About The Exodus Road
The Exodus Road unofficially began in Thailand in the fall of 2011, but it became a 501(c)3 in 2012. Matt and Laura Parker were living and working in SE Asia with their three young children. After a year of research and engaging with the counter-trafficking community on the ground, 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 with local Thai police. Learning from his own investigative work on the ground, he and Laura began The Exodus Road to support local police efforts in finding victims, building case evidence, and facilitating intervention operations. You can watch their gripping genesis story in the short film Ordinary.
We are an organization of action, and we work to strategically and holistically end human trafficking.
We are a values-driven organization. We know that the people we are in the midst of the work we do matters greatly. Our organizational values and definitions are:
MISSION Strategic focus on making human trafficking dangerous while bringing freedom to individuals
EXCELLENCE A constant drive towards outstanding quality
INTEGRITY Commitment to consistent, transparent actions that follow values
INNOVATION Consistently imagining new possibilities despite the risk of failure
COMMUNITY Generously investing in relationships
GRIT Courage to step in and a refusal to give up, despite obstacles
EMPOWERMENT Humbly understanding that serving others is the way to success
HOPE Celebrating the good in the world, the work, and the people around us
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. You can read more about our inclusive philosophy here.
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 front-line investigators. Today, our offices are filled more than 1,400 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.
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.
The Programs of The Exodus Road
The Exodus Road was born originally out of recognition of the deficiencies of human trafficking intervention efforts. To that end, our main focus has been to empower Search & Rescue teams to work alongside national law enforcement partners to build capacity within local justice systems. Our Search & Rescue teams are comprised primarily of highly-trained and vetted nationals. We also have one team of volunteer Western operatives that work to support front line staff in casework.
Additionally, we invest in two additional programs which address both prevention and aftercare. Our TraffickWatch Academy offers expert and engaging digital training modules to law enforcement and communities. Our Beyond Rescue program utilizes a trauma-informed approach and meets specific survivor care needs in the countries where we work.
We believe collaboration with like-minded organizations, partnership with local governments, and centering the work of national leaders are critical components of all of the freedom work.
The Exodus Road has headquarters in Colorado, USA, and works in Brazil, India, Latin America, the Phillippines, Thailand and the United States. We utilize a strategic, organic methodology to determine where and how we expand into new areas and countries. We always work within legal local frameworks, with collaborative relationships, and centering the work of local nationals.
YES! We primarily work in the U.S. to provide training, education and resources to equip citizens to understand human trafficking and keep their communities safe. We provide this training through TraffickWatch Academy and its resources.
We also offer services and technology to U.S. law enforcement partners here in the United States on a project basis.
The Exodus Road was birthed out of recognition of the deficiencies of intervention efforts around the globe. That deficiency still exists, so supporting police in investigative case building remains a focus. We know that when we build the capacities and effectiveness of local justice systems to combat human trafficking crime, we are making a strategic impact. Survivors are freed, and criminal networks are stopped from exploiting more vulnerable people in the future. This is a strategic, effective, and long-term approach to bringing about positive social change.
A “rescue” is a “targeted intervention.” However, since most people do not understand that term, we utilize the word “rescue” to describe our work with police and its impact on survivors. 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 sex work, 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 cite 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.
YES! The Exodus Road recognizes that rescue is the first step in a long journey of restoration and healing for survivors of human trafficking. Here are the main ways we are investing in trauma-informed survivor care services:
- We employ local social workers and crisis care workers as an integral part of our Search & Rescue teams in most countries where we work. In the critical hours during or immediately following an operation, these nationals are present to care for survivors and offer immediate and follow-up support.
- We operate Freedom House in Southeast Asia, a trauma-informed safe house and mentorship program for adult survivors.
- We work with other NGO partners in key collaborative aftercare programming in the countries where we work.
- We offer a Survivor Care Fund which meets survivor’s unique needs like emergency services, medical care, education expenses, legal costs, etc.
You can read more about our aftercare work in our Beyond Rescue Program.
A key strategy for maximum impact lies in training front-line communities. We’ve taken our decade of experience, and we have created TraffickWatch Academy – a highly engaging, digital training platform that offers expert training from global experts. Currently, we serve two communities with our training:
- TraffickWatch Brazil. This training includes ten modules and is designed to train law enforcement officers in Brazil. It primarily features human trafficking experts in Brazil.
- TraffickWatch U.S. This training includes two video modules that are designed to equip citizens with a basic understanding of global human trafficking, trafficking in the U.S. and practical ways to keep their own communities safe.
In our Search + Rescue work, when we share about a rescue, arrest, or operation, we are referencing human trafficking 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 majority of these cases take many hours, and sometimes many months, to build in order to secure effective police action.
