The Exodus Road began in Thailand, in the fall of 2011. Matt and Laura Parker were living and working there – with their three young children. After some time engaging with 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. Over a two-year period, he built relationships with the government and local NGOs that led him to become a deputized informant and conduct investigative work in more than 250 brothels. He and Laura began The Exodus Road to empower and unite those already working in the field in investigations and interventions. Read How We Started to get the full story.
We help “find and free” human trafficking victims through strategic action with ordinary people.
At our core, we believe that human trafficking must be fought from within a culture it if is going to be fought at all; this is the only sustainable and systematic approach. So, we understand that collaboration with local law enforcement, national leaders, and like-minded organizations is critical for success. We are an organization committed to exercising excellence in our methodology, strategy, policies and partnerships. We believe civil society can make an impact on modern-day slavery — and work to mobilize it to that end. We also believe that “justice is in the hands of the ordinary,” and that every individual has a role to play in bringing freedom.
Our work of rescue often happens faraway from our headquarters in Colorado Springs, and we wanted to bring it closer to our day-to-day operations. So after our first successful rescue mission in 2012, we decided that for each victim rescued in the field, a TER staff member would hand decorate a Colorado river rock with the date, location of the rescue, name of the TER Operations team involved in the rescue, and a representative name of the survivor. This has become a powerful way to connect our HQ team to the men and women, boys and girls now able to embrace freedom because of the life-changing work of our frontline investigators. Today, our offices are filled more than 1,000 rocks. We also have blank rocks on each desk as a reminder of those still in slavery who need to be found, and still wait for rescue.
No. The Exodus Road is a 501c3 nonprofit, registered with the U.S. government, without religious affiliation. We believe that one of the unique functions we serve in this field is to gather as many people as possible “around the table” for the sake of bringing justice to the enslaved. Our staff and teams around the world represent a variety of religions and cultures, as do the survivors we serve.
The Exodus Road was born out of a recognition of the deficiencies of human trafficking intervention efforts. So, our main focus has been to empower Search & Rescue teams to work alongside national law enforcement partners to bring rescue to victims of human trafficking and arrests of their perpetrators. Our Search & Rescue teams are comprised of highly-trained and vetted nationals who gather evidence of human trafficking and facilitate rescue missions.
In our seven years in the intervention sphere, we have provided local law enforcement, governments, and NGOs with technology, investigative support, funding or training to enhance their ability to deliver justice in their own countries. We have encouraged effective collaboration among organizations fighting slavery while working within national legal systems to effectively change criminal activity by making human trafficking a more dangerous crime.
Though costs vary across the countries in which we work, on average a night of investigations costs $35.
While fueling intervention (or “rescue”) is our core competency, we take a holistic approach to impacting the issue of human trafficking by funding specific prevention and aftercare projects in the countries where we work.
The Exodus Road has headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO, and offices in India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. We are always evaluating opportunities to expand our reach into different countries because human trafficking is everywhere. When credible and strategic opportunities arise we engage in a due diligence process.
As an organization, we are always learning, innovating, and improving. In 2019, in the United States, we will continue to build law enforcement relationships, but with a new approach. TER will no longer offer ongoing, non-specific support, but will proceed with a project-based approach. This will give us clearer objectives, timelines and expectations about any law enforcement projects we engage in. Our first such project will be to provide an investigator to Mesa (Arizona) Police Department for one year; this is already in the works.
The Exodus Road was birthed out of a recognition of the deficiencies of intervention efforts around the globe. That deficiency still exists; so, we remain focused on intervention. We believe that when human trafficking practices and networks are interrupted today, we are preventing countless victims from being enslaved tomorrow. This is a strategic, effective, and long-term approach to bringing about positive social change.
When we use the word “rescue,” we are speaking of deliverance from a situation of “force, abduction, fraud, or coercion” — qualifying conditions for human trafficking as defined by the United Nations. This can include cases involving restricted movement, trafficking across borders, underage prostitution, debt bondage, labor trafficking, or pedophilia. The Exodus Road only works on such cases under the authority of and in collaboration with local police, and only in a support-based role. When we claim a rescue, we are referencing cases in which The Exodus Road had a significant role or impact through supplying investigative support, key evidence, critical technology, or substantial funding resources.
The Exodus Road recognizes that rescue is the first step in a long journey of restoration and healing for survivors of human trafficking. While almost all of TER’s resources go to fund identification and rescue of victims, we believe in the critical role of aftercare. Therefore, we are always looking for strategic opportunities to evaluate and support aftercare efforts in the countries where we operate.
While our primary focus is on human trafficking intervention work, we are deeply committed to holistically empowering freedom, which includes prevention projects, too. Our current impact in the area of prevention includes:
We believe accountability is critical, so we keep a Global Case Management System — records, files, and a database documenting our activities. So all of our global teams are required to maintain detailed field reports – to include rescues, arrests, and all the details behind ever rescue that we are involved in. For security reasons, we cannot make many of our records public, but we do share statistics (hours of investigation done online and on-site, number of police equipped) and details of operations, media releases, and photos when it is safe to do so. When we claim a rescue, we are referencing cases in which The Exodus Road had a significant role or impact through supplying investigative support, key evidence, critical technology, or substantial funding resources.
