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An Interview with an Anti-Human Trafficking Operative

The Exodus Road is a nonprofit dedicated to strategically fighting human trafficking across the globe. The organization intervenes in human trafficking situations by empowering nationals around the world to gather evidence and facilitate rescue missions with local police to free enslaved people. 

The human trafficking industry is hidden, so the undercover work of discovering human trafficking must be too. The courageous and dedicated men and women who devote their time to the investigative work for The Exodus Road put themselves at risk in dark alleys and brothels to seek justice for those enslaved in their own countries. 

While we can’t share his real name in order to protect his identity for security concerns, we would like you to meet Leo, one of the national operatives in Latin America

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like on the front lines of the fight for freedom, the following offers you a glimpse. The following are a few excerpts from an interview The Exodus Road conducted with him while visiting the  field office where he works.

What does a normal day look like for you?

"Usually, I’m the guy in the office that plans the operations. I decide what neighborhoods we’ll go into, which places we’ll enter, and then we get the equipment ready. We are focused on the victims, trends that we see with the traffickers, the establishments that allow the trafficking, the spotters, and bouncers. We find that not only the girls give us good information, but also the waiters and bouncers, and sometimes even street vendors. Sometimes we are out until four or five in the morning gathering information. Then the next day we take all we’ve learned and analyze and classify that information.”

What does your family think about your job?

“My family is used to me working in dangerous situations because of my previous work with the military. They tell me to be careful but ask me to please go free those kids. They are kind of worried about it, but they support me in what I’m doing. Their support is really important.”

What kind of information do you collect?

“We start by trying to find out about the establishment, by talking with people about when they have the most minors. For example, maybe Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, a place will be full of minors. We try to gather information about security. Some places have a lot of security and search customers. So we gather information on the establishment before we ever enter, and then we talk with the police to find out what information they need us to collect once we’re inside.” 

How do girls this young come to be trafficked on the street?

“It starts with poverty. Most of them come from the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Also, there are some there because they have fled political crises in other countries. These girls as young as ten and eleven will tell us that they left their country about six months ago, or were homeless and living on the streets. The gang will take advantage of them and say, ‘ok, I’ll protect you, but you have to work.’ Something like that. And sometimes the girls will have siblings or family with them - they’ll say, ‘that’s my sister or my brother. Or my cousin.’”

Can you tell us about an operation that really impacted you?

“We were able to rescue over 40 survivors in one operation. I met a young woman in this place who was about twenty-five. Her name was Nicole. She just opened up to me and told me how her husband had been killed by rebel soldiers, and that she had three daughters who were three, five, and six years old. She fled her country because of the wars and started working in a restaurant but she wasn’t making enough money to feed her children. They were dying of starvation. So she chose to come to this place because she really needed money and she said ‘I hate this. I hate this because here I have to be with Johns and drunks.’ It was so sad to hear her story. We said goodbye and then we went back to make a report for the police about the place. Because of that, they were able to rescue (so many) victims, and I think she was in that rescue.” 

While the issue of human trafficking may feel overwhelming, we hope that Leo’s story encourages you. The work of our global brothers and sisters in this justice area isn’t easy, but we hope their passion and dedication will inspire your own. 

Do Justice recognizes that human trafficking can look differently around the world and even in our own communities and that there are a variety of approaches to prevention, intervention, and aftercare. For more on how this works in North America, you can read more of our articles under the ‘Human Trafficking’ topic.

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