks. We think that’s going to be the limit of what we can take.”

There is nothing more disheartening than knowing kids are being trafficked and not being able to do anything about it. The national police did, however, agree to let O.U.R.’s undercover team set up a meeting with her and verify that she did, in fact, have children to sell.

The Meeting

It’s Saturday morning. The meeting is set for noon at a local restaurant. O.U.R. flies in the head negotiator. He wants to meet in a less public place but the potential trafficker assures him she will come by herself and then, “I’ll take you back to my house where we can meet with the kids.”

“Matt” plays the role of the rich guy from the U.S. “My security was there, my undercover operatives. They have been on the island working as the middlemen. So I fly in from the U.S. I have not been seen on the island. I am a new face. And I brought a couple guys as my bodyguards.”

 

Making The Deal
The Meeting

“So we show up to the restaurant and our undercover operatives go in to find the woman. Meanwhile, I stay in the car with my bodyguards. Well, then my undercover operative comes back five minutes later and says, ‘the suspected trafficker is in the restaurant and she brought the girls with her.’” At this point a decision needs to be made. Leave and avoid a public scene or go meet with her and see where it leads. Matt chooses the latter.

“We go in and sure enough, there are very young girls seated around a table, five of them – very scared girls. I think, ‘this is the real deal here, this is true.’ So we sit down and we immediately buy the girls some lemonade, some orange juice, some water and tell them to open up the menu and they can have whatever they want. “

“The woman begins to explain to us where she had gotten these girls. She said she was from a poor, poor town outside of this tourist area about 15-20 miles away, very uneducated. She tricked the parents of these five girls saying that she was just going to take them into town to buy some food, look around, take them to a movie maybe.”

“She’s explaining this to us and then we start talking about the prices and she says, ‘Well, each of these girls is very young.’ She gave us the ages: 14, 15, 16, and 17. And she said that the youngest one, the 14-year-old, was a virgin, and she was more expensive. She would be $500. But, the other girls were not virgins but had only been in this, so to speak, for just a month or two, so they’re almost virgins and they were going to be about $300 each.”

It’s Complicated

Everything was going just as expected for an undercover sting. The only problem was the government had not given them permission to move forward. There is no police backup. There is no one to make an arrest. There is no one to take care of the girls. Matt had gone in looking for information and got a whole lot more than he’d bargained for. Now what?

Matt describes the scene. “I’m focused on her. My bodyguards are around talking to the girls. At one point I then take a half turn and just survey the environment, make sure everything is good and I notice that our presence is drawing a lot of attention. That it looks really, really bad. That you have essentially five, six big, white guys, Americans, talking with young women, young girls from this country, ethnically, local girls.”

“People were starting to whisper and look, including a couple who I see take out their cell phones and begin taking pictures. So I immediately said, ‘You know what—this isn’t good, we need to get out of here.’ So I whipped out a stack of local currency, put it on the table and said, ‘Ladies, eat whatever you want. Finish your drinks.” I told the waitress, “This covers the bill.” Then I took out some money and gave it to the trafficker so I could hook her greed, and then I said, ‘Thank you so much, we’ll be in touch.’ And we got out of there right away.”

Operation Underground Railroad trains its operatives to “always go with your gut sense.” In Matt’s case, it just didn’t feel right. He could sense that things were getting out of control and that they needed to get out of there right away and they did. It was the right decision.

They later learned from their connections with one of the other traffickers, who may have had ties with the local police, that within 10 minutes after they left, the local police came into the restaurant, arrested the woman and took the kids in for questioning. Since O.U.R. was working with the national police, the local police would not have known they were working undercover. Had they been arrested as well, they would have had to blow their cover in order to get out of jail.

As it played out, this incident strengthened their undercover relationship with the other potential traffickers. All the operatives maintained their cover as western sex tourists and they managed to have the suspected woman trafficker arrested and the five girls rescued. Actually, the arrest and rescue can be largely attributed to the concerned people in the restaurant who were brave enough to get involved and call the police.

If everything had gone according to plan, this never would have happened, because the national police had determined they would not arrest this trafficker due to limited resources.

However, things got very tense for the O.U.R. jump team. Following the arrest, the local police began looking for Matt and his bodyguards. “This was probably the most scared I’ve been on any of our operations thus far,” Matt said. “We monitored the situation and figured out we were safe staying at our hotel. We kept the federal police officer with us at all times, just in case anything happened.”

The Aftermath

As scheduled, Sunday morning O.U.R.’s jump team got on the plane headed for home. Following Saturday’s incident, Matt had arranged for O.U.R.’s aftercare partner to take care of the five girls that had been taken in for questioning. They were later returned to their parents who were, indeed, unaware that their children were being trafficked. Though traumatized, the girls, as well as their parents, are now a little wiser about the world and the evil that goes on in it and can take additional precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

The woman was interrogated and taken to jail for a minimum of one year pending her trial. A number of witnesses at the restaurant heard what was going on and can testify so she won’t be doing this again.

