Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

WHAT IS THE EXODUS ROAD?

The Exodus Road is a nonprofit that helps find and free victims of human trafficking and helps arrest traffickers and offenders. With headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO, we also work in India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Our SE Asia office is located in Thailand. We help rescue victims of human trafficking alongside local law enforcement, we equip local communities to fight slavery in their own backyards, and we encourage effective collaboration among those fighting slavery.

HOW DID THE EXODUS ROAD BEGIN?

The Exodus Road began through the work of Matt and Laura Parker in the fall of 2011. Living and working in the counter-trafficking community in SE Asia, Matt began to see the deficiencies of intervention efforts due to a lack of funding, collaboration, training, and equipment. After building relationships for two years with both the government and local NGOs and through his own investigative work into over 250 brothels, he and Laura began The Exodus Road to empower and unite those in the field already working in investigations and interventions. Read How We Started to read the full story.

DOES THE EXODUS ROAD HAVE ITS OWN INVESTIGATIVE TEAM?

Both. Our primary focus is our own staff and vetted volunteers, including undercover operatives, social workers, and administrative staff. However, we also direct a portion of funding to partners in collaborative projects that we deem effective and fall in line with our mission. We also utilize contract operatives or grant funding for strategic cases.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY 'RESCUE' AND 'ACTIVE OPERATIVES'?

While the term “rescue” is ambiguous in the counter-trafficking field, when we use the word “rescue,” we are specifically speaking of a deliverance from a situation of current slavery or trafficking. This can include cases involving restricted movement, trafficking across borders, underage prostitution, debt bondage, labor trafficking, or pedophilia. All cases are worked under the authority of the local police, and our teams operate in a support-based role during the actual raid.

When we use the term “active operative,” we are referring to individuals who have been vetted, trained, and empowered directly by our organization and remain on our current roster. Many of these individuals are not full-time employees. Our operatives consist of deployed volunteers who serve two to four weeks a year, contract national investigators, full-time national or Western operatives, and investigators from partner organizations while working joint cases.

WHY ARE YOU FOCUSED ON FUELING TARGETED INTERVENTIONS WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENTS?

There are three main areas in the fight against human trafficking: prevention (awareness, education, community development, etc.), intervention (investigations, raids, arrests, prosecutions, etc.), and after care (trauma counseling, safe houses, rehabilitation, education for survivors, job training, re-integration, etc.) All three areas are crucial and require tenacious efforts. (You can read an illustration of this HERE.)

The Exodus Road was birthed out of a recognition of the deficiencies of intervention efforts specifically, and we remain focused on intervention. We have developed an effective system and strategy for gathering evidence, analyzing data, and supporting rescues, and with so few organizations actively focused on empowering targeted interventions, we will remain in this area of focus.

We also believe that when arrests and prosecutions are made in respectful partnerships with local governments, we are slowing the lucrative machine of trafficking and the underage sex industry. When local police raids a brothel and arrests traffickers, a message is sent to brothel owners, risk for illegal activities increases, and the bribed relationship between government and brothel owner (in some countries) is broken. We are not only rescuing the victim today, but we are also rescuing the many victims who the imprisoned brothel owner will not enslave tomorrow. This is a strategic, effective, long-term method of causing positive social change. We do fuel local cases, as well as longer-term cases targeting higher level crime syndicates.

IN WHICH COUNTRIES DO YOU WORK CURRENTLY?

The Exodus Road currently operates in Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and the United States.

WHAT ABOUT THE WORK IN THE UNITED STATES?

We have a Cyber Operations Center with one full-time data analyst in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where we are headquartered. By the end of 2018, we will have two full-time investigators operational in the United States, based in Colorado Springs.

WHAT ARE YOUR STATS AND HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THEM?

We believe accountability is critical in the nonprofit sphere, which is why we keep records, files, and a global database documenting our activities. Because of security, we are unable to make those records public, but we document media releases, photos, statistics and details of operations when it is safe to do so.

When we talk about our organization’s progress regarding “supported rescues” and “supported arrests,” we are referring to raids and arrests which The Exodus Road directly supported through significant financial investment, investigative support or manpower, the donation of covert gear, or direct leadership. Victim rescues and perpetrator arrests are ultimately the responsibility of trusted police partners, and we as an NGO only play a secondary role in gathering evidence, and providing resources or support.

WHO ARE YOUR UNDERCOVER OPERATIVES?

The Exodus Road considers the safety of its operatives in the field of utmost importance. Because many of the agents live in the same countries where they are investigating, we do not publicly identify them.

