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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!

Interviewed and Edited by: Cheryl L. Karr

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? #Rescue 500

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER? #Rescue 500

Total To Date: 529 Rescued – 182 Arrested
(2014-2016 )

In April 2016 O.U.R. hit the 500 mark for the number of rescues of victims of sex trafficking. Far more than its founder, Tim Ballard, was able to accomplish in the 10 years he worked with Homeland Security rescuing children from sex traffickers.

Currently O.U.R. is averaging four to five rescues per month. The exact number of victims rescued as of this writing is 529, but Ballard will tell you it’s not the numbers that count. “We are action focused,” said Ballard. The quantifiable numbers show our progress, but they only tell a part of the story.”

One of the most important areas of success can’t really be measured. It is the deterrent effect. And that is the result of catching traffickers and pedophiles before they can get to their targets.

“There are children out there right now who will never be trafficked because the people that would have trafficked them are in jail,” said Ballard. “And they don’t even know they would have been trafficked because it never happened. You can’t measure that.”

The second deterrent is the fear of getting caught. With O.U.R.’s successes, many traffickers are now afraid to sell children where O.U.R. has been operating, and pedophiles are afraid to buy them. O.U.R.’s jump team verified this recently when returning to areas where they had previously conducted stings, working undercover, trying to buy children. The traffickers informed them that it is now very dangerous and they will no longer sell children. This is the goal O.U.R. hopes to replicate all over the world.

Operation Underground Railroad first began rescuing children two and a half years ago in developing countries where resources are limited and children are most vulnerable due to poverty and cultural issues. O.U.R. always works within the law and with law enforcement in a public/private partnership that is resulting in a very successful model.

Law enforcement in the United States is taking notice of O.U.R.’s impressive record in these developing countries and some areas of the country are now partnering with O.U.R. to help supplement their meager budgets since O.U.R. does not charge for their services.

To date O.U.R. has helped law enforcement in the U.S. rescue eight children and arrest 47 potential pedophiles. And according to O.U.R.’s COO Jerry Gowen, the arrests are the number we should be paying attention to because for every pedophile taken off the streets, numerous children will never be violated.

O.U.R. is leveraging technology to help eradicate pornography and shine a light on the problem of child sex abuse in the United States as well as other countries. “We’re helping rescue children in so many ways,” said Gowen. As we get more resources we’ll do even more.” O.U.R. is currently operating in Southeast Asia, South, Central and North America and The Caribbean with the goal of one day eliminating child sex trafficking all over the globe.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

SOLD | The Movie

SOLD | The Movie

Last week O.U.R. Founder,  Tim Ballard had the opportunity to screen the movie SOLD in Santa Monica. He was invited to be part of the evening by Producers Jeffrey Brown (Academy and Emmy Award Winner) and Award-winning producer Jane Charles . Tim also participated in a Q&A after the film.

Based on true stories, SOLD is the story of 11 year old Lakshmi’s journey from a peaceful, rural village in Nepal to the gritty brothels of Kolkata, India. She risks everything for freedom. Through one extraordinary girl’s story, SOLD illustrates the brutality of child trafficking.

O.U.R. has been working in Nepal for the last year and very intensely in the last month. This girl’s story in the movie is all too common. O.U.R. Operators and Aftercare team hear similar stories from so many of the survivors they have spent time with. Nepal was already struggling, but with the earthquake last year and the recent fuel shortage, many of the people are desperate. They are also very vulnerable to becoming prey to traffickers. It is not uncommon to hear family members who sell their children in hopes of, despite what they may have to go through, the child will at least get to eat.

With a lack of education, many of the rural villagers in the hillsides fall susceptible to traffickers coming from India promising a better life and lots of money to work in India. One of the highest trafficked borders in the world is the India / Nepal border, in an area known as the Terai Region.

Every day dozens of children are trafficked across this border only to end up in the brothels of Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, or Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries. Some Nepalese children make it as far as the UK to be sold as domestic house workers. It is unbelievable that in 2016 people still own slaves in 1st world countries.

O.U.R. is working closely with local police in Nepal and also partnering with local NGO’s in the area to bring an end to child trafficking. O.U.R. will be much more active in Nepal the rest of this year with potential rescue operations in the coming months.

Make sure to check out SOLD in a theater near you!

