This story is written by Stephen Garcia

On March 9, Tim Ballard and Clay Olsen held a combined event called An Evening with Tim Ballard and Clay Olsen at the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium.

A lesson was taught during the evening about human trafficking happening here in the U.S., even closer to home than people would think.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, in 2016, there were 7,572 cases of human trafficking throughout the U.S., with 14 human trafficking cases reported in Idaho alone. In 2015 there were six reported cases in Idaho.

The night’s theme was the connection between pornography and sex trafficking. Although O.U.R. and Fight the New Drug are two different organizations, they are fighting the same fight, just at different stages.

The first speaker of the night was a mother of a sex-trafficked survivor. She spoke of how many victims of sex trafficking are not kidnapped but manipulated into sex trafficking.

The first speaker’s daughter was taken through manipulation by a boy she met. She spoke in detail of how her daughter became distant and miserable before being taken.

One day, she and her daughter met up to have lunch together, and this boy her daughter had met was calling non-stop. Her daughter left lunch early. The mother went after her, but by the time she went outside the restaurant, her daughter was gone. The mother could not get in contact with her daughter after she was taken.

Her daughter was found in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, when her trafficker was caught, and her daughter returned home. However, once the boy was caught, the mother and her daughter received death threats warning the daughter not to testify against the boy. They were also followed when they would go to stores.

The boy now resides in an Arizona federal prison and will be transferred to a Utah prison in 2018 to serve a sentence there for sex trafficking.

The mother said she asks people to remember four words: change, children, communication and courage. She asks everyone to always remember these words, to always be vigilant in helping their children and to have courage to talk to them and be their friends.

Dr. Timothy Rarick, a marriage and families studies professor, spoke on how the breakdown of the family is fueling the pornography and sex trafficking business, and conversely, how pornography and sex trafficking is fueling the breakdown of the family. He went on to explain that a common theme amongst former porn actresses was their need to feel loved. They need a father, and pornography destroys fathers and their relationships with their family.

Rarick said pornography destroys families, and the destruction of the family fuels the pornography and human trafficking business.

SYDNEY JENSEN | Scroll Photography

Rarick explained how society has changed in a short amount of time.

“Today, we expect sexual harassment laws to restrain coarse behavior (…) Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we’ve become,” Rarick said quoting Walter Williams, a writer for Deseret News who said, “Gentlemanly behavior once protected women from coarse behavior.”

Clay Olsen took the mic after Rarick. Olsen said he started Fight the New Drug in 2009 because he saw the effects pornography had on one of his cousins, eventually leading him to jail.

Olsen started looking into research on how pornography affects the brain and found a large amount of research showing that pornography destroys people, but there were no conversations about the dangers and harm of pornography. So, Olsen started a non-profit organization and has had success worldwide, helping over 70,000 people through their online program Fortify.

Olsen said people see pornography and sex trafficking as two separate worlds. People will fight against sex trafficking easily but have issues standing against pornography.

He said pornography is seen as harmless by most of the society, and if it is discussed, it only gets a finger wag. However, people fail to realize pornography, sex trafficking and prostitution are all part of the same business. Pornography fuels sex trafficking and prostitution.

Olsen said pornography harms the brain, the heart and the world.

It harms the brain by literally changing the way it works. This is the same way hard drugs affect the brain.

It harms the heart by destroying the ability to feel love and connect with others, thus leading to the destruction of the family.

It harms the globe by combining everything and throwing it into society, and one finds it has become a widespread problem around the world.

Olsen said people regularly approach him with their own stories of dealing with pornography and how it led to human trafficking or sexual abuse.

He shared a video of Elizabeth Smart, a woman who was kidnapped at 14 and sexually molested for nine months until she was rescued and her captor arrested. In the video, Smart said, “Pornography made my living hell worse.”

Olsen closed by offering counsel to the audience on how to help those struggling with pornography.

“It starts with us in rejecting pornography and what it teaches,” he said. “This will not only change our own attitudes as we get educated on the topic but change the attitude of those around us, which will, in turn, change the world.

It sounds grandiose, but it’s happening around the world.”

Olsen invited the audience to help their friends and be there for the people around them.

“Many in your own neighborhood — in your own home — are struggling,” Olsen said. “Help them. Be their friend. Be a loved one that is supportive to help them overcome something that is very prominent and persistent in our culture and our society.”

Tim Ballard spoke next about his organization and how it started. Ballard said he was working for Homeland Security to end sex trafficking until 2013 when he left to start O.U.R. Since 2013, he said O.U.R. has been able to rescue 641 victims and arrest 275 traffickers.

Ballard said O.U.R. started because of Gardy, a boy from Haiti, who was taken and trafficked while his family was in church. His father, Guesno, walked through Port-au-Prince with a flashlight at night looking for his son. Feeling helpless in not being allowed to help find Gardy as a U.S. agent, Ballard said he left his job and founded O.U.R., a private organization having the ability to operate anywhere throughout the world, with the first operation taking place in Haiti.

Ballard explained that traffickers operate in Haiti and around the world, and that traffickers work faster when American tourists show up because the U.S. is the highest consumer of child pornography. He said Haiti would use orphanages as fronts to sell children. They rescued 28 children from the orphanage which Gardy’s father operates, but Gardy was not there. The search for Gardy is still ongoing.

Ballard shared a video showing O.U.R. rescued 31 girls and arrested eight traffickers during the 2017 Superbowl.

Ballard said during his time working for the government, he had the opportunity to interrogate dozens of pedophiles. He said the stories were the same.

“‘I picked up a Playboy when I was 12’,” Ballard said, quoting someone he interrogated. “‘And it wasn’t enough.’”

Ballard said the adult porn industry is like marijuana, eventually, if you use it enough, it is not enough.

“It’s not the naked pictures they want,” Ballard said. “It’s the chemical reaction they want.”

Ballard said there are 2 million children forced into the commercial sex trade, with 200,000 estimated to be in the U.S. and up to 10,000 being trafficked every year.

“With the money that’s made from human trafficking, you could buy every single Starbucks franchise,” Ballard said. “You could buy every single NBA team and still have enough left-over money to send every child in the U.S. to college for four years.”

Ballard asked audience members to get involved in the fight. Slavery has not ended, and more people are enslaved than ever before.

Ballard said women are often the ones selling the kids. Traffickers are using different tactics. He said there was a case where the traffickers recruited a model from Colombia to trick kids to go with her to a modeling school where they would be taken into the commercialized sex trade.

Ballard encouraged the audience to serve and to be a light in the darkness. He said he cannot tell people what to do; only they themselves and God can figure out what they can do. It could be anything, as long as they would be that light in the darkness. He pleaded with the audience to not do nothing; that is all it takes for evil to triumph.

“The reason this has gone on for so long, is because people don’t want to walk into the darkness,” Ballard said. “You have to walk into the darkness, even a little bit, even tonight you’ve all had to walk a little bit into the darkness. It hurts; I’m sure you’ve heard and seen things tonight that hurt your heart (…) Thank you for being willing to lose a little bit of your innocence (…) security, safety, you’re giving that up for these kids, so thank you.”

Olsen counseled parents to be more educated in what is going on and to talk to their children when they are struggling with pornography.

“It’s not a question of if, but when and to what degree,” Olsen said. “So, when you do have that conversation with them, it’s going to be from a place of calm, a place of love and understanding (…) Separate them from their behavior; they are not a bad person or a bad human (…) Get on their side of the fence and fight that challenge together.”