The Exodus Road utilizes both Western volunteer operatives, who often come from military or law enforcement backgrounds, as well as a team of employed national investigators. Currently, most are male, but we do have several female operatives as well. Because of security, most active operatives maintain secure identities. All operatives must pass an extensive vetting process, which includes a psychological evaluation and field training.

WHAT ARE YOUR STANDARDS FOR INVESTIGATIVE OPERATIONS?

The Exodus Road has a standard operation procedure handbook to which all investigators commit to adhering while on mission with The Exodus Road or while using granted funds from The Exodus Road. All missions also operate within local laws and in partnership with local authorities. Agents are trained, travel in partners when engaging in higher level surveillance, and are committed to not further “victimizing” the victim during the course of investigations. With policy and accountability in place, The Exodus Road encourages quality, effective evidence-gathering practices for the entire community. All data gathered during operations is entered into our customized, encrypted database program which tracks and helps to analyze all intelligence gathered.

HOW DO YOU KEEP OPERATIVES SAFE?

The physical and moral danger of undercover investigations, particularly in the sex industry, is another series of risks which our organization seeks to mitigate. Through defined standard operating procedures for field work and a rigorous vetting and training program for operatives, we make sure that operatives are experienced and employ our best practices for upright, professional behavior. In addition, we operate with a high level of accountability — with the use of covert gear on most missions, the practice of operating in teams, and strict communications protocols. We do not allow operatives to investigate individually or without direct communications with a controller, or head operator. Using a centralized case management tool, operatives are required to input data they gather on a nightly basis, ensuring that information is current.

We operate with emergency protocols in place, and always have approval from a local police partner, should teams encounter a problem with local authorities while on mission. To protect against moral failure, we engage in regular debriefing/counseling, keep deployments short (typically two weeks), and make counseling services available to full-time field staff. We also invest in cyber forensic security tools to protect our organization from breaches of data.

DO YOU DO ANY WORK IN PREVENTION?

Yes. The Exodus Road funds various projects that help individuals avoid becoming a victim of trafficking themselves. These projects primarily include education and training initiatives, which creatively teach at-risk youth or national leaders about the realities of trafficking and how to protect themselves and their communities. We are currently developing a new nationwide online training program, TraffickWatch, which should launch in 2018.

DO YOU WORK IN AFTER CARE?

True deliverance does not end with rescue, but must include quality restorative care for survivors. Because our focus is intervention, we are limited in what types of services we offer survivors, especially when government protocol is in place. While countries vary greatly in what level of care they offer survivors after a raid (both government and private), we have learned that quality after care remains a critical element — one that is typically lacking resources and accessibility.

In an effort to ensure better survivor care, we offer three solutions.

  1.  We employ national social workers to follow up and advocate for survivors through the legal and post-raid process, even if those survivors are placed in government care.
  2. We grant funds to underfunded partners specializing in after care projects to encourage better survivor services. We fund specific projects to help survivors rescued by The Exodus Road, as well as survivors in the care of trusted partners or government agencies. These projects have included: educational fees, repatriation fees, medical and counseling fees, debt repayment, emergency relief for an after care shelter, and job skills classes.

HOW DO YOU PROTECT INVESTIGATORS AND VICTIMS IN YOUR COMMUNICATIONS?

We are committed to truthful reporting. The Exodus Road will not knowingly exaggerate or over-dramatize for the sake of fundraising, appearance, or competition.

We also are committed to protecting the rights and privacy of our investigative teams, victims, and exploited children. Because of that, certain facts in our reporting of actual cases are altered to protect those involved. Places, dates, and names are often changed, while actual details (such as number of victims rescued and money spent in operations) will not be changed. We are also committed to protecting the methods by which our operatives gather intel. Thus, we cannot give sensitive information on strategies, types of equipment, or safety measures our team takes.

We will not show footage or reveal information from any live case, and undercover footage will only show faces of potential victims blurred or eyes blocked out to protect privacy. Photos used on our website are typically representative and are rarely photos of actual victims, places, or investigators.

IF YOU FIND A VICTIM OF TRAFFICKING, WHY DON’T YOU JUST TAKE THEM?

There are several reasons why “grabbing” a victim of trafficking without government sanction is not an acceptable course of action:

  1. It is typically illegal and is qualified as kidnapping. Because it is of the utmost importance to keep positive working relationships with local governments, an NGO operative must work within the framework of law enforcement. This method of “grab and go,” while seemingly the more compassionate solution, actually undermines the authority of the local government in destructive ways.
  2. It does not help the big picture. Immediate and vigilante rescue apart from the law might save one victim of trafficking, but it does little to help future victims. Working within the legal system and with the local police are key elements to lasting social change, as human trafficking will become less lucrative with every arrest made and brothel shut down.
  3. It is dangerous. Working outside of the law and independently puts all involved at greater risk, including the victim.
  4. In some cases, however, there might be exceptions. If an undercover investigator finds a victim in grave and immediate physical danger, we encourage operatives to remove the victim and make immediate calls to local authorities for reporting and immediate help. Operatives must do everything possible to work within the framework of local authorities.

