O.U.R. successfully completed an operation in conjunction with India Rescue Mission (IRM), which resulted in 4 survivors rescued and 4 traffickers arrested.
It started at a brothel in India that was being run by 2 female traffickers. The team traveled to the brothel where they connected with one of the owners and began conversation. Shortly after, they were offered each girl for $1,000 USD for the purpose of sex. A plan was immediately put into place with law enforcement where they would intersect the traffickers while they were traveling to a hotel to deliver the girls in exchange for money.
On the way to the hotel, the car was pulled over and the 4 traffickers were immediately taken into custody while the 4 survivors were taken by social workers to the hospital for examinations. They have since been placed in a government shelter for survivors of human trafficking where they are receiving proper care.
Unfortunately, these sort of “transactions” take place every day and in almost every part of the world. We are so grateful for our partnership with India Rescue Mission and for the diligent law enforcement officers who fight this fight every day.
Donors come in all shapes and sizes from individuals, to small family companies, to major corporations. One newcomer to the Operation Underground Railroad donor family is “Netpure,” a company that has created a home protection device for families. Specifically, Netpure is a child-safe internet router with parental controls, time management and alerts.
As a parent, you take control of the internet for your children with Netpure. You can schedule when it is available to them as well as what content they can see. It is a child-safe WiFi network in your home for your children, while the parent WiFi remains the same. It’s a win/win situation and several of O.U.R.’s employees, including O.U.R.’s founder and CEO, Tim Ballard, are using it in their homes now.
This is a great way to protect your children from the darker side while giving them the freedom to search the Internet for homework or even fun and games. But Netpure is doing much more than just protecting children from certain elements of the Internet. They are donating to Operation Underground Railroad as well, thus helping to rescue children as well as protect them. That only happens if you help though.
Nepture has provided a special code for our O.U.R. supporters. Right now, if you order the Netpure router using the code: OURGIVER, you will receive $5 off the router and Netpure will donate $20 to O.U.R. Another win/win! How great is that?
The makers of Netpure have been developing security Internet systems for the FBI, the Pentagon and the Navy SEALS over the last 20 years. Now they’ve put that knowledge and experience to work to protect families, so you know it will be effective.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 Fortuna: A Series Of (Un)fortunate Events
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Silence is not always golden. In fact, many injustices continue today because those who would fight against them are not aware they even exist. Such is the case with child sex trafficking and slavery – until now.
The feature-length documentary The Abolitionists premiered in theaters nation-wide May 16th, enlightening audiences who previously were blissfully unaware of this dark side of the world.
They now know that child sex slavery is one of the biggest plagues of our day and is growing by the minute. Sweet, innocent children, are kidnapped, sold, or tricked into becoming sex slaves and movie stars of pornographic videos. It is real. It is happening. And it needs to be stopped.
The Abolitionists is the story about a former CIA officer and HSI agent, Tim Ballard, who unwillingly became exposed to this dark side of humanity during his 12 years with the government.
It only took one rescue for Ballard to realize these children needed saving. Since then he has left government service and begun his own non-profit organization, Operation Underground Railroad, to rescue these children.
Movie theaters were sold out across the country for the premier. Some were bought by modern-day abolitionists who are doing what they can to help rescue these children. Other theaters, simply sold individual tickets. The Larry H. Miller Theaters donated all proceeds of the movie to O.U.R. for the rescuing of children – a very generous gift.
Current estimates put viewers at around 35,000 for the May 16th event. Exact figures are still coming in. Reactions have been inspiring. People have been shocked, saddened and amazed at what is happening to children around the world. Here are just a few of the comments from viewers:
“When I saw the movie The Abolitionists, I was heartbroken at just how many innocent children are being forced to be trafficked and forced to be sex slaves.” William Billiam
“Well done. Didn’t like the subject matter, but that’s why it made an impact. God bless this film and the light it is shining on human trafficking.” Helen Matter
“Very inspirational and informative for everyone. We really need to work together to stop human trafficking.” Melissa Peters
“As dark as the subject matter is, I love the hope and light that are fighting the darkness!” Jenn Foote
A movement has begun. Since the premier of the film on May 16th, volunteers are signing up with O.U.R. in record numbers to help rescue these children.
“It has been amazing to see the response of people after they have seen the film. They are motivated and ready to do all they can to put an end to this atrocity,” said O.U.R.’s National Volunteer Coordinator Jani Dix. “People are willing to give their time and talents and truly believe they need to be part of this solution. There is a lot of darkness in this world and you see that in the film, but there is also so much light and the O.U.R. volunteers are a testament of that.”
Since the premier of the film, over 550 volunteers have signed up to help O.U.R. fight this plague, bringing together an army of 1300 worldwide to rescue these children. And there is something everyone can do.
You don’t need to donate money to help, although that is a great way and very much needed. Many volunteers offer their talents to the cause. Some are helping by organizing events, some are writing articles or giving presentations that spread the word. We encourage you to help in whatever way you can, because once you know this is going on, it is very difficult to do nothing.
Helen Keller once said, “I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Tim Ballard saw something wrong and is doing what he can to right it. “My goal is to eradicate this heinous crime all around the world. That may take some time, but I believe we can do it.”
What will you do to help? Visit our website at ourrescue.org to discover the many ways you can make a difference.
