Every year, it’s estimated that over two million children are subjugated to a $150 billion, worldwide sex slavery industry — and Americans are providing the demand.
Tim Ballard is the founder and president of Operation Underground Railroad — an organization which mobilizes operatives to rescue children held by global sex traffickers. Ballard is a former Department of Homeland Security special agent who worked with the United States Sex Tourism Jump Team. In 2019, he was tapped to serve on President Trump’s Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking.
After discussing his work on a recent episode of Candace, Ballard sat down with The Daily Wire to shed more light on the global child sex trafficking crisis — and what Americans can do to end it.
“How many more can we get out?”
At first, Ballard was extremely hesitant to spend his life fighting sex trafficking.
“I trained my whole life, I trained throughout my education to fight terrorism and drug smugglers. That was my dream since I was 18 years old, and I did everything I could to get to that place,” he recounted. “I was on the border as a federal agent — a special agent undercover operator, crawling through tunnels and super excited about that work. And in my first year, I get called into the office and get told ‘We’re gonna open up a child crimes unit.’ I was like, ‘No, I can’t do this. This is too dark.’ I don’t even know what it is, right? And so I told them no, I wouldn’t do it.”
It was Ballard’s wife, Katherine, who ultimately changed his mind: “She said to me, for the very reason I thought we couldn’t do this — because we have children — is exactly why we need to do this. And we understand what a childhood is supposed to be. So I gave it a shot.”
Ballard spent several years working on cases involving child exploitation material cases, including child rape videos. As he explained: “It was a thousand times worse than my mind could conjure up.”
Ballard considered quitting. However, Customs and Border Protection apprehended a van in 2006 that was trafficking a five-year-old boy who Ballard had previously seen in a child exploitation video.
“So it was the first time I saw an actual child that was a victim of child exploitation material,” he said. “And at one point in that first night, this little boy ran up to me and hugged me and said, ‘I don’t belong here.’ And it just melted me. I was sobbing.”
The boy gave Ballard a necklace inscribed with the verse reference for 1 Timothy 6:11 — “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” According to Ballard: “It was almost their rosary, like ‘This is what’s gonna save us, God’s gonna save us.’”
Also in 2006, the United States passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which made it possible for federal agents to travel overseas in pursuit of American sex tourists abusing foreign children. Ballard resigned his position with the government to launch Operation Underground Railroad in 2013 — a move that permitted him to also pursue cases involving non-Americans.
During Operation Underground Railroad’s first mission, Ballard rescued two children out of a false orphanage in Haiti. At the time, Ballard did not know that he was rescuing his future adoptive son and daughter.
Today, his two Haitian children continue to provide motivation for his work: “I see their faces every day. I know the trajectory of their lives, what was going to happen to them… Those kids remind me every day, ‘You’ll never stop doing this, there are millions.’ How many more can we get out?”
Katherine later launched Children Need Families — a project of Operation Underground Railroad that has helped facilitate the adoption of 113 children. The group plans to help adopt 491 children with Down’s syndrome who, as Ballard explained, are particularly vulnerable to subjugation. “In a lot of these countries… if they don’t get adopted by the time they’re six, they’re thrown into an institution where they’re completely abandoned at best, and abused and trafficked at worst. They’re considered subhuman, when in fact they’re the greatest amongst us.”
“Making them ripe for victimhood”
When asked why the United States is the number-one consumer of child exploitation material, Ballard pointed to the hypersexualization of American culture.
“How do you become the demand? How do you come to want sex with a child? It starts with pornography,” Ballard said. “It starts with porn addiction. Pornography creates a chemical reaction in the brain. It’s a dopamine effect. It’s all part of a godly system in the brain that facilitates and encourages healthy marriage relationships and procreation. So, it’s like the counterfeit of that.”
Ballard compared an addict’s forays into child pornography to a person seeking progressively stronger highs from various drugs.
“You want the dopamine hit, so what do you do? What’s the equivalent of going from marijuana to cocaine? You go from twenty-two years old to fifteen years old. And when that doesn’t work, you go to ten years old. And when that doesn’t work, you’re going to fly to a high trafficking area and rape a seven-year-old. Because you’re that gone.”
“The country with the highest demand is going to be the country most exposed to sexual material,” Ballard said. “And so, what country is as large as the United States where everyone has access to the internet? None. So that’s my theory as to why the United States is the largest consumer.”
Ballard noted that by exposing children to sexualized materials, government schools are employing the same tactics as traffickers.
