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photo by Robert Couse-Baker

Human Trafficking Surveillance in the U.S.

Did you know that trafficking of persons is happening in the United States? Did you know, in the last 6 months alone, there have been significant human trafficking rings busted in Nashville, L.A., and Houston? Did you also know there are ordinary people taking action to stop the trafficking?

According to The Global Slavery Index the estimated number of slaves in the United States is: 57,700 people.

According to The Global Slavery Index the estimated number of slaves in the United States is: 57,700 people.

The Exodus Road volunteers of the TraffickWatch program combat human trafficking taking place in U.S. cities. Vetted and trained individuals surveil target locations where trafficking is suspected. The men and women gather tips that can be used by local law enforcement to stop criminal activity.

Angie, a TraffickWatch operative in Colorado Springs explains the strategy. “After meeting with a team leader we divide into teams and review safety rules. In teams of 2-3 we are sent out to different locations in the community, including hotels, motels, public streets and parks. We check in with our team leader every 30 minutes and meet back at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) after 2 hours. Once we debrief, we are sent to a new location. Tips are entered into a custom database and shared with the police.”

Justice Necessitates Patience

Many come into the program with expectations of action that are met with the reality of the importance of patience. KC, another volunteer with TraffickWatch in Colorado Springs said, “If [TraffickWatch] has taught me anything, it’s that justice is a long haul. It’s easy to romanticize the pursuit of justice, and to be honest, I imagined the TraffickWatch program to be this grand, exciting experience. But the nights I’ve gone out have been fairly quiet. Most nights you’re begging to see something—not because you want something bad to happen, but because you know it’s already happening and you want to witness it so the police can follow up on it. I went out one night with an army veteran who’d been on several stakeouts, and he shared how you’d watch one spot for hours upon hours, waiting for that one moment something happens—and when it does, suddenly those long hours of waiting are worth it. [TraffickWatch] requires a lot of patience, but its patience that this movement needs. It needs people who are willing to take a few hours out of their night to just sit, wait and watch. Because if several hours and nights lead to freedom for even just one girl or boy, it’s worth it.”

“It’s not just a matter of law enforcement; it’s a matter of moral obligation to end slavery of any kind on this planet, and we have to work at it.”

– Secretary of State John Kerry, TIP Report

“Modern slavery in the Americas affects men, women and children, and has manifested as forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation and, to a lesser degree, forced begging.”

Global Slavery Index

“Today, we continue the long journey toward an America and a world where liberty and equality are not reserved for some, but extended to all. Across the globe, including right here at home, millions of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. We remain committed to abolishing slavery in all its forms and draw strength from the courage and resolve of generations past.”

– President Barack Obama, TIP Report

TraffickWatch is Making a Difference

With more than 70 volunteers in Colorado Springs, this program is making a difference. We spoke with Emily, one of the TraffickWatch volunteers, about her experience. She said, “Over the last year and a half volunteering, the long hours of sitting in a car waiting and watching, are worth it and rewarding when the tips we bring in result in victims freed from bondage.” Over 100 tips have been collected since the program launched nearly two years ago.

photo by Jay Wennington

“Human trafficking is reportedly the fastest growing crime around the globe,” Angie adds, “According to UNICEF, human sex trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. I’m thankful Colorado Springs has such an amazing program as Exodus Road and I’m grateful to work alongside many intelligent and selfless volunteers.” These individuals have embodied the truth that justice is in the hands of the ordinary. Together we can help bring an end to the trafficking of persons in the United States.

TraffickWatch is Coming to a City Near You

Currently the TraffickWatch program in Colorado Springs is taking a break for the summer. It will resume again shortly. In the meantime, The Exodus Road team is working on plans to expand to other major U.S. cities. Right now we are working on some exciting tech developments which will allow us to expand much more quickly to cities all across the U.S. Stand by and we’ll keep you posted as to how you can become a TraffickWatch volunteer right in your local community.


3 Great Father’s Day Ideas

Father’s Day is June 19. That’s coming up soon! Honor the fathers in your life this Father’s Day with a special gift from our store, shopping with Smile on Amazon, or dedicating a donation.