Signs of Slavery

Signs of Slavery

Signs of Slavery

By Donovan Baltich

A toy truck emblazoned with a pink heart within a heart made national headlines for all the wrong reasons in March. The story, originally reported by WFLA Tampa, then The Huffington Post, Parent Herald and many others shared that the symbol is a code used for sex traffickers to communicate that a child is ready for sale.

As the symbol’s meaning is lost on both the vendor and parents who bought the toy, it posed no risk in this case, but it does stress the importance of being aware.

Chances are you know or have seen a victim of sex trafficking. The acts take place in private, but the symptoms are more than public. A victim could be the child at the street corner, on the bus, or seated next to you in class. And no, it’s not only a third-world problem; it takes place in the United States as well. And it’s a growing problem.

“The second most important goal that Operation Underground Railroad does, after saving kids, is to show people that sex slavery exists,” says O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard. “People just have to see it and they’re instantly converted.”

Victims feel powerless and won’t speak up for themselves, so it’s up to you to empower them and give them a voice. It all begins with knowing the signs of sex trafficking.

Know the Signs

Information in the following lists came in part from Love 146 and Polaris, two fellow organizations that fight to eradicate modern-day slavery.

What vulnerabilities do sex traffickers take advantage of?

Sex traffickers are prone to target children who are easily manipulated and who are less likely to be checked up on. Common vulnerabilities include children who:

Have a history of sexual abuse, neglect or domestic violence

  • Have other family members involved in commercial sex
  • Have been displaced by a social or natural disaster
  • Are part of undocumented, stateless or ostracized groups
  • Are impoverished or have family under financial strain
  • Run away from home or skip school frequently
  • Experiment with risky sexual behaviors or drugs
  • Have low self-esteem

What are common fronts traffickers use to sell children for sex?

 Children are often recruited through false promises concerning the nature of their work. Whether it is a runaway who needs to buy his next meal or a teenage beauty queen hoping to make it in the world of modeling, traffickers establish all kinds of fronts to lure victims.

In Cartagena, Colombia, Tim Ballard shared that a group of traffickers lured young girls with the help of a well-known local beauty queen to recruit through a false modeling agency. “It was big news when the truth came out about her because everyone knew her — this beauty queen who turned and sells 11- and 12-year-old girls.”

Some of the most common places where children can be lured and sold for sex include:

  • Strip clubs and exotic dance venues
  • Online ads, chat services and pornography sites
  • Begging in the streets
  • Escort or dating services
  • Housecleaning, child and elderly care
  • Restaurants or bars
  • Factories, sweatshops and agricultural work
  • Hotel, motels, massage parlors and salons

What are some red flags of a child abuse?

Traffickers prevent children from feeling any hope about attaining freedom by setting up financial, travel, surveillance and mental barriers. Watch for these signs along with physical and behavioral signs.

 Lack of control

  • Has guardians, older partners or “sponsors” who monitor the victim excessively and insist on speaking on his or her behalf at all times
  • Excessive security may be in place at the victim’s home/work (security cameras, boarded or covered windows, etc.)
  • Various men go to and from the victim’s work/home frequently
  • Has no control of his or her own passport and other identification documents
  • Has no control of his or her own money, bank account or financial documents
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Has few or no personal possessions

Behavioral signs

  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior at the mention of law enforcement
  • Acts jumpy, overly submissive or avoids eye contact
  • Is unable to give answers about his or her schedule or living and work locations/conditions
  • Makes claims of just visiting and has an inability to clarify where he or she is staying
  • Has a lack of knowledge of whereabouts and does not know what city he or she is in
  • Has inconsistencies in his/her story; contradictory personal information (age, place of birth, family life)
  • Sudden detachment or isolation from family members and friends
  • Receives no or very little pay, or is paid only through tips
  • Appears to work and live in the same location
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours

Physical signs

  • Tattoos with names that aren’t his or her own, and is reluctant to explain
  • Noticeable change in dress, jewelry, hair or nails without explainable source of income
  • Suffers from substance abuse problems, psychological disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, or chronic illnesses
  • Carries multiple hotel key cards, large amounts of cash and sharp objects to use as weapons
  • Appears fearful, malnourished, anxious or depressed
  • Has bruises, cuts or burns

What can I do to help?

1. Share this post with your friends.

2. Support and learn more about Operation Underground Railroad. Sign up today to become an abolitionist by donating $5 a month to the cause.