In Asia alone, there are approximately 13.5 million human sex trafficking victims according to the U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report” (July 2015, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf). The U.S. State Department also estimates about two-thirds of all human trafficking victims worldwide reside in Asia. One organization located at the heart of the issue in Cambodia is working to change those numbers and save lives.
“One girl is too many. One day is too long.” is a motto that Agape International Missions (AIM – http://agapewebsite.org/) lives by. Operation Underground Railroad established a recent partnership with AIM to provide resources, such as funding and training. In 2016 alone, AIM and O.U.R.’s joint efforts have already led to five rescue operations with 22 victims rescued and seven traffickers arrested.
AIM, which has been fighting sex trafficking since 2005, has rescued 539 victims and estimates it has had an immediate impact on over 10,000 people by rescuing, restoring and reintegrating victims, as well as, directly preventing sex slavery in Cambodia.
Ashleigh Allard has been the Development Coordinator at AIM since October 2015. “I don’t think I understood the gravity of the issue before working with AIM. It’s hard to calculate the number of children who are being trafficked for sex,” she said. “We’ve rescued girls as young as four years old. Hearing that would break anyone’s heart.”
“Operation Bullhorn” was the most recent mission where O.U.R. provided training and funding for AIM’s rescue. On March 29th, AIM’s rescue team freed six minors and three adults in a massage parlor front for human trafficking. Phnom Penh’s Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Services arrested one trafficker in the raid on the parlor in the Kendall province in Cambodia. After a two-week undercover operation, AIM uncovered evidence that indicated the parlor manager was selling the children for sex. AIM has since relocated the six minors to a rehabilitation center to assist in the recovery process.
Allard explained the partnership with O.U.R. provides AIM with resources and support to enhance their ability to conduct recovery operations in Cambodia. “The rescue side of what AIM does aligns with O.U.R.’s mission,” she said. “O.U.R. helps provide the funds for raids.” This partnership is vital to O.U.R. in expediting our ability to connect with the existing law enforcement, aftercare, and community to enhance their role in eradicating sex trafficking locally.
The goal of O.U.R. is not to liberate every child ourselves, but to empower those agencies already doing great work. O.U.R. is able to enhance their tools and resources so they can have a larger impact and rescue more children while arresting and prosecuting traffickers. O.U.R. consistently works with law enforcement so that the traffickers can be arrested through proper legal channels.
AIM’s goal focuses on four main areas: prevention, rescue, restoration, and reintegration. The organization has set up 12 different programs all focusing on some aspect of their goal. AIM owns and operates two transitional homes. These homes focus on victims 18 and older to find employment, receive counseling and “get back on a good trajectory for a successful life.”
In addition to their transitional homes, AIM owns three employment centers to help victims reintegrate and promote prevention of human trafficking through sustainable jobs. “One of these employment centers employs members of the community known for generational sex trafficking. Providing sustainable jobs breaks the cycle of exploitation,” Allard said. AIM also owns a retail store, Made, to help fund their efforts, an emergency family care center, an elementary school, and a gym called The Lord’s Gym, which focuses on kickboxing, allowing men to come in and train. Allard explained this key to help in prevention; to get men and others involved in a different cause, one that appeals to them such as kickboxing.
The Lord’s Gym is a preventative measure to help keep those who may be susceptible to evils of sex trafficking, on the right track and away from desperate and terrible mistakes. AIM feels it’s vital to get involved with the community before sex trafficking seeps into an individual’s life in order to complete eradicate sex trafficking.
“Brandon”, the director of regional operations with O.U.R., works closely with AIM’s operations in Cambodia. Brandon praised AIM’s efforts not only on their rescues, but also on the rehabilitation side. “AIM is very focused on the rehabilitation process,” he said. “They have a Muay Thai fight school. It’s a very good connection to the locals and helps in that rehabilitation process. AIM does a really good job of helping the victims go to the communities where they come from.”
Brandon, with a 20-year military background in special ops, as well as a Master’s degree in forensics and training by the Department of Defense in Trafficking in Persons, recognizes the strength a partnership with AIM gives to combating sex trafficking in Cambodia. “O.U.R. really wouldn’t have been able to work in Cambodia without this partnership,” he said.
“It would take years of work to establish ourselves in Cambodia, but when we partner with an organization, we can get the work done more quickly.” He also explained that the funds O.U.R. provides to AIM equates to a fraction of the cost to send jump team members there in just airfare and hotel cost. Brandon feels the partnership helps cut costs and allows O.U.R. to work with AIM instead of “reinventing the wheel.”
With the five joint operations in 2016 with AIM, Brandon has seen the benefits of working together towards a common goal. From first establishing the connection with AIM, to the most recent success with “Operation Bullhorn,” Brandon continues to play a vital role in providing training and funding to AIM’s effort to curb the human trafficking infection in Southeast Asia.
How can people get involved?
One way that people can get involved is being educated on the issue. There are organizations all over the world that are combating this issue. We all are capable of fighting the issue, using the talents, abilities and skills we already possess. Allard feels that people need to find a niche they are passionate about and follow it. “No matter where you live, there is likely an organization that is fighting human trafficking,” she said. “Just being aware of the issue, however, isn’t enough. We need people who are willing to act.”