As far as the three suspected trafficking networks are concerned that were identified earlier, they are being watched and will be taken down at a later date. No one will escape. And the children will be rescued and receive the care they need. It is only the beginning on the Caribbean island and Operation Underground Railroad will be right there to ensure more children are not exploited.

 

Sex Trafficking In The Modeling Industry

Sex Trafficking In The Modeling Industry

 

By Monique Derr –

Her mind raced as the modeling agent urged her to lift her dress higher. She was alone in the room. It did not feel right, but she wanted so badly to make a good impression and get the photo shoot job. Perhaps she was just being too cowardly? Maybe this was how it was supposed to work? “Higher,” he said, as he circled her with his camera. Finally, heart racing, she dropped her dress and asked why it was necessary to show so much skin. “That will be all,” he said, and he left.

She did not get the job. It was not until years later that she learned her gut feeling had been right, that she had been wrongfully pressured, and that the man posing as a modeling agent was, in fact, a predator who was later sentenced to jail time for exploiting young girls with big dreams.

Sex traffickers find ways to target and deceive vulnerable girls in many ways, and aspiring models have become a major focus for some of these predators. “Sex sells,” says world fashion mogul Stacy Eastman. “It is rampant and selling everywhere.”

As an impressionable young man, Eastman studied the fashion industry with some of the best and brightest. “I went to Milan, Paris, and London as an intern, and was head hunted by the most powerful man in fashion, John Casablanca,” Eastman said.

After 10 years with Elite Model Management, Eastman decided to form his own management company and Pulse Management was born. Unaware of modern day slavery in the industry he had reached great success in, he initially sought to put his experience and energy into a model management company that ethically cared for the talent they represented. “I set out to bring morals and standards to the entertainment industry through schooling, healthy eating habits and sports, and really the betterment of the person.”

Eastman then became a husband and father, and was introduced to the reality of sex trafficking through the fictional movie Taken, and he became enthralled with learning more.

“Having spent my life in the entertainment industry, I’ve seen a lot of people sell out and it disturbed me greatly. So I started researching to see if people posed as fashion moguls for this same purpose. Right then, I knew I had to stand and make even more of a difference,” he stated.

Eastman came across Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), and started digging and learning all he could. “I bought tons of products in support and became, as they say, an abolitionist,” Eastman said. He has since found valuable ways to support O.U.R. and fight sex trafficking within the fashion industry and has played an active role in bringing awareness to the issue.

Pulse Management uses social media and their personal blog as a platform to educate their followers on how traffickers prey on models. They are able to spread the messaging and warning to millions of people through their clients and connections.

Public Relations and Online Media Director Lisa Hong Ballstaedt explained, “We have many followers who want to be models; they could easily be preyed upon because they want it… We want to be a voice of awareness for them.”

On a more personal level, Eastman is able to create dialogue with strangers who ask about the O.U.R. dog tags around his neck, which “I have never taken off,” he noted.

Stacy Eastmand being interviewed at the movie premier
Stacy Eastman being interviewed at the movie premier

Pulse Management has also hosted screenings of the movie, The Abolitionists, and works tirelessly to ensure the safety of the models they represent. Ballstaedt stated, “We protect our models…sex should never be a factor in a modeling photo shoot…we try to be a light in [what can be] a dark industry.”

For those who are pursuing a career in modeling, Eastman has some pieces of advice to ensure safety and legitimacy in potential opportunities:

  • Research the agencies. Check to see if they have a legitimate track record with the actual companies, designers, magazines, and so forth, that they claim they work with.
  • Confirm that they have strong character references from actual models and their parents who they say they manage.
  • The “agency” should never make or force you to wear something that is not age appropriate and/or shoot sexually explicit material.
  • Make sure that parents are always welcome to travel with their daughter, no matter the model’s age.
  • Never pay for “modeling schools.” There are really only three USA markets: NYC, which is number one in the world, Miami, and LA. Travel is mandatory.

O.U.R., unfortunately, has seen many modeling schools used as a cover up for traffickers to prey on the innocent. Unsuspecting parents are lured by promises of a successful modeling career for their children, only to never see then again.

In O.U.R.’s Operation Triple Take, potential sex victims were rescued from suspected traffickers who used former Colombian beauty queen Kelly Johana to entice them. You can read that story here. 

“We spend thousands of unpaid hours ensuring our clients are globally protected with their parents and their futures in mind” said Eastman. Anything less should be a red flag.

Pulse Management demonstrates well the value of contributing to the fight against sex trafficking by means of personal talents and influence. “I adore my wife and two girls, let alone ALL my clients who happen to be beautiful, smart, and athletic girls. I could not bear to see this (trafficking) happen and their innocence be destroyed. So I’ve tried to do all I can and will continue, period!” Eastman exclaimed.

It is important to recognize that any person or organization, with any background, is in a position to join this fight. There are many opportunities to fight sex trafficking, and everyone has a role they can play to stop it.

O.U.R. is grateful for the example Pulse Management has set, and for the work they do to protect young girls with big hopes and dreams. Their work can inspire others to take action against sex trafficking as well. Everyone has something to contribute in this fight.