Empower Rescue Mens t-shirt
Justice t-shirt
Justice Hoodie
amazon smile fathers day 2016
Fathers Day Dedication

“I look at my daughter, if it was her, would someone help her? Then I know that someone has to be me because they are all our sons and daughters.”

From an undercover operative when asked the reason why he cares about modern day slavery

The Exodus Road Bangkok Training January 2016

Team Training in Bangkok

By: Corinne Shark

In January, we kicked off this calendar year with a multi-regional Exodus Road training comprised of 23 of our executive leaders, managers, regional lead investigators and volunteer investigators from Asia, India and the U.S. who all converged in Bangkok, Thailand for the event. The conference room buzzed with vision, information, stats, cultural context and legal processes. Digital presentations and manuals were dissected point by point. Expectations and conduct, objectives and standards were emphasized. Personal testimony and actual video footage stoked the flame within even the most seasoned operatives, bringing every detail, every number, back to real victims with real names.

Training is vital to the success of every rescue with which The Exodus Road is involved, because while the issue of human trafficking is extremely emotional, our search and rescue work is anything but.

  • Training creates a more well-rounded understanding for everyone involved. It’s important for our staff to see what our investigators go through. It opens their eyes to the difficulties each of us experience and humanizes the whole process of this work.

    -Jim*, Regional Director

Training protects the victim. We place a high value on our victim-centered approach and believe training our teams is imperative in maintaining this focus.  Every member of the team, from undercover investigators to office staff, employs strategy and protocol at every turn in effort to protect the minors we are working to see freed from further danger and exploitation.

Training protects the investigator. Equipping our teams to assess and manage risk factors and to exercise safety tactics as they collect evidence in both red-light districts and rural villages is essential.  Even though many of our operatives are former military/law enforcement, the darkness they engage night after night requires a heightened level of vigilance and self-care. We are committed to their health and well-being as they leverage their strengths on behalf of the vulnerable.

Training protects the big picture. We believe lasting change is found in empowering the national authorities as they engage the issue of human trafficking within their borders. Educating our staff and teams on our supporting role facilitates positive relations with local law enforcement as well as maintains our value on contributing to long term systemic change.

Thailand 1.16 046 Training in Bangkok

  • I am happy to have been able to transfer some of the knowledge to my operations team. Also, it was great to meet members of the volunteer team from the U.S. They are great people with good hearts coming here to help victims of human trafficking.

    - Som Piyathamsawat, Operations Manager
Here at The Exodus Road we know successful raids, rescues and prosecutions begin with teams armed with more than just good intentions. We invest in the training of our staff and investigators because we know it will yield the freedom of many. Boys and girls, men and women. Victims of unspeakable violence. More than just a number. Each one, a name.

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Trafficking in the U.S. - TraffickWatch Stats Update

Trafficking in the U.S. – TraffickWatch Stats

One of the most frequently asked questions presented to us at The Exodus Road is: Do you do have anti-human trafficking operations in the U.S.? The short answer is: Yes, and it’s growing! It’s called TraffickWatch.

Volunteers meet on weekend nights and are given assignments or places of interest to observe. They collect specific data, from the safety of their cars, and then make reports on what they see. This information is then fed into a database system, which highlights tips that are actionable, and then is delivered to local police partners. Currently, the TraffickWatch Program is in Colorado Springs and Phoenix, with plans to expand.

TraffickWatch stats in Colorado Springs:

  • 8 tips since re-launch in April
  • 122 total tips
  • 75 current volunteers and growing

Thank you for your continued interest in the success of this important program.

Learn More about TraffickWatch

Raid in Thailand

By: Corinne Shark

February 25, 2016 marked a day of freedom in Thailand for four girls, three of whom were minors, victims of sex-trafficking being sold the night before in the red light districts of Bangkok. Four Exodus Road Delta Team operatives together with 20 local law enforcement agents in association with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division of the Thai Royal Police conducted a simultaneous raid on four hotel rooms where two pimps were arrested for negotiating the sale of minors for sex and delivering underage girls to the hotel for service.

Strategic evidence collection on the part of The Exodus Road investigators combined with the ready response, mobilization and leadership of the Thai ATPD police resulted in an inspiring example of collaboration for the sake of the exploited.

