There are lots of things in life that can wrap their tentacles into our hearts and minds, changing us either for good or for not-so-good.  I think that’s why I worry so much about raising kids alongside social media these days. Well, “alongside” isn’t the best word to use for the situation our world has found itself in, perhaps infiltrate or bombard are better words.  But things like that have the power to grip control of so many aspects of life.  

So it hit me extra hard when our college/Washington D.C. friend came to town in December.  We haven’t seen her in years, but have stayed in touch here and there, and it was so great to see her and to catch up!

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She was in town for a special “ribbon cutting” ceremony for an organization she works for called Operation Underground Railroad.  Have you heard of that?  It’s a pretty amazing organization that works to rescue children from sex trafficking.  

Yes, sex trafficking.  Which is a whole dark, horrible thing that you hear about, but I’ve never really delved into it until we sat on our couch late into the night with Cherstyn and she spilled out so many stories and facts and haunting details of something that’s going on right under our noses here in the United States. (For some reason I was thinking this was more common in other countries, but no, there are between 14,500 and 17,500 people trafficked into the United States every year according to a UN study.)  Horrendous things are going on in this world hurting children.

And our friend gets to work for this awesome organization that is working to chip away to change that.

Some facts that baffled us:
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(all of this info. is taken from their website that you can click into HERE…so much interesting and heartbreaking information, and some stories from the rescues that have taken place).

The O.U.R. mission is “To shine a light worldwide on the global epidemic of child sex trafficking, and in so doing rescue more children from slavery and assist law enforcement to seek justice for those who violate children. We place survivors on a path to recovery by partnering with vetted aftercare providers.”

Interesting article HERE outlining some facts about sex trafficking, but here are some of the things that hit me the most:

“The International Labor Organization reported that human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide, two-thirds of which is generated by sex trafficking.  According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, less than two percent of human trafficking victims are ever identified. In 2018 alone, more than 5,000 cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, suggesting the massive influence of this illegal industry.”

Much of the human trafficking in the world today occurs online. No social media platform or online dating service is free from the reach of human trafficking, Wyatt said, including social media giants like Instagram and Facebook. Any website or app where people are communicating with each other can be misused for human trafficking.

Online exchanges can distance purchasers from victims, causing some to believe a felony is just an ordinary business transaction.

“A common misconception that buyers have is that it’s a victimless crime and that these men and women want to be doing this,” Wyatt said. “Most of the time, this isn’t a choice someone had. They were forced into it or tricked into it.”

She said oftentimes victims are forced into these situations by their own family members or to fulfill basic needs like food and shelter.”

This is a tough thing to crack down on because it is such a digital business, and is so easy to spread.  There is huge money involved.  It is also really difficult to arrest perpetrators because they have to have the digital evidence.  SO, because of many very generous donations to help in the cause, Cherstyn was here for a ribbon cutting ceremony to put this new quite amazing vehicle into action:

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It’s a huge motor home-type vehicle that is filled to the brim with equipment to go directly to the crime scene, take all electronics which can be used as evidence and download right then and there to the local authorities.  

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A few of us who know Cherstyn stayed after the press conference and had our own little “tour” of this thing that will help so much to take down those who’s business it is to exploit children.
2018 12 12 iPhone 209918And you know what they told us?  The most important thing we can do is help spread awareness.
So here I am.  Sharing the bad and the dark along with the good and the light that is trying to combat it.  This is, of course, the very tip of the iceberg, but good to be aware even of that.

“In the past four years of existence, O.U.R. has rescued 1,765 victims and assisted in the arrests of more than 888 traffickers around the world.”  I hope things like this new mobile resource can help stop the spread of this type of crime, and save kids from those who seek to hurt and abuse them for their own profit.  


  1. The objectif of the organisation is very worthwile, no doubt , but I wouldn't give money to a charity that sends a random person to a'rescue operation' without any in-depth training and value Added, just because it's cool (sic):

    Plus, I can't get behind the fact that it's legal for a non law-enforcement officer to dela with evidence but I am not American and Don't know your legal system ery well.

    1. I read the blog post that you linked. In it, she says that her husband prepared physically and emotionally to go help them with the mission. It sounds like he received the kind of training that he needed.
      As for your second point, the operatives in O.U.R. work with local law enforcement for whatever country they are going in to. They aren't dealing with the evidence all by themselves, they have the proper authorities with them the whole way.
      If you get a chance, watch Operation Toussaint on Amazon Prime. It is a documentary that shows how O.U.R. works.

