A new movie premiering in theaters across the country on July 4 highlights the work of an American nonprofit organization that aims to combat international child trafficking rings.
The film follows the story of Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR Rescue) who is played by actor Jim Caviezel, as he quits his job with the Department of Homeland Security while on a mission to rescue missing children in Honduras and starts organizing his own independent team of child rescuers.
“What you see in the movie ‘Sound of Freedom,’ that was based on a real-life operation called ‘Triple Take,’” OUR Rescue President and COO Matt Osborne, a former CIA agent, told Fox News Digital. ” … In October of 2014, in three cities in Colombia, in a one-hour time period, we helped Colombian authorities and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rescue 123 trafficking victims – 55 of those were minors.”
The film opens with a fictional story based on real-life events about a lower-middle class father living in Honduras who is approached by a woman claiming to be a talent recruiter. The well-dressed, well-spoken woman tells the father she sees potential in his young daughter after hearing her sing at the market and convinces him to let her attend singing tryouts to qualify for a young celebrity program.
When the father brings his daughter and son to the tryouts in what appears to be an apartment filled with other children, the recruiter tells him to come back at 7 p.m. He leaves and returns only to find a dark, empty room where he left his children.
The film is, at times, difficult to watch and meant to make viewers feel discomfort toward the grotesque reality of the abusive, $150 billion global criminal enterprise that is child trafficking.
The film highlights a 5,000% increase in the distribution of child sexual abuse materials, or child pornography, over the last year as part of the reason behind an increasing demand for children for sale, often by American tourists visiting other countries, as Osborne explained.
Human trafficking, the “fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, has eclipsed the illegal arms trade, will soon reach the drug trade,” he said. “It’s Americans, American tourists, who oftentimes are going to these countries to exploit children.”
“Sound of Freedom” is a kind of real-life, action-hero movie meant to raise awareness about human trafficking and how victims get roped into complex criminal organizations.
OUR Rescue was directly involved in the creation of the film, and members like Ballard and Osborne were present for parts of the filming process in Colombia.
“A lot of us have government backgrounds against CIA, Homeland Security, military,” Osborne said of OUR Rescue, “but it’s combining our efforts to go into the darkest corners of the world. We’re willing to take calculated risks. We won’t take dumb risks, but we’ll take calculated risks. And … we have a whole bunch of different faiths represented. We’re not a faith-based organization, but we feel that there’s nothing more important than trying to save God’s precious children.”
OUR Rescue, which is made up of many former government employees, gets approval from international governments to get directly involved in child-trafficking operations to save young victims overseas and get them the help they need after traumatizing experiences. The nonprofit has been involved in more than 4,000 operations and 6,500 arrests since its founding.
There is also an emphasis on Homeland Security Investigations’ role in combating human trafficking rings in the film.
“ICE agents are getting a bad rap. It’s not fair. You know, our Border Patrol and others. But I’ve seen firsthand what an amazing job Homeland Security investigations are doing,” Osborne said.
While patriotic at its core, the movie’s inclusion of big-name actors from various Latin American countries aims to help spread awareness about the crime on a global scale, the former CIA agent explained.
The nonprofit also helps U.S.-based law enforcement offices that request assistance in taking down domestic trafficking rings.
What separates the organization from other nonprofits fighting human trafficking is its rescue process as a “one-stop shop,” Osborne said.
“OUR, I would argue, is maybe a first of its kind in that it kind of does everything. We’re on the front-end of prevention education, going into schools to talk about the dangers of trafficking,” he said. “Then, we provide training. … We go into other countries and teach them how to go undercover. Then, we ourselves go into the dark places to help extract these children in concert, always, with government. Then, we’re on the aftercare side. We’re also working … on the prosecution side.”
At any given time, as of 2021 statistics from the International Labour Organization, there are more than 27 million people in forced labor, 6.3 million of which are forced into commercial sexual exploitation.
The top three types of trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2021 were escort services (10%), pornography (8%) and illicit massage, health and beauty services, according to Polaris, a group that works to end human trafficking.
Most trafficking victims in the United States are recruited by someone they know, and the internet remains a top recruitment location, Polaris found in an analysis of 2021 data from the hotline.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking in the United States, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.