Thailand cityscape

DELTA team had the privilege of witnessing the well-orchestrated mechanics of the plan and especially noticed the care taken by the female officers present in each of the hotel rooms during the raid. “Their officers were efficient and professional, moved quickly to set up the operation, and the female officers showed a lot of care to the girls. We are honored to support their work any way we can,” stated Matt Parker, CEO and Co-Founder of The Exodus Road.

While their pimps were arrested and put in prison, the girls rescued were not charged with a crime. Instead they were treated as victims. This detail, as well as the fast action taken by the Thai police, brings hope to this work of fighting for freedom and inspires our support of local efforts all the more. Join us in celebrating this victory. Thank you for empowering rescue as we write four more names on four more stones.

Please take a moment to read the official press release from the case, which includes the law enforcement leadership who were critical players in this mission:

The Exodus Road Supports Thai Government in Rescue Operation

Miew Is Her Name

By: Corinne Shark

Following, you will see a unique look into the hearts of the volunteer operatives of The Exodus Road. Our teams infiltrate the shadows in the name of freedom, carrying heavy hearts for the captives they meet. As they investigate cases and gather evidence toward the rescue of victims of sex slavery, our men and women are bombarded with the smoke and lights and thumping music of brothels in red light districts. They wade through what lures the desperate so they can sit in the dark with the innocent.

As part of the decompression process to aid the investigators in working through the weight of their experiences, they take time to write letters to those they’ve encountered: a girl, a john, and a mamasan. Even though the subject will never receive and the words, each piece gives cathartic voice to the range of emotion kept in check while undercover.

Scott* writes to Miew,* one of the girls he met while gathering intel, not a victim of trafficking but a knowing and willing participant in the sex industry.

“As I sat and listened, you shared about how your father was sick and how you had to work to help support your family. Your sacrifice of leaving your family, going to a strange place alone, doing something like this that you’ve never done before, being uncomfortable so that you can bring comfort to your family, is honorable.”

He calls her honorable.

He sees beyond Miew’s forced smile and affirms the dignity already belonging to her, in spite of her circumstances. He sees past the #98 pinned to her costume and asks for her name. Dignity is what pimps and mamasans work to strip away, shame being their greatest weapon to ensure captivity, but it can never be fully stolen as it was never theirs to assign. Scott’s safe eyes and gentle smile attempt to remind her of what is true.

We cannot assign dignity, we can only affirm the dignity each other already possesses.


“At such an early age with so much innocence… I wish you could do anything but what you are doing. I want your innocence to remain, to not be stripped away by some john who only wants to use you for his pleasure.”

His heart is wounded once again. And yet with each crack wells up a renewed determination to keep working, keep wading through the darkness, shining light into the hearts of those breaking his.

*identities protected

Rescue Impacts Village Community in India

By Julia Randall

Along a stretch of a major highway that travels through a rural area in India, families struggling to survive set up make-shift roadside brothels to for the sale of sex. A truck driver delivering goods to other parts of the country will stop to select a girl as young as 11 and disappear with her into a small shack before quickly returning to the road. When they are a little older, these girls will be sent to a bigger city to be sold to a larger brothel. This is deemed necessary and acceptable in a region where the burden of providing for parents and siblings falls on young girls.

However, freedom—and the cultural change that enables it—is coming to this part of India gripped by poverty and inequality. This was illustrated by a raid that local police conducted recently in which they arrested a trafficker and rescued six girls, including 12-year-old Tia* and 16-year-old Anna*. In demonstrating that trafficking is illegal, officials signal opposition and make it a much riskier endeavor, causing people to re-evaluate the cultural beliefs that encourage it.

The impact of the raid ripples far beyond the number of rescues in an area where the trafficking of minors can be common and cultural norms assign value to individuals based on gender, class and economic status. It heralds a change in the attitudes of locals who participate in an illegal practice in an attempt to survive the circumstances of poverty.

Members of The Exodus Road’s BRAVO team travelled 28 hours each way to reach this location in order to collect the intelligence and evidence that assisted police. The length of the trip and effort involved reflects the commitment of those working in India to bring freedom to the area. Their work is altering long-held beliefs as legal consequences force people to re-think cultural norms.

“(Residents) didn’t know it was wrong to do this and now they are understanding,” said The Exodus Road Country Director Sudir*.