HOW ARE YOU USING TECHNOLOGY TO INNOVATE RESCUE?

We are constantly field testing various covert gear pieces for operatives. We also utilize a centralized, secure database system, which tracks evidence gathered, locations investigated, and victim placement. We have recently hired a data analyst who will assess this information gathered from field teams.

We also invest in cyber forensics to analyze information critical to higher level crime syndicates. In conjunction with a police warrant, this technology allows us to scrape devices for information needed to make more arrests and take down entire systems of slavery. This area of our work is greatly expanding as we now have a U.S. cyber operations center with a full-time data analyst.

WHAT ABOUT FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY?

The Exodus Road is committed to fiscal responsibility and accountability. We are a 501c3 nonprofit corporation in good standing in the state of Colorado. Though not required, we have voluntarily undergone an Independent Financial Audit from the reputable accounting firm, Capin & Crouse, and have made those reports public online for our donors.

You can see our full financial data by going here.

DO YOU HOST TRIPS WHERE I CAN COME TO THE FIELD AND HELP?

Not right now. Our focus is undercover operations, and we do not believe this is a field where most people can safely get “hands-on” experience. We do occasionally host vision trips, where we invite people to see the problem of trafficking firsthand.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR FUNDING?

We have a large base of individual donors, and we also have received a host of private foundation grants from such organizations as Messenger International, END IT Movement, Equitas, and One Day’s Wages. We also have a base of committed corporate sponsors who donate to our cause on a regular basis. You can see a list of our generous sponsors here.

IS THE EXODUS ROAD A FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATION?

No. The Exodus Road is a 501c3 nonprofit, registered with the U.S. government, without religious affiliation.

We believe that one of our unique functions in this field is to gather as many people as possible “around the table” for the sake of bringing justice to the enslaved. We also believe that because we work internationally, it is important for us to reach out in a neutral way to the governments with which we work. Right now, our teams in the field represent a variety of religions.

Having said that, much of the executive leadership at this time do identify with the Christian faith and are motivated for justice out of their faith. Currently, many, but not all, of the after care facilities in our network are also faith-based.

WHY IS EQUIPPING NATIONALS SO IMPORTANT?

We believe the strongest agents for social change are nationals. The Exodus Road will not operate as “foreign saviors” but rather will remain a persevering force in the background empowering nationals to greater success in their own freedom efforts. By filling in the gaps, we supply local governments and foundations with the tools they need – whether it be investigations, technology, manpower, funding, or training – to be successful at bringing greater justice to their own countries. Equipping nationals and civil society to fight trafficking remains a core value of our organization despite the great amount of time and resources required to create sustainability. It’s worth it.

WHERE ARE YOUR OFFICES?

Our headquarter office is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and we have a small office in Phoenix, Arizona. We also have two international offices in Thailand, an office in India, and one in Latin America

IS THE EXODUS ROAD CONCERNED ABOUT THE LEGAL PROSECUTION OR THE RESCUE OF A VICTIM?

Absolutely. We believe that every girl or boy trapped in slavery deserves freedom. If we lose sight of the value of the one, we lose a bit of our humanity and compassion. Our teams work hard to rescue and care for each individual, specifically by advocating for their placement into qualified after care facilities in our network or with the government. We also understand that to slow the mechanisms of slavery, we must make it riskier and more expensive to buy and sell human beings. The primary way this is accomplished is through the local legal system. Our social workers follow up with survivors and assist them in the event that they need to testify in court, and when needed our investigators testify in trials of traffickers and offenders.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

We are building a tribe of ordinary people, committed to fighting slavery, and we want you to join us. Here are some avenues to get started:

  • Subscribe. The easiest way to stay connected with the work of The Exodus Road is to subscribe to our newsletter. It’s a simple way to stay connected to rescue.
  • Become an Online Abolitionist. This team shares stories from the field and uses their social influence to fight slavery. You can read more about this program HERE.
  • Give Financially. Fuel the efforts on the ground by committing to a monthly or one-time financial gift to The Exodus Road. Our Search & Rescue Monthly Giving Program is the backbone that makes rescue possible. Click here to join Search and Rescue.
  • Volunteer. We have developed a host of ways you can practically impact the rescue work of the front lines. From writing letters to hosting a party to bringing a Freedom Weekend to your community, we want you to have a variety of choices to help us. Click here to get started.