3. Create your own YourRescue campaign at ourrescue.org.

4. Be aware of warning signs and vulnerabilities. If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BeFree), or contact OURrescue.org.

“Once you see it, you can’t NOT do something about it.” – Tim Ballard

 

 

 

 

Operation Jungle Cat

Operation Jungle Cat

9 Rescued  –  3 Arrested

They have no passports, no birth certificates and no country. They are considered people with no identification. Stateless. And they live in one of the most dangerous places on earth: The Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia.

This worn-torn part of the world, is made up from parts of Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Thailand, and is known mostly for its opium and heroin production. The area is heavily littered with land mines due to the last 50-60 years of civil unrest and its people are chewed up and spit out by heartless taskmasters.

Children born into such circumstances have little hope of escaping a life in either the drug or sex trade. It is for this very reason that Operation Underground Railroad’s brave jump team dared to venture into this lawless land.

“This was an extremely dangerous operation and we worked very closely with the Thai Border Police and the Thai Army Rangers,” said the team leader. “We also had some special contacts that we’ve worked with previously, who helped us on the borders with the investigation.”

One such contact alerted O.U.R. to victims of sex trafficking who were being held by a Burmese father and son team. The victims had recently come from refugee camps in Bangladesh and Bhutan and were tricked into believing they had found good fortune.

“They are coerced with promises of schooling or a good job,” said O.U.R.’s team leader. There are safe houses or holding houses the traffickers use near and around the border to hold the victims.”

Once at the border, the traffickers use various means to get their victims across and into other countries where they can be sold.

“They will dress these children in school uniforms, pretending they are being sent across the border for school. Once on the other side, they are usually sold from there to a brothel owner or a labor trafficker,” said O.U.R.’s team leader. “They are also used to carry drugs across the border.”

In Operation Jungle Cat, O.U.R. worked very closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of the children as well as our operatives. It was a very tense and dangerous mission, which led to a total of nine victims being rescued.

It is not unusual in third world countries for younger people and their parents to be fed a story of opportunity for school or success or employment. They are so desperate for that hope that they become vulnerable to predators. Then families who were already barely making ends meet do not have the means or ability to search for their children or convince officials to spend limited resources on these missing children cases. The children resign themselves to participate due to the severe threats of abuse and retribution they have experienced at the hand of the traffickers. The added transfer across a conflicted region leads to a lack of follow-through on such cases. The children truly are lost between government agencies and there are little resources for these cases.

Determining where to place the rescued victims of Operation Jungle Cat was complicated in this lawless land with stateless people. Some were returned to Myanmar while some of the children are in Thailand where members of O.U.R. will follow up with them. Three traffickers were arrested and will most likely serve a minimum of ten years in prison.

Kudos to O.U.R.’s jump team members and all those who risk their lives to find and rescue these victims of sex trafficking. Well done!

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

Operation Black Mamba

Operation Black Mamba

14 Rescued  – 2 Arrested

They call it the flesh market. Code for young girls wanted for sex. And the flesh market is running rampant in India.

The girls are hidden – literally – behind trapped doors. Locked. Only able to come out when their services are required. There are no windows, no fresh air, and no freedom. Some try to escape and are severely punished for the effort if caught. Most accept their fate as something they have no control over and are doomed to live in the shadows.

In February, Operation Underground Railroad, in partnership with the Indian Rescue Mission (IRM), rescued 14 young women living under such horrific conditions in Mumbai, India. Two of which were minors.

According to one O.U.R. jump team member, there are many such places in India and they are not too difficult to find. “It’s pretty easy,” he says. “I just have to walk down the street. We call it the hunt. We start at one end of the street and go on down it.”

He and his team know what they are looking for. “I’ll go to the bathroom, pretending I’m drunk, and look through the different hallways and will find girls. If I get caught I just say I’m lost.”

“If I can talk to the girls, I’ll ask them about where they’re from, if they have brothers and sisters. If they act stressed or if they have injuries this allows us to assess whether their stories are provided to them by the traffickers or not. Often they are abused or beaten,” says the O.U.R. jump team member. “I try to break down walls by asking, ‘Do you like it here? No. Do you have a passport to get back home? No.’ After a while you get a feeling for whether they’re telling the truth or not.”

This particular rescue operation was led by O.U.R.’s NGO* partner IRM in conjunction with the Joint Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. After identifying the brothel, a team of 20 police personnel plus officers raided the bar at midnight. Only four girls were found, but they knew there were more. They just had to find them.

