It takes a sick mindset to treat another human being as so much property to be bought and sold against their will—even more so if sex slaves are their thing.
For undercover agents to infiltrate sex-trafficking crime rings would mean blending in with that sick crowd—acting like they act, thinking how they think. Seeing what they see would surely take its mental toll on the strongest amongst us. But for Department of Homeland Security special agent Tim Ballard, the devastation of having to work around that environment was worth it to get the criminals in charge behind bars.
Ballard has gained international attention as the founder of the organization Operation Underground Railroad, which works to seek out and eliminate sex-trafficking rings across the globe.
The path he took to get to where he is now, though, is as selfless and brave as it is heartbreaking—and shows what it truly means to put the lives of others above your own.
A native of California, Ballard attended Brigham Young University before getting married to his wife, Katherine, and joining the Department of Homeland Security.
It was in 2000 that the federal office asked if he would join the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team task force in charge of seeking out sex-trafficking rings, looking to destroy the organizations that abducted children for the illegal trade.
In order to identify the ringleaders and cut these groups off at the head, though, Ballard would have to infiltrate the organizations—which meant posing as a member of the sex slavery trade.
Initially, Ballard told Upworthy that he and his wife didn’t think the job was right for him. They feared that the darkness would creep its way into their homes, damaging them and their children.
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Posted by The Abolitionists on Tuesday, March 22, 2016
"I feel invincible."This is what a young girl said to our team on a recent O.U.R. Aftercare mission in a high…
It didn’t take long, though, for the couple to realize that it was because of their own happy lives that they needed to accept the job—and so Ballard began a 10-year stint working one of the most mentally and emotionally taxing jobs in the world.
“We started working these cases,” Ballard said, “and they were 1000 times worse than my mind could have conjured up … people call it child pornography, but I can’t call it that. It’s child rape videos, and it’s just devastating.”
It was one of the most difficult units to work in, as the department essentially trained themselves from scratch. Instructors had to step out and collect themselves, tears were shed, and humanity had to be compartmentalized in their minds just to make it through the day.
Thankfully, though, Ballard was able to get through the training and rescue dozens of children. And while he was pleased that he was making such an impact, it was the flaws in the government’s system that led him to create Operation Underground Railroad.
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Peruvian courts sentenced US citizen Joshua David Brown to 27 years in prison for the crimes of human trafficking and online child exploitation. Known as “The Beast”, Brown was captured in O.U.R.’s Operation Clear Hope in December 2015 for leading an organization of online child sexual exploitation. His online service offered sex tourism in Peru for predators from different countries since 2002. This is a prime example of why we fight child sex trafficking overseas. The United States is sadly a top consumer for online child exploitation, and we at O.U.R. will not rest until we see justice for those who endanger children at home and abroad. See link in profile for more details. #EndHumanTrafficking #SouthAmerica #Peru #US #arrest #sentence #overseas #partner #justice
The organization was founded when Ballard realized that children who had been taken outside of developed nations were less likely to be properly rescued. The United States couldn’t try their cases in court, and they often had trouble finding a home for the children once they were taken away from the slavers. Now, his non-profit is able to work through the U.S. Embassy in other countries to provide the resources to save these children’s lives—and to provide the training to get better sex trafficking and child slavery combat units on the ground in the other nations themselves.
Recently, the organization successfully pulled off the largest child-trafficking rescue in history, arresting 10 perpetrators while rescuing 123 victims (including 55 minors).
His work is far from over, as tens of millions are still literally chains across the world even today. But thanks to his willingness to put aside his happiness to take on a devastating line of work, there are likely thousands out there who are safe in their beds at home instead.