  2. Blandine, Tim Ballard left his law enforcement job (very well trained!) to begin this rescue organization. Most of the people who do these rescue operations are former military or law enforcement trained. There is a YouTube video you can watch explaining more about O.U.R.:

    I LOVE O.U.R. and I am a supporter and abolitionist! In fact, I'm wearing an O.U.R. shirt today! 🙂 Shawni, I thank you for your post in making people aware of this sad reality for many, many innocent victims. I was most blown away that there are children being trafficked by their own parents–yes, even in the U.S.A.–It's absolutely heartbreaking. The shirt I'm wearing today says: To the children who we pray for daily, we say: Your long night is coming to an end. HOLD ON. WE ARE ON OUR WAY.

    I couldn't even read that to my husband because I was bawling. I know what it is like to be victimized and I can NOT imagine a child going through such horrors multiple times a day. We need to do all we can to help this cause. To put an end to human trafficking! Another thing I LOVE about O.U.R. is their aftercare program they have for those rescued. It is an absolutely AMAZING program. Thanks again for sharing and caring!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. While there are parents who are striving for a gospel centered home, and to be deliberate parents, there is a whole world out there that wants to use children in horrific ways. Those that are strong need to be advocates for those that cannot speak for themselves. Human trafficking is HUGE nowadays and we need our children to be diligent of their surroundings and to be aware of what is happening around them. Thank you for shining a light on this subject!

  4. I was at TOFW when Tim Ballard spoke, he’s trained, he’s previous FBI he’s highly skilled. The presentation haunted me, I wear an OUR pin and happily donate. He’s absolutely an angel on earth.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! As a 10 year old child I was abducted, in a public place, and sexually assaulted. There were adults all around and they did nothing because it doesn't happen the way they show it in the movies. I was powerless. At any moment I thought I would be killed. Afterwards I went to my parents and to the police. With a police sketch they caught this monster right away. Turns out he had done this to countless other children (in the US and abroad) and was a wealthy business man. I was the only one who choose to testify against him as the others were afraid for their lives. It went to court and went through an entire public trial. He was found guilty and was put in prison for many years. The humiliation and shame, in the years following, was the worst. I can tell you PTSD is very real.

    Recently, in my parents ward, the Bishop was arrested, tried, and convicted for sexually assaulting children. Some of whom were in the ward! (he is also in prison now) It was a shock to say the least. My point being this happens more than you would think in all walks of life. Those of us who went through it, as children, can tell you it is something we don't bring up as I personally don't want pity. (always the first reaction) or quick fixes of how they think we should "get over it". I want ACTION to put these kinds of monsters away forever so others don't have to deal with the nightmare that can affect you for life. I am amazed at how people will live in denial thinking it can't ever happen to someone they love. (After the trial my family just pretended it didn't happen. I think it was too painful for them to fathom) They also place their children in the care of other people thinking they are perfectly safe. We cannot live in fear but we can live in authentic awareness.

    Wonderful to see the good works of organizations like O.U.R being done to combat these monsters. Really appreciate your posting this.

    1. You are welcome! We must speak up so others are aware that this happens. Just a few years before I was abducted my childhood friend was not so lucky. She did not make it out alive. You can read the story of what her Father, Bishop Paul Hulme, went through when he was interviewed by the Ensign here:

      My parents were among those who searched for her when she went missing. The whole ward did. This was back in the early 70s when everyone thought it was "safe". In the age of information we are just more aware of this.

    1. As a 10 year old child I remember being shocked I was, at least, this monsters 5th victim in the past few years. The police begged me to testify even though, in my mind, my life was in danger and my family. No other child was willing to. I knew I couldn't allow another child to go through the nightmare I did. The trial was difficult. The worse part was sitting on the stand across from that monster. I could actually smell what he smelled like from across the room and it made me want to throw up. The conviction put him away for many years.

      Thank you for supporting OUR and other organizations. They are doing such good works to make a difference! My hope is parents will also prepare their children. Mainly to never ever be allowed to be taken to that "2nd location". This is key. Scream. Fight. Claw. Do what ever you need to prevent that from happening. Also always in pairs. Always be with someone else going to and from school or any other activity. The "point of separation" is the turning point in so many cases. No hiking alone. No walking or biking alone. It was in mine. And in my childhood friend who didn't survive.

  6. I have supported OUR for a long time. Another organization I love is called children of the night. It's based in Los Angeles and helps kids after they are rescued from sexual explotation. Some don't have families to go home to and children of the night provides schooling, counseling and shelter. Both organizations are doing vital work. There are some amazing people in the world.

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