Hours of searching through long corridors and darkened rooms eventually yielded ten additional girls hidden in a small room that was obscured from view behind a wooden cupboard. These rescued girls have now been placed with a trusted aftercare facility where they will get the help they need to adjust to freedom and self-reliance.

The dance bar has been shut down and the owner arrested and charged with sex trafficking. O.U.R. will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that he pays for this crime.

No one should have to live this type of life and yet there are thousands of young women in India who are doomed to it. O.U.R. continues to look for them with the help of its NGO partners and will not stop until there are no more to be found.

*NGO: Non Governmental Organization

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

One Hundred Fifty Years of Freedom

One Hundred Fifty Years of Freedom

“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” Martin Luther King, Jr. told a stirring crowd August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D. C.

“This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity,” he continued.

But even Reverend King recognized in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech that passing a law does not free men make. What became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified December 6, 1865, one hundred and fifty years ago this month, abolishing slavery once and for all in the United States of America.

Yet, today that fight for freedom continues, not only on the red hills of Georgia or the plains of Tennessee, but in the hidden corridors of India and on the back streets of Thailand and Colombia. Enslavement now wears multiple faces with varied descriptions and runs rampant not only in the United States but throughout the world.

Even with all our enlightenment, slavery is now more prominent than at any other time in the history of the world with an estimated 30 million enslaved. They are sex slaves, labor slaves, and child brides. Over two million children are being masqueraded as child prostitutes today. They are in all parts of the world and speak a variety of languages. You may see them and not even know it. When will it stop?

Creating laws to end slavery is only the beginning. Freedom for all will only become reality when it is firmly rooted in the hearts and minds of just men and women everywhere. As a result, freedom continues to be an elusive dream for many. Today, it is estimated that two million children are being trafficked as sex slaves; one hundred thousand of those are in the United States.

At Operation Underground Railroad, we are committed to “…proclaim liberty to the captives…,” Isaiah 61:1. We do this in a number of ways including identifying sex slaves and literally going in and rescuing them from their captors and ensuring the abusers are arrested by always working with law enforcement. And we risk our lives every time we do it, but we do it because we know it is the right thing to do.

We also work with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in countries around the world to not only rescue the enslaved, but help them with recovery and education so they can stand on their own and avoid the victimization that they were put into in the first place.

We say to you, “Join us!” Join the fight and be the voice for so many children who have been silenced. Together we can eliminate this scourge on the earth. There are a number of things you can do. Go to our web site at OURrescue.org for ideas on ways to help. Start your own fundraising campaign, buy products from the O.U.R. store, educate others, or volunteer your time and talents.

We share Dr. King’s dream to be able to “…join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last!” With your help we are making that dream a reality for all.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

 

 

The Worth of a Girl in India

The Worth of a Girl in India

Hindu Temple
Hindu Temple in India

It’s been several weeks of dangerous undercover work for O.U.R. operatives in brothels, bars, and on the streets of India, but the work is beginning to pay off. Three sex traffickers have been arrested and the undercover investigation is continuing.

The following are excerpts from an interview with one of the undercover operatives working in South Asia:

______________________________

INTERVIEWER: How do you find child sex slaves in India and how do you rescue them?

INVESTIGATOR: An investigator, who I’ve worked with before in South Asia, and I, joined local NGOs or Non-Governmental Organizations in India: Indian Rescue Missions and ARZ (Anyay Rohit Zindagi)*. The first one works primarily in Goa and then the other one works in Mumbai.

We spent the first few days investigating brothels. There’s a particular red light district called Kamathipura. It’s one of oldest red light districts in history and definitely in Asia, so it’s been operating for thousands of years. It’s just been culturally accepted.

We went to at least six brothels in Mumbai trying to identify victims. We didn’t identify any minors at that time, and in India 18 and under is considered a minor. In Southeast Asia, it’s 16 and under, in Cambodia it’s 14 and under, so it varies from country to country.

We also investigated dance bars. Dance bars are different from strip clubs in the United States. These girls are in full clothing, sometimes western clothing or traditional Hindi clothing with saris. There’s a band playing and they stand in front of the stage holding a lot of money in their hands, which is the tips they’ve received. If there’s a particular girl someone is interested in, they talk to what’s considered the controllers or handlers.