We believe accountability is critical, and we utilize an FBI-grade encrypted case management system, Case Closed, to manage and store all investigative records, data, and files. We utilize various other secure platforms for reporting and analysis within both the U.S. office and our front line teams. For security reasons, we cannot make many of our records public, but we do share statistics and details of operations, media releases, and photos when it is safe to do so.
For our TraffickWatch Training program (launching in 2021), we will be collecting metric-based data through our online training platform, Absorb. We are excited to share those openly with our community.
In our Beyond Rescue program (launching in 2021), we will be sharing data and stories from our survivor programs, as we are able and with survivor dignity in mind.
At The Exodus Road, we believe the strongest agents for social change are nationals, and our primary collaborative partnership continues to lie with local and national law enforcement. We work closely with authorities on case work, and know that building capacity within local justice systems is critical for impact. To that end, we supply trusted partners with technology, investigative work, funding, training, gear, and support to build effective human trafficking cases. We only work on cases of human trafficking under the authority of local police, and in a support-based role.
No. The Exodus Road does not fight prostitution; we fight human trafficking. Our teams are not looking for women and men who are in the sex industry by choice, but rather those who cannot walk away from their situations due to “force, abduction, fraud, or coercion” or who are underage (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 a direct impact on the larger criminal systems of global trafficking.
We have highly-trained investigative teams operating in India, Latin America, and Thailand (the Phillippines will be operational in 2021). 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 support local law enforcement. Most of these individuals are full-time national operatives employed by TER on Search & Rescue teams. We augment their work with volunteer operatives on specific casework (who serve on DELTA team). These front-line teams are supported by national social workers and administrative staff in each country of operation.
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 crime.
We operate with a value of centering, equipping, and learning from national staff, partners, and leaders.
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/crisis care workers as an integral part of our Search & Rescue teams in most countries where we work. In the critical hours during and after rescue, these social workers are present to care for survivors and meet immediate needs and follow up, as they are able.
Because we always operate within the local social welfare system mandates, TER has little control over where survivors are placed after an operation. Many are placed automatically in government care, some may be placed in NGO or private-sector care, while others do not qualify for meaningful services. Sadly, some of them do return to the sex industry because of a lack of support or economic options.
Our Beyond Rescue program is working to address these important needs through a variety of impactful projects.
If you make human trafficking crime more dangerous for criminal networks, you are impacting systematic change. Arrests are a critical component of this impact. When local police investigate a brothel and arrest traffickers, a message is sent to brothel owners, the risk for illegal activities increases, and the bribe-driven relationship between government and brothel owner – which exists in many countries – is broken.
With every successful arrest, we are impacting more than the survivors directly suffering right now. We are also preventing the abuse of many victims who the imprisoned traffickers will not hurt tomorrow. This is a strategic, effective, long-term method of causing positive social change.
TER works on human trafficking cases that involve small-scale traffickers, as well as supporting police in building transnational cases that involve criminal networks.
Cutting-edge technology is critical to fighting human trafficking crime today. To that end, we work with several partners who provide cyber forensic tools to our teams and our partners. We are proud to partner with TrafficJam, an AI-driven and best-in-class software that identifies trafficking victims online. We also partner with Cellebrite and work to train and donate mobile forensic units to police partners worldwide. The range of cyber tools we have access to can identify victims, track where they have been moved, and identify traffickers.
Additionally, our front line teams continue to innovate and utilize covert and body worn gear to capture effective evidence of human trafficking crime.
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, consistent training, and strict protocols for investigations. Active operations are always conducting in police partnerships and with a team (never an individual) approach. Our investigators’ procedures are in alignment with law enforcement best practices which emphasize integrity, character, public trust, and maintaining the courage to hold oneself and others accountable for their actions.
Everyone has a role to play in ending human trafficking. Here are a few things you can do:
- Donate. Join our Search + Rescue monthly giving community or make a one-time donation.
- Fundraise. Join us in saying that “Kids Should Never Be Sold,” and gather your friends for impact.
- Traffickwach Academy. Take 20 minutes and learn about human trafficking through our digital training modules. It’s a powerful first step.
Of course, you can always reach out to our team and start a conversation, too!
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 2020 Platinum 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.
The Exodus Road is guided by a talented and committed Board of Directors; nine 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’s vision and work remain values-driven. You can meet them by visiting our Team Page.
This work is only made possible through the generosity of our community. TER is funded by a strong base of individual household donors, private foundations, and corporate sponsors. Our generous community of monthly Search + Rescue partners make our work sustainable.