“Candace and I talked about teachers who are now teaching children to masturbate and to learn terms like ‘clitoris’ and ‘erection.’ As I said to Candace, this is exactly what the traffickers are trying to do to children. If they can get access, they will try to desensitize them by showing them sexual things. Now they have teachers doing it for them… you’re just softening up these children and making them ripe for victimhood.”
“Or, you teach them that sexuality is so okay that a fourteen-year-old on Instagram is showing as much skin as they can,” he continued. “If you’re paying attention, there are traffickers commenting under the photos. ‘Hey, you’re so beautiful, why don’t you come to a photoshoot?’ That’s how they’re recruiting kids into trafficking.”
“Anyone that’s pushing that mentality — especially in public education — the reader can decide who’s doing that,” remarked Ballard. “Whoever’s doing that is on the wrong side of history.”
“People have to get involved”
As Ballard discussed, American citizens and institutions often fail to address the child sex trafficking crisis — a reality that stops it from ending.
“People are living their lives without even understanding there’s this underbelly where children and women are being trafficked to the tune of $150 billion per year.”
Ballard noted that the media’s silence on the matter is particularly deafening — and heartbreaking.
“Imagine this. I looked into the eyes of a child forty-eight hours ago, who a trafficker was trying to sell to me… I come home from an operation like that, and I see the headlines. The headlines that don’t match the story at all, because it’s complete sensational bullcrap. And I think to myself, this is a manifestation of our corrupt society — and a corrupt media, frankly. That there are actually problems that are real problems, like children being raped — two million a year — and that’s never a headline. It’s never a headline. That should be the headline every single day, then we can start talking about the tribal wars and red-versus-blue.”
Recalling the impetus for the Civil War, Ballard explained that “it’s always the media that ends slavery.”
“When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe for the first time in the middle of the Civil War — this was the author of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ who shined a light on the darkness of slavery — he said to her, ‘So you’re the lady that wrote the book that started this war.’ In other words, even he’s admitting ‘I wasn’t the one that got this going.’ The people got it going, the media got it going. So there has to be a shift in the media to where they start caring about problems that are so significant that it’s almost incomprehensible. And what’s incomprehensible is that they’re not telling these stories.”
“What’s gonna solve the problem are more interviews like this — responsible media outlets rising up and reporting the truth about what’s happening to our children,” he added. “Reporting the truth about what’s happening on the border right now, to these children who are being victimized by our own policies.”
American parents can therefore have a sizable impact in solving the crisis, according to Ballard.
In particular, parents ought to stop educators from bringing sexual themes into the classroom: “It’s a felony, depending on how they’re doing it. You’re not allowed to do that online; an adult can’t go to a child and show images of genitalia and talk about sex. And now you’re going to legitimize it in the classroom? It’s insane. So, rise up against that.”
Citing his experience with the Department of Homeland Security — during which he acted as a child online in order to capture pedophiles — Ballard warned that parents must be more mindful of their children’s activity on social media.
“Beyond that, it’s educating one another… to make sure your kids aren’t having unfettered access to the internet without any controls,” said Ballard. “Most parents don’t know that the gaming their children are doing gives pedophiles access to their children. I have talked to many parents and asked them, ‘Would you let your thirteen-year-old daughter go bar-hopping or clubbing on a Friday night?’ Well, does your thirteen-year-old have unfettered access to the internet? That’s almost certainly more dangerous. Because there’s about a million pedophiles out there hunting your child. Getting into their heads, influencing their actions.”
“And eventually, if they’re successful, luring them out into a place where they can be hurt. And parents don’t even understand it. ‘My daughter’s Instagram page, look, it’s sweet, it’s wholesome’ — I don’t care. No matter how wholesome their social media platform is, these children are always one click away from the devil. Or, the devil is one click away from them.”
Ballard also asserted that Americans must stop relying upon the federal government to solve their problems.
“When any problem is that big, it’s not going to be solved by any one government or even one agency,” he said. “People have to get involved. People have to rise up — again, going back to what we learned from history, Abraham Lincoln recognized that it wasn’t him. It wasn’t the government that eradicated slavery — ultimately they did their part, but the movement that really compelled them to do their part was the people.”
“The Underground Railroad wasn’t made up of government agencies… But it was a group of citizens that said ‘Enough is enough, we will go in, we will get these people out,’” he continued. “So, it’s always the people that need to rise up, and the false sense of security that government’s going to solve really any problem is what creates most of our problems.”
“We need to rise up and take care of everything in our lives, but not the least of which would be helping people — helping children — who are being raped for money.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.