We did identify minors there. The intel that we gathered, the images that we gathered, the footage that we gathered, we turned that over to the local police. We have a great working relationship with them and they are planning to act this week as far as raiding and shutting down those dance clubs.

Under-age Girl at Dance Club
Under-age Girl at Dance Club

During this investigation we did identify about 30 percent of the girls as minors. Each club is different. They range from five to 25 girls per club and on average two to seven of the girls were under the age of 18.

INTERVIEWER: How do these girls end up there?

INVESTIGATOR: Some of these girls end up there by choice. It’s hard for us to think about “do I sell my body just to have something to eat? Do I sell my body to feed my child that night?” So a lot of girls end up there because of their social-economic situation. A lot of them just don’t know any better.

They may be in a rural village and they are approached by a trafficker or a handler saying, “Hey, you come to the big city and you can be a singer or you can be in a Bollywood movie. You’re beautiful.”

They do it because they want to earn money to be able to send it back home, or a lot of these girls just want to go to school. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard from these girls that they just want to go to school, not necessarily college or university. They just want to go to high school and this is a way for them to pay for it. I think all too often that’s the majority of the cases.

So they see this as an opportunity to get paid and go to school and eventually get out of India and go to the United States or to Europe. So, they are typically coerced. They’re promised a lot of things, a lot of false promises.

And once they’re in there they become indebted to the trafficker or the handler and they owe them a certain percentage of what they make. And it’s never enough for them to be released. So they are always under restrictive movement. They are always under control.

Regardless, you know, they keep promising the girls that ‘if you make enough money, if you save enough money, or you keep enough of your cut, then you’ll be able to go to school or you’ll be able to get out of debt bondage.’ But, they never let them go. Eventually, these girls become so seasoned that it just becomes a choice and a career for the rest of their life.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about the girls that are brought to the temple.

INVESTIGATOR: In a part of central India they have a ritual where the girls are brought by family members to the temple, right before they hit puberty and begin their first period, to be washed with holy water by a priest.

The family can now say, ‘My daughter has been blessed. She has been washed in the holy water.’ This now makes her holy and sacred so she can then go back to the village and men are allowed to have sex with her. This is considered a blessing on the man by the Hindi gods and the family sees this as revenue, as a way of making money.

As an undercover operative spending time there and witnessing some of these girls, these victims, is difficult. Some of them have been recovered. We saw a project where they are now learning how to sew, which makes them valuable to the community because they can make clothing and sell it, so it gives them a value. They’re able to bring something to the community other than being just a temple prostitute or “devadasis”.

INTERVIEWER: Is this considered a religious ceremony?

INVESTIGATOR: It is considered a Hindu religious ceremony.

INTERVIEWER: So it’s not considered wrong?

INVESTIGATOR: No, it’s not. It’s just culturally accepted. With that said though, this comes from typically a rural part of inner India where a lot of the older practices and ideas are still in place. But, when you get to the larger cities, there’s a majority of India, even in recent years, where women are receiving rights, for instance, the right to vote. There’s been a big change, a big trend in India wanting to change from some of their older ways and adopting some more traditional western ways, especially in regards to human rights when it comes to women and children.

Older Indian Women
Older Indian Women

INTERVIEWER: What can O.U.R. do to help these families?

INVESTIGATOR: I think one way is through education. How O.U.R. is involved with our local NGO partner in India is a good way. There are three pillars of anti-human trafficking: Prevention, Intervention, which typically O.U.R. does, and then Aftercare and O.U.R. is a part of that too. We do all three of those but primarily intervention and then making sure the girls are rehabilitated after the rescue. The rescue really begins after they’ve been taken out of that situation.

So O.U.R. can help by partnering with NGOs and possibly funding education for these girls. It’s a small amount of funding for some of these projects. And the reason why I mention this sewing project is that when I visited this project and saw the sewing room and talked to some of the girls there, some of the girls aren’t victims.

These are young girls in the community that, if they weren’t learning this skillset and learning how to sew and make clothing, more than likely, they would be used for a temple prostitute. But this puts a value on them to the community, where they’re bringing in revenue, where the family doesn’t feel, “well, financially, we don’t have enough money.”

There’s a balance there between their social-economical situation and their faith. I think the family, if they have a choice, would not sell their daughter to bring in that revenue. Despite their faith, I think they wouldn’t do that. This sewing project is teaching the girls that they have potential, so it’s the prevention aspect. And then it also gives the opportunity to the women who have been recovered and are previous victims of the situation to find value in themselves.

