Technology, Our Kids and Human TraffickingJanuary 23, 2022
If you haven’t yet seen the movie, The Sound of Freedom, GO! I (Teresa) served with Tim Ballard on the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking three years ago. His passion to help the kids and his incredible work is truly an inspiration. While the content of this movie is difficult…and plays on every emotion (sadness, anger, fear, hope, gratefulness, and more), it is critical that we become aware and hold conversations on the realities of human trafficking – the fastest growing organized crime in the world. Spoil alert! This post contains some information about certain movie scenes.
It is important to note a couple of things about this movie. 1) While it is based on the true story of Tim Ballard, it is still Hollywood. Not everything you see in the movie is true. Tim’s organization, Operation Underground Railroad, spells out what is true and what is Hollywood here: https://ourrescue.org/blog/sound-of-freedom-based-on-true-story It is important you know what is real life and what isn’t in this movie, because several things Hollywood inserted are sensationalism and myths we (Chains Interrupted and other anti-Human Trafficking organizations) try desperately to dispel.
It’s CRITICAL that people watching the movie understand this film only shows one tiny fragment of what human trafficking looks like. First and foremost, the majority of people victimized by Human Trafficking in the US… were born in the US. They are our friends, family, and neighbors. In the movie, there is space where real-life footage is shown of kids being kidnapped and likely led into a life of trafficking. While kidnapping someone to traffic them DOES happen, it is by far the least common way. Most of the time, we see the use of fake relationships to groom someone into a trafficking situation – whether that be a romantic partner, friendship or “new family.” More often than you think, people are sold into sex and labor trafficking by a family member.
While sex trafficking is talked about the most, labor trafficking is a growing problem in the United States. People can be exploited for labor services after coming into the country without legal methods. They get into debt bondage with a smuggler who charges them to bring them into the country or provide them false documents. Many times, people in these situations feel trapped, as their families back home may be threatened, or they are dependent on this relationship to work – to meet their basic needs as well as send money back home to their families. Often, it is almost impossible to repay the debt owed, as no matter how hard the person works, a reasonable value of their services is not applied toward the paydown of the debt and more and more debt is added as time goes on (food, clothing, shelter, interest, etc.).
Traffickers want to create a relationship in which the victim is dependent on them, and work to break down all the other relationships in the victim’s life – replacing them with themselves. The number one place traffickers recruit victims these days is online – chat rooms, dating sites, sugar baby sites, porn sites and more. As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I will tell you that children do not have the developmental capability to handle what IS being thrown at them online. To quote a former child predator, “The internet is not a place to give kids their privacy.”
It is also important to address how people who are victimized by this crime typically react to people trying to “rescue” them. The scene where Tim goes off into the rebel territory by himself did not happen in real life. That entire scenario is Hollywood. A young girl who has been kidnapped, sold for sex to tourists (many of them North American), then sold to and abused by a rebel leader is unlikely to trust and leave with a North American man who shows up out of nowhere in the jungle. A person in the US who has been trafficked is also not likely to trust and leave with someone they do not know. Trying to “rescue” them can place them in more harm. Anyone “rescued” out of a trafficking situation may not be safe going home again, as traffickers will often retaliate or come back to retrieve their “property.” Being victimized by sex and/or labor trafficking is extremely traumatizing. Every survivor I have ever met has told me their lives were never the same again. While the movie had a feel-good ending, in reality it will take a lot of time and rehabilitative services before many survivors will be able to sing, play, and dance again.
So….perhaps you are asking “What can I do?”
1) Educate yourself about Human Trafficking. Seeing this movie is a great start, but it covers only one of many types of Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking is a very complex problem…and the solutions are just as complex. There are many great resources on our website at www.ChainsInterrupted.com.
2) Educate others! Chains Interrupted offers presentations all the time. In fact, we have 15 educational presentations for various groups (general public, school, hospitality staff, medical personnel, law enforcement, churches, financial institutions, kids and technology, and more!). Invite people to one or request us to present at your event or group.
3) Meet the needs of the vulnerable (within your own circle or organizations in your community) (in our community, may we suggest Safe Families, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, and Youth for Christ).
4) Support the movement through donations of finances, time, and/or talents. At Chains Interrupted, we often say “Give what you do!” Hopefully the movie inspired you to get involved in the fight for freedom! If so, please reach out!
Find out more at www.ChainsInterrupted.com or follow Chains Interrupted on Facebook and Instagram
For advice or support for someone victimized/a survivor:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text “Be Free” (233733)
Iowa Victim Service Call Center: 1-800-770-1650 or text “Iowa Help” to 20121
To report a tip:
Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking: www.StopHTIowa.org