The fight for freedom of the those trapped in trafficking is complex and multi-faceted. This case demonstrates the importance of combatting slavery by partnering with local government and law enforcement to increase awareness, along with the crucial need to establish a consistent presence in areas where trafficking is an everyday and often accepted practice. It is essential to work with local individuals and organizations as they honor us with the privilege of assisting in their efforts.

Social justice can only occur where equal rights exist. It is our aim at The Exodus Road to partner in support with Indian officials with the hope that, one by one, girls like Tia and Anna can be set free from slavery.

A special thanks to Messenger International for funding this successful mission.

*Names have been changed for security purposes


Meet Som: Northern Operations Manager, Thailand

By: Corinne Shark

Panyapat PiyathamsawatFreedom work is all-hands-on-deck and part of bringing you to the frontlines means bringing you in the front door of The Exodus Road offices. Today we are shining the spotlight on Panyapat “Som” Piyathamsawat, our Northern Thailand Operations Manager. As one of our national staff members, Som is an integral contributor to the function of the on-ground team in Southeast Asia. Prior to working with The Exodus Road she spent years in research, journalism and media analysis, produced television news, developed programming for USAID, and served as a freelance language translator. Som brings extensive experience in the value of trusted communication between collaborative sectors. She believes in the necessity of building relationships to achieve common goals. Som’s heart for the exploited impacts every aspect of her work and inspires hope in real and tangible ways.

What drew you to the cause of human trafficking?
My background experience in research and journalism made me aware of the infamous issue of trafficking here in Thailand, but at the end of the day the issue was still there. I was able to inform people but I wanted to participate in a concrete result. It was time for me to take the next step toward making an impact on peoples’ lives.

What is the most challenging part of this work for you?
Collecting enough credible evidence to convince the authorities to take action is always a challenge. Our job is to support the local police toward rescues and arrests which requires time, patience, good teamwork and trusted relationships. Good evidence without good relationships with law enforcement is worth nothing and so we work hard to build trust and solid partnerships. The Exodus Road has earned credibility and a positive reputation.

What has been most fulfilling?
Contributing to the team is exciting. For example, a group of 16 female leaders have been active in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. Some are business owners, one holds an office and others serve their neighbors. I will be helping them understand the different forms of human trafficking and how they can help us identify those being victimized. We don’t know what’s happening in the smaller communities; but they do. Justice really is in the hands of the ordinary. I am an ordinary person and so are they.

ALPHA team in Thailand is comprised of managers, directors, a social worker, and investigators. Som’s role within this structure is to provide leadership and operational oversight, primarily to the investigators. We’re grateful for partners like Messenger International, whose community is helping to fund national salaries, like that of Som. We are also grateful to those who have joined ALPHA team and sponsor nights of investigation in this critical part of the world. This collaborative approach propels all of us closer to a world free of slavery. 

“A Night for Rescue” Annual Benefit Dinner

Colorado Springs – A sold-out crowd gathered in The Pinery at the Hill to fuel freedom with The Exodus Road. The air was alive with a sense of purpose as donors connected with anti-slavery efforts and gave with overwhelming generosity. Long-lasting impact will be made because of what transpired at “A Night for Rescue.”

The evening began with an exclusive Q&A session with undercover operatives, moderated by Kevin Campbell, VP of Global Ops. Each investigator spoke about a specific moment in the field that moved them. They were able to share their personal motivations and answered questions about safety, logistics, and direct rescues.

The dinner guests then perused the silent auction items. The ‘Staycation Package’ provided by Neil Levy and Swiss Chalet of Woodland Park received the highest bid. Other high quality items were donated by Axe and the Oak Distillery, Bristol Brewing CompanyCorner Post Meats, Distillery 291, Old West Cigar Co., Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours, and Team Extraordinaire.  Lee Spirits, a local gin distiller, matched and then exceeded a private donation of $1 per “Cheers to Rescue” sold, which resulted in a significant amount raised from drink sales. A piece of live art was created and subsequently offered at the auction by local artist Lois Sprague, who specializes in large scale portraits and murals.