When we look at a rehabilitation process, we have a thought process that we’re used to, our western thought process, and the luxuries we have around us, however, something such as a hundred dollar sewing machine and being able to make a small amount of money creates tremendous value to a girl or woman in India.

Some of the girls, who hopefully will never become victims, know how important a skillset is because, for them, especially in the Hindi religion, there’s not a lot of value on a woman. She doesn’t serve a lot of purpose in the community. Usually, it’s just for sexual purposes or for work or for kids, so when you give them an opportunity or you teach them a skillset like sewing, it gives them a purpose of self-worth and then worth within the community because it’s actually generating revenue.

A lot of times when we see human trafficking or sex trafficking or even labor trafficking, we think of these big monstrous cities like New Delhi or Mumbai where it is really prevalent, but the problem starts, a lot of times, in these rural areas where it’s extremely poor. It’s poor in the big cities, but it’s extremely poor in the rural areas. Again, the education is less than it is in some of the bigger cities so the people have a tendency to be a lot more vulnerable to being coerced or manipulated or even intimidated into the circumstances of being trafficked.

Note: This is an on-going investigation and details concerning arrests and rescued girls will be discussed when it is safe to do so.

Edited by: Cheryl L. Karr

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*ARZ = Anyay Rohit Zindagi http://www.arzindia.org/ (an Indian NGO, non-profit)

If you would like to support future rescue operations in India, please consider donating through our website www.OURrescue.org. If you have specific information on child trafficking in India, please contact us at info@OURrescue.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom for All

Freedom for All

Operation Underground Railroad is running its “Freedom for All” campaign through the month of July to increase awareness of those who are enslaved around the world.

“July is a time that we reflect on independence and freedom; it is a time that we remember the high price our forefathers paid for our liberty. The #Freedom4All campaign was born to remind us that, although we enjoy unparalleled freedom, over two million children in the world are trapped in sexual slavery. O.U.R’s primary purpose is to rescue and rehabilitate these innocent children,” says O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard.

“Slavery does exist today and its tentacles reach further and deeper than most of us realize, with its victims barely surviving in unthinkable darkness. The #Freedom4All campaign is a movement that will shine a light into this darkness and provide a way for each of us to eradicate this evil.”

To participate in the #Freedom4All campaign, use social media and be pro-active to help us get the word out by following these steps:

1. Visit O.U.R.’s website at https://ourrescue.org/freedom4all/

2. Wear the Message of Freedom: Purchase a Freedom4All T-shirt (all proceeds donated to fund rescue operations).

3. Share the Message of Freedom: Share O.U.R.’s message of freedom – slavery is real and we can end it – on Twitter and Facebook and any other social network medium (instructions on O.U.R.’s website). Sign up for O.U.R.’s Thunderclap campaign at bit.lyfreedomour.

4. Flood the Message of Freedom: Turn your social media profiles “Blue for Freedom” by using a series of images provided by O.U.R.

5. Listen to the Message of Freedom: Visit Tim Ballard’s message on our YouTube Channel.

6. Donate for Freedom: Use this opportunity to donate to O.U.R. – every dollar donated means a child may be rescued. O.U.R. invited all to participate in the #Freedom4All campaign; to raise awareness of child sexual slavery’s evil and spread the message of hope by positive action and involvement.

ABOUT OPERATION UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is a non-profit organization that rescues kidnapped children from slavery. O.U.R. rescue teams (called “Jump Teams”) are comprised of highly skilled ex-Navy Seal’s, CIA and other operatives. These teams work in conjunction with and in full cooperation with local police forces and foreign governments to liberate children around the world.

The original Underground Railroad was a network that existed in nineteenth century America to liberate African slaves. Today, slavery has a new face: the face of an innocent child. Slavery’s victims today include nearly two million precious children throughout the world. They are slaves, exploited for sex.

The symbol of the Underground Railroad shines through the darkness that surrounds these poor children and offers hope and freedom to children that are abused daily. Thousands of these children are imported every year from third world countries to developed countries, such as the United States and Canada. Operation Underground Railroad can rescue and save them from the horrors of slavery. This is its mission!

