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Human Trafficking In Plain Sight: Are You Unknowingly Supporting It?

Human Trafficking In Plain Sight: Are You Unknowingly Supporting It?

(Image from

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, and it’s growing. There are an estimated 45.8 million people who are enslaved today. However, this crisis is not distant. We as Americans unfortunately interact with and often even support this epidemic every day without knowing.

According to former assistant district attorney of New York City, Barry Koch, the these victims are everywhere and hidden in plain sight. With drug dealing taking first, human trafficking and arms dealing tie for second as the largest criminal industries in the world. Yet human trafficking is experiencing the most rapid growth.

The facts:

  • Over 14 million are forced into labor.
  • According to the International Labour Organization, forced labor generated $150 billion in 2015.
  • Construction, manufacturing and mining compose over half of the human trafficking labor force.
  • 4 million of those trafficked are female; 9.5 million are male.
  • Refugees especially are at risk.
  • 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.

The U.S. State Department explains, “The old way of slavery was that the boss really owned you… But now legal recruiters and employers work in tandem to deceive workers who, vulnerable and isolated in a strange culture, are forced to accept harsh terms. It is in that context that you have endemic forced labor today.” Human trafficking knows no race, religion, culture, age, or sex. Everyone needs to be made aware.

According to Dr. Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor of USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, says, “When we talk about trafficking, most people assume we are just talking about sex. But there are actually more people enslaved through labor trafficking. Millions more. Impoverished communities, migrant workers and children are all at risk.”

According to the Urban Institute’s 2014 report, Hidden in Plain Sight, 71% of the labor trafficking victims (in the study) came to the U.S. legally with working visas. These are the most common industries where forced labor occurs:

  • agriculture
  • fishing
  • construction
  • factory work
  • domestic servitude

These victims are often separated from others with no documentation, keeping them under the radar. A San Diego State University study found that in San Diego County, 31% of undocumented, Spanish-speaking migrant workers had experienced labor trafficking. How do we find the perpetrators? Possibly the best way to find out is to follow the money. There are individual people, organizations, businesses, and even governments that thrive off of human trafficking.

According to Koch, “We can make a difference in the fight against labor trafficking and labor exploitation by passing laws (and monitoring for compliance) that regulate supply chains. Consumers can refuse to purchase goods from retailers who use trafficked labor or child labor in their supply chains. Institutional investors can divest their positions in such companies.”

For the full article, visit


What can YOU Do?


As consumers, it takes conscious effort to buy fair trade items,
or items not made under harsh labor conditions. 
Check out some helpful apps here to help fight the demand for human trafficking.
One in Five Homeless Youth Is a Human Trafficking Victim, Studies Find

One in Five Homeless Youth Is a Human Trafficking Victim, Studies Find

By Laura T. Murphy | April 18, 2017

Article from


Nearly a fifth of homeless youth in the United States and Canada are victims of trafficking, reports from the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University New Orleans find.

Based on interviews with nine hundred and eleven homeless youth between the ages of 17 and 25 in thirteen cities — including twelve where youth were able to access services through Covenant House — researchers at Penn’s Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research and Loyola’s Modern Slavery Research Project found that a combined 19.4 percent of those interviewed were victims of trafficking. Across the two studies, 15 percent of respondents had been trafficked for sex (including youth who were not coerced but were minors), 7.4 percent had been trafficked for labor; and 3 percent had been trafficked for both. LGBTQ individuals, who made up 19.2 percent of the homeless youth interviewed, were disproportionately more likely to be victims of sex trafficking, with 26.9 percent reporting that they had been trafficked for sex, accounting for 33.8 percent of all sex trafficking victims in the two studies. The studies also found that 32.1 percent of all respondents had been trafficked for sex, engaged in “survival sex,” or engaged in the sex trade in some way — including 40.5 percent of female respondents, 25.3 percent of male respondents, and 56 percent of transgender youth respondents.

The Modern Slavery Research Project’s ten-city study Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth (executive summary, 8 pages, PDF) also found that 81 percent of labor trafficking cases involved forced drug dealing, often occurring as a result of familial and cultural coercion as well as pressure from suppliers and gangs. The report further notes that homeless youth have higher rates of primary risk factors for trafficking such as poverty, unemployment, and a history of sexual abuse or mental health issues, and that those aging out of the foster care system faced high rates of sex (18 percent) and labor (10 percent) trafficking.

According to the Field Center study (2 pages, PDF) of homeless youth in in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C., 95 percent of youth who were sex trafficked reported a history of childhood maltreatment — including sexual (49 percent) and physical (33 percent) abuse — while 41 percent had been in out-of-home placement. When sex trafficking victims were asked what could have helped prevent their being trafficked, the most common response was having supportive parents or family members. Indeed, the study found that interviewees who did not have a caring adult in their lives were more likely to be trafficked for sex (58 percent) than those who did (41 percent). In addition, the study found that of the sex trafficking victims, 67 percent had not graduated from high school.

“We found that youth were seeking what we all seek — shelter, work, security — and that the trafficker preyed on those very needs,” said Laura T. Murphy of the Modern Slavery Research Project. “When we asked youth what they needed to avoid or escape these situations of forced labor and radical exploitation, they often pointed to the very resources that homeless shelters can and do provide them. What we need is more resources to support those programs and additional training that help service providers identify and assist those who are most at risk.”

Global Sex Trafficking Ring Busted In One of America’s ‘Safest’ Cities

Global Sex Trafficking Ring Busted In One of America’s ‘Safest’ Cities

IRVINE ( — Authorities say they’ve uncovered a massive international sex trafficking ring in Southern California.

Prosecutors announced the arrest of four people connected to the Orange County-based enterprise that allegedly placed thousands of ads for sexual services in 29 states over the past two years.

The ring was based locally in Irvine, officials said.

Women and girls from China were forced to sell themselves for sex and sometimes forced to work 14 hours a day in homes purchased specifically for the purposes of prostitution, according to authorities.

Investigators tracked the ring through thousands of ads selling sex on

Read the rest of this story at (image source: google)

What can YOU Do?



Although human trafficking can happen anywhere, there’s always something each of us can do to help stop it.

Go to to start a fundraising campaign of your own today.

Spread awareness.  SHARE this article.


Texas Wants to Help Truckers Identify Human Trafficking

Texas Wants to Help Truckers Identify Human Trafficking

WACO, Texas (KWTX) There are over 300,000 people currently being trafficked in Texas, according to the Truckers Against Trafficking. Now, state lawmakers are looking at a bill that could help fight human trafficking.

Texas Senate Bill 128 would require drivers applying for commercial driver’s licenses to complete a training program about how to recognize the signs of human trafficking throughout their routes and stops.

“Traffickers like to brand their victims as property, so if they have a man’s name or a street name tattooed on them in various places or a dollar sign or a money bag, those could be things to look for,” Natalie Garnett, the Assistant National Coordinator at local anti-trafficking organization Unbound, said.

Since the beginning of Truckers Against Trafficking, over 1,500 calls have been made, leading to the rescue of 1,000 victims.

Read the rest of this story at

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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

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

“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