On March 11, Tim Ballard, CEO of Operation Underground Railroad and former CIA agent in the Department of Homeland Security, spoke at the Rexburg Tabernacle about the threat of human trafficking.
Ballard said over 2 million children are forced into the sex industry worldwide.
“How is it possible that this many people are in slavery, including the United States?” Ballard said at the event. “I want to pull my hair out.”
Ballard said the demand for sex trafficking stems from pornography.
“How many sex addicts are there that want to engage in this and why?” Ballard said. “Because of pornography. So, if you take nothing home tonight but this: educate your family and your kids about what porn does.”
Ballard said allowing a child access to the Internet while alone in his room is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than allowing your child to enter a bar.
“Most parents did not have the Internet in their bedrooms,” Ballard said. “That’s a huge problem because they just don’t get it.”
While working as an undercover operative for 10 years, Ballard said he would pose as a pedophile or child trafficker, thereby dismantling dozens of sex slave organizations.
Ballard left his government position in late 2013 and founded the O.U.R. to further save children from trafficking.
“One of the main reasons I left the government wasn’t only to rescue kids we knew were still out there, but to have the opportunity to shine a light, to have an opportunity to talk to you like this,” Ballard said. “I couldn’t do that.”
The O.U.R. team consists of former CIA, Navy SEALs and Special Ops operatives, according to organization’s website.
In a two year period, the team has rescued 413 victims and arrested more than 136 traffickers around the world, according to the O.U.R. website.
Ballard said O.U.R. also provides rehabilitation and recovery to survivors.
He said sex trafficking is a bigger problem than one organization or government can handle by itself.
“I wish there was 2,000 other organizations doing what I’m doing,” Ballard said. “I wish presidential candidates would talk about it at least once.”
He said everyone can assist in rescuing children from slavery.
“I don’t know exactly what you can do, but God knows,” Ballard said. “Some people are bloggers. Some people are on the rehab side, making care packages that we give to victims. As you study the problem and learn about it, you will know what you can do.”
Ballard said BYU-Idaho students have an especially important role.
“I’d say if anybody is going to make a difference on this planet, expect that to be students that attend a great institution like BYU-I,” Ballard said. “You’re lucky you are a part of an amazing institution that fills you with light. However, it does nothing if you don’t use it for good.”
Ballard, an alumnus from BYU, said he invites all BYU-I students to act for good.
“I’d ask people to shine that light on the darkest social ill that claims the earth today,” he said. “We need more and not less of that light.”
Savannah Harker, event co-organizer and president of Anti-human Trafficking Community Club, said the first step in helping is to be aware of the issue.
“It’s something we need to face,” Harker said. “I feel like sometimes people kind of put these dark and evil issues behind us because we don’t want to deal with them.”
Ballard said Gerald Molen, producer of Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park, and his film crew have followed O.U.R. around the world to capture on camera the arrest of traffickers and the rescue of children.
He said the footage will be featured in The Abolitionist, a documentary which will be released nationally on May 16. Megaplex Theatres has committed 100 percent box office sales to O.U.R., including the Idaho Falls location.
“So one thing you can all do is get people to go to that movie,” Ballard said. “I’ve never seen such footage.”
Ballard said Molen’s footage has also provided undisputed evidence against traffickers during prosecution.
“I’d say about 80 percent of crimes against children, the prosecution falls apart, especially in developing countries, because it requires the children to take the stand,” Ballard said. “Not one child has had to take the stand because of Gerry Molen and his tape.”
He said people in his field allow horrible events to push them away from God, but his job has done just the opposite.
“I used to believe in angels because it’s in the scriptures I’ve read, but I didn’t know they were real,” Ballard said. “Now, I know they are real.”
Ballard said without faith in Jesus Christ he would have no hope to move forward with O.U.R.
“I know that the Savior weeps for these kids,” Ballard said. “This world was designed in a way that men have their agency, and that’s how it has to be. When all is said and done, the Atonement will wipe all this ugliness away.”
To find ways to help O.U.R. go to ourresuce.org, or to buy tickets to The Abolitionist go to theabolitionistsmovie.com.