O.U.R. rescues these children and delivers them to safe havens that offer freedom and rehabilitation. And in the process, O.U.R. expert rescue teams break the avaricious organizations that exploit these children and deliver the perpetrators to justice and jail. Using cutting-edge computer technology and human intelligence, O.U.R. rescue teams go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement liberate enslaved children and dismantle the criminal networks. www.ourrescue.org #freedom4all

Megan’s Law – International

Megan’s Law – International

HR515 pic
L-R Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, O.U.R. Founder Tim Ballard, Former Trafficking Victim Karla Jacinto, Anti Trafficking Activist Rita Maria testifying before the Subcommittee in Washington, D.C.

“When it comes to sex crimes, this is an international problem,” Operation Underground Railroad Founder and CEO Tim Ballard told the House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs in Washington, D.C. last week. Ballard is promoting a bill which will assist private and public organizations in sharing information on sex offenders internationally.

Two to three times more children could be rescued from sex predators if congress will pass HR515 according to Ballard. “The fact that we are talking about child victims should cause us, on a moral level, to find ways to remove barriers that prevent international engagement.”

Currently, there are over two million children involved internationally in the sex trade according to government sources. Some victims are tricked into it while others, are sold into it, often by a family member. And unfortunately, many of the perpetrators are from the United States.

“I can testify that I know these facts are true,” Ballard, told the committee, “because I’ve been working in this black market for more than 10 years. And the sad commentary on our country, the reason our cover story has worked so well and has been so easily bought by perpetrators is due to the fact that we are Americans. These guys, these perpetrators are used to catering to Americans. They are used to selling children to Americans.”

Members of O.U.R. often pose as sex tourists in order to locate and rescue children from sex slavery and have saved over 300 victims to date. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has participated in a few of the rescues with O.U.R. and also testified at the congressional hearing. He said there were three things that “extremely impressed” him with O.U.R.

 One, the emphasis that O.U.R. puts into providing resources, counseling, training, and stability to victims that they liberate from trafficking and the  involvement of groups and people like Elizabeth Smart, in their organization.

Two, I was impressed by the focus on training of local law enforcement partners in the various countries where they do operations, to give or enhance the skills, techniques and tools they need, to replicate the operations again and again. And some of the most gratifying moments have been hearing  from our law enforcement partners after we’ve done missions in their  countries, telling us they’ve had success on their own using the techniques  they’ve learned from O.U.R.

 Number three, I told Mr. Ballard the emphasis on letting local partners take credit for the wins and building up credibility with their own people in government were quite impressive. And over the past year, dealing with  them, having participated as a partner and member of O.U.R., I would now add two more quick points.

 The talent and dedication of Mr. Ballard’s team, former successful CIA, HSI,  Navy Seals, Special Forces and law enforcement personnel, and lastly, the effectiveness of the stings they set up.

Reyes joined O.U.R for an undercover sting in Cartagena, Colombia in October 2014 where young girls between the ages of 10 and 16 were drugged to take the edge off of what they were about to experience. “The fear and helplessness in their eyes is something I will never forget,” said Reyes. “All I can say is, thank goodness we were the ones there that day instead of real sex tourists, predators.” Over 120 girls and boys were rescued in that sting in three simultaneous operations lead by O.U.R.

Additional Congressional testimony was given by Rosi Orozco, a former member of the Mexican congress who was one of O.U.R.’s earliest supporters, and Karla Jacinto, a victim of trafficking between the ages of 12 and 17. Both bore powerful testimonies of the need to join together to fight this global social scourge.

With the passage of HR515, also known as the international version of Megan’s Law, NGOs such as O.U.R. will be able to access information that will increase awareness of sex traffickers, their locations, habits, and activities, which will, in turn, result in more arrests.

megan_kanka
Megan Kanka

The federal version of Megan’s Law, known as the Sexual Offender Act of 1994, requires sex offenders to register with law enforcement notifying them of their address and employment. It was passed as a result of a sex offender that had been released from prison and lived across the street from Megan. He enticed her to his home where he raped and killed her.

HR515 is an international version of Megan’s Law and passed the House in January. It is now before the senate. U.S. Representative Christopher Smith (NJ), who chaired the  House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations last week, praised O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard for his leadership in rescuing victims of sex trafficking. This Subcommittee is part of the broader House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

For more information on HR515 visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/515 To watch the Subcommittee hearing visit: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-pathway-freedom-rescue-and-refuge-sex-trafficking-victims

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

UPDATE 5/22/2015 @ 3:09pm PST: the bill has passed the house and is currently sitting on the president’s desk!