At The Exodus Road, we believe the strongest agents for social change are nationals – with a deep understanding of their own county, laws and human trafficking situation. Given this, a core practice of TER is to invest in national governments and law enforcement supplying the tools they need — investigations, technology, manpower, funding, training — to be successful at bringing great justice to their own countries. We only work on cases of human trafficking under the authority of local police, and in a support-based role. We have seen that in working in partnership with local law enforcement, we are disrupting the actual work and networks of trafficking syndicates, effectively impacting change and making trafficking more dangerous.
No. The Exodus Road does not fight prostitution; we fight human trafficking. Our teams are not looking for women and men who are in prostitution by choice, but rather those who cannot walk away from their situations due to “force, abduction, fraud, or coercion” (which legally qualifies them as human trafficking victims). While we understand this issue is complicated, we have seen our laser focus on identifying and rescuing victims trapped in sexual exploitation against their will have direct impact on the larger criminal systems of global trafficking.
We have highly-trained investigative teams operating in the United States, India, Thailand, and Latin America. Investigative teams are comprised of staff members (many of them retired law enforcement or military) and volunteers who have been vetted, trained and empowered by The Exodus Road and local law enforcement in a host country to find and free victims of human trafficking. Most of these individuals are full-time national operatives employed by TER on four Search & Rescue Teams. We augment their work with volunteer operatives occasionally (who serve on our DELTA team). These teams are supported by national social workers and administrative staff.
At our core, we believe that human trafficking must be fought from within a culture if it is going to be fought at all; this is the only sustainable and systematic approach. We acknowledge the deep understanding that local law enforcement and governments have of their own country, laws, and human trafficking situation. So, we understand that collaboration with national organizations and individuals is critical for success.
The Exodus Road acknowledges that our work to combat human trafficking is difficult – emotionally, mentally, physically – and potentially dangerous. We prioritize the health and well-being of all staff members, but put special focus on our investigators. All staff have the benefit of access to a mental health professional, to work through any issues they might be struggling with as a result of the work they do to combat human trafficking.
Additionally, we have a specific mental health policy for front line operatives that requires trauma-informed counseling with experts in trauma-based therapy. We have mental health professionals who have worked with our teams to craft strategy and care for our investigators and staff.
The Exodus Road recognizes that rescue is the first step in a long journey of restoration and healing for survivors of human trafficking. Therefore, we employ local social workers as an integral part of our Search & Rescue teams in each country where we work. In the critical hours after rescue, these social workers are present to care for survivors. We operate within the local social welfare system mandates, so many survivors are automatically placed in government care, while others might be placed in NGO or private sector care.
Throughout our seven years of frontline work in the human trafficking intervention sphere, we have developed a methodology that relies heavily upon collaboration with local law enforcement to rescue victims and arrest perpetrators, use of best practices, and ongoing training in the latest intervention techniques. Our experience – and success – has led us to believe this is the only long-term, sustainable approach.
We believe that when arrests and prosecutions are made in partnerships with local law enforcement and governments, we are slowing the lucrative machine of human trafficking. When local police investigate a brothel and arrest traffickers, a message is sent to brothel owners, risk for illegal activities increases, and the bribe-driven relationship between government and brothel owner – which exists in some countries – is broken. We are not only rescuing the victim today, we are also preventing the many victims’ abuse who the imprisoned brothel owner will not enslave tomorrow. This is a strategic, effective, long-term method of causing positive social change.
Human traffickers use technology to recruit, exploit, and monitor their victims, but they also leave a trail of data, photo, and video evidence behind. In 2017, The Exodus Road launched the Cyber Operations Center to leverage several software platforms in support of our organization’s counter-human trafficking efforts. The range of cyber tools we have access to can identify victims, track where they have been moved, and identify traffickers. We continue our efforts to train our global teams on these platforms, using best practices in the intervention sphere.
Our investigative teams utilize best practices and standard operating procedures that emphasize safety – for themselves, our partners in law enforcement, and the human trafficking victims we work together to rescue. We maintain our level of excellence through strict vetting and rigorous training. Our investigators’ procedures are in alignment with law enforcement best practices which emphasize integrity, character, the public trust, and maintaining the courage to hold oneself and others accountable for their actions. With that philosophy, TER undercover investigators gather and deliver to local police key evidence on select targets that leads to rescues and arrests.
You can help victims of human trafficking by supporting the work of The Exodus Road. Join us in our work with a one-time donation or sign up to contribute $35 a month to support our Search & Rescue teams in collaborating with national police to find and free human trafficking victims and arrest their perpetrators. You can also visit our recently re-launched online store and purchase products that fuel prevention and support survivors.
We also welcome volunteers and advocates. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities and connect with us here.
The Exodus Road is guided by a highly-talented and committed Board of Directors; seven members with diverse professional backgrounds and skills. Each member is elected for a three-year term. Board members are the fiduciaries (trustees) who steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as ensuring TER has adequate resources to advance its mission. Each Board Member also serves on an Advisory Board of their choice, supporting a specific TER internal department.
We leverage the experience of experts and advocates through inviting them to join TER Advisory Boards, created to support each department within the organization. These professional volunteers advise on major projects and department strategy, and provide general oversight to TER leadership.
We have a large base of individual donors, and we also have received a host of private foundation grants from various organizations committed to combating human trafficking. 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.
The Exodus Road is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation in good standing in the state of Colorado. We are committed to fiscal transparency and accountability, earning 2018 Gold Star rating through Guidestar.
Since 2013, we have voluntarily undergone an independent financial audit conducted by the national consulting firm CapinCrouse. Those reports are available online for our donors. You can see our full financial data by going here.