After the gourmet meal, MC Britt Ham of Trine Aerospace and Defense introduced the keynote speaker. Matt Parker, co-founder and CEO of The Exodus Road, shared details of recent rescues in India and Thailand. He spoke passionately about first-hand accounts of resilient survivors and the brave men and women who were integral to their rescue. The stories were inspiring. Rebecca Berry said, “Tonight was amazing! A fire was lit in [my husband] John! His wheels are spinning!” The chair of the event, Michelle Ham, had this to say, “The evening was truly a special one. It encouraged me personally to see so many people of Colorado Springs, Denver and Teller County come together to combat trafficking here in Colorado as well as globally.”

Many people helped make this a successful “Night for Rescue.” Various volunteers, led by Martha Cole, of New Life Downtown, worked alongside the staff team. This evening was also made possible by the generous donations of our Corporate Sponsors (listed below). At the end of the night the participants finalized their donations and silent auction purchases. Valerie and Griffin Stewart, co-founders and owners of 5daydeal, presented a special donation which helped to surpass the goal for the night. Everyone came together in a beautiful singleness of purpose. Altogether, the amount raised to fuel freedom was just over: $52,000. 

Special thanks to Taylor Powers for photographing the event. 
Strong Tower
Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours
New Life Downtown
Discovery Church Colorado

Human Trafficking Awareness Month: 3 Stories You Should Know (and Share)

By Julia Randall

A man stuck at sea, deceived and forced to labor long days under a hot Pacific sun.  A domestic servant who hasn’t seen the world outside the home where she works in almost a year.  A child who waits anxiously, unaware of what’s in store for her, as the price of her virginity is negotiated.  Despite different backgrounds and situations, these individuals are bound together by the chains of slavery and fates they did not choose.  Participate in Human Trafficking Awareness month by refusing to look away from the stories of those trapped in trafficking.

When he couldn’t find work in his native country in Asia, Troy* scraped together everything he could to pay a broker to find him work in a neighboring country.  When he arrived at his destination, however, he found it wasn’t the pineapple canning factory he’d been told about.  Instead, he was driven to a coastal port town and forced on a tiny, ramshackle boat to join other forced laborers in working 20 hours a day, seven days a week, hauling in nets heavy with fish before gutting and weighing them by hand.

Troy was told that his payment hadn’t covered his transportation costs, so he must work until he could repay his debt.  However, he has yet to receive any payment.  Shifted from boat to boat out at sea, he hasn’t seen land in almost three years.

troy HTAM

When she was seventeen, Angeline* lived on the crowded streets of a city in India, in desperate need of food and shelter.  Homeless after being kicked out of her home for disgracing her family, Angeline was elated when a woman claiming to be a recruiter offered her a job cleaning and caring for children in a well-to-do home in an upscale suburb.  When the door of the home that would become her jail was closed and locked behind her, so was her freedom and future.

Five years later, Angeline works 18 hours a day, every day of the week, performing a slew of household tasks.  If her work doesn’t meet her owner’s standards, she can expect a physical punishment and her body bears the scars of past mistakes, like the time she burned the rice, or when she tried to run away.

angeline HTAM

Tina* sits quietly in a stiflingly small and dirty room in a Cambodian brothel, wishing she could disappear.  She was smuggled from her home in Malaysia to this brothel a week ago, after her parents sold her to a trafficker.  She is an intelligent and feisty girl, but nothing in her rural upbringing prepared her for the forced sale of her virginity.  She doesn’t know the language used by her new mama san (pimp) and the men interested in her, but she can tell from their tones and gestures that they are all evaluating her and bargaining fiercely.

After the final sale of her virginity today, Tina will be less valuable to her mama san but will continue to be forced to work in the brothel.  She’s not yet turned 12.

tina HTAM

Troy, Angeline and Tina are not alone.  More slaves exist today than at any other time in human history.  Be an abolitionist by sharing this post to participate in Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Use your voice to stand against slavery and share information from our website, Pinterest boards, Twitter account and Facebook page.  You can also find information to share on Instagram, You Tube, and Vimeo.

You can impact stories like these by taking a first step towards action by advocacy. Advocacy is utilizing your influence and voice on behalf of a cause or person you care about. Would you consider sharing online this post or any other interesting article or video about human trafficking with your circle of friends and family? The first step towards mobilizing a movement lies in educating people about it.


* Names and identifying information have been changed for security.  Each account is a composite profile of multiple human trafficking survivors.