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Sound Of Freedom Fans Are Harassing Actual Trafficking Victims

Sound Of Freedom Fans Harassing Real Trafficking Victims

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. With enough pundits repeating the BS promo that this movie was “the truth the liberal media doesn’t want you to see” of course someone was going to believe it.

For those who don’t know, Sound of Freedom is a dramatized account of Operation Underground Railroad, a real-life organization which purports to free victims from human trafficking. The group and its founder Tim Ballard have been called out in the past for embellishing their role in saving people (they claim to have saved THOUSANDS of victims), traumatizing children with their heavily armed (and often filmed) raids, and generally bumbling in their efforts. It’s also disturbingly tied in with the dangerous conspiracy theories of QAnon. Ballard told The New York Times in 2020 about the theories (which have inspired multiple men to murder their children):

“Some of these theories have allowed people to open their eyes.”

Back in 2015, leading trafficking expert Anne Gallagher, Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Human Trafficking, wrote that O.U.R.’s work was “arrogant, unethical and illegal.” She cited their “alarming lack of understanding about how sophisticated criminal trafficking networks must be approached and dismantled.” In other words, they’re a bunch of gung-ho dudebros who aren’t interested in saving and caring for victims so much as BEING BIG OL’ HEROES WHO BUST IN AND TAKE OUT THE BAD GUYS — AND GET SEEN DOING IT. Kinda sounds like macho Hollywood bulls**t.

Related: Sound Of Freedom Investor Arrested For Kidnapping After Years Of ‘Sugar Baby’ Parties

The movie is obviously Hollywood bulls**t, too. In the movie Ballard, played by vocal QAnon believer Jim Caviezel, is a supercop, an agent for a US task force busting child porn rings. In reality Ballard got a masters in political science. He writes books about Mormon and right-wing ideology. In the movie ***SPOILER ALERT*** he rescues the child he’s looking for by killing her captor in hand-to-hand combat. The movie has been called a QAnon dad power fantasy, and it has more in common with Taken than anything resembling actual rescue of trafficking victims.

But it’s also become the surprise box office hit of the year, so plenty of guys who like the fantasy have looked to help with real-life anti-trafficking organizations. That’s good, right? Well, not necessarily.

Instant Experts

Kat Wehunt is the founder of the Formation Project, which provides services for victims of human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation. A survivor of trafficking herself, Kat leads training for volunteers on how to help other survivors locally in their base of Charleston, South Carolina. But she told Vice’s Motherboard this week that in her latest crop of volunteers were some guys who watched Sound of Freedom — and suddenly thought they were experts.

Wehunt explained that she usually begins with “myths and misconceptions and what trafficking actually looks like” — and one volunteer would not stop arguing with her, convinced that trafficking was mostly kidnapping and throwing women and children onto ships like he’d seen in the movie. She tried to tell him that wasn’t how it really is, not according to the available data we have on trafficking:

“Those things I’m sure do happen. But it’s not representative of the majority, especially in our neighborhoods.”

But he argued with her, convinced that she — a trafficking victim who had devoted years to working with other victims, didn’t know what she was talking about. So instead of helping he ended up harassing and making work difficult for an actual victim. And he wasn’t the only one.


Many victims who have dared to criticize the movie told the outlet they have been called “pedophiles” or “groomers” in retaliation for telling the truth about their experiences being trafficked.

Jose Lewis Alfaro, a trafficking survivor who now works as a consultant and lived experience expert on trafficking issues, says the people suddenly interested in trafficking don’t want to hear from experts. They want the movie version.

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Alfaro was trafficked the way many are — he was a vulnerable teen who had been kicked out of his home for being gay. A man took him in and then put him to work in his “massage” business. That’s what sex trafficking looks like a great deal of the time. But when Alfaro tries to tell fans of the movie about it, they call him a predator. For speaking out, but also clearly for being gay. He told Motherboard:

“People have told me ‘You weren’t trafficked, you wanted it, you probably liked it because you’re gay.’ Horrible things like that. I’m seeing the same thing happening speaking out about his film. People are telling me, ‘you’re a trafficker, you’re a predator.’ These are all QAnon conspiracy theories, and people are saying that to people who don’t agree with the film. It’s like, do you even know what I’ve experienced in my lifetime?”

Alfaro said this new trend of homophobic conspiracy theorists automatically blasting actual trafficking survivors as “pedophiles” will discourage them from speaking out:

“You’re making them feel like they don’t even want to talk about this issue anymore. There’s a lot of harm that happens with that and ultimately we have nothing to blame but these overly sensational depictions.”

If they’re too scared to speak, and NO ONE is telling the truth… the misinformation wins. Alfaro added:

“It’s just really interesting to me how people are more than willing to hear a wealthy rich man’s superhero story, and aren’t willing to trust and listen to those who have actually lived through it.”

A “rich man’s superhero story.” He isn’t the only one who sees the movie that way.

‘A Vanity Project’

Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman, chair of the United Nations fund for victims of human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery, called the movie out as “a dangerous portrayal of what trafficking is.”

A survivor of childhood trafficking himself, Piraino-Guzman has been working to help victims for decades, and movies like this don’t help because they don’t bring awareness to facts — just Hollywood and internet ideas of what trafficking is. He told Motherboard:

“We have been here in this very spot in the anti-trafficking movement for over 20 years. We’ve been fighting for 20 years for the appropriate ways to talk about trafficking, the ways we should be centering survivors, in order for us to be moving forward in a way that’s evidence based, not assumptions based.”

He has criticized O.A.R. in the past and blasted Ballard himself for what he thinks is the film’s true aim:

“To me this movie is a vanity project. It’s all about Tim Ballard and this fake persona that he’s created for himself.”

It is building the legend. Like we said, the Tim Ballard in the movie is an action hero. This isn’t miles away from the many vanity project action movies of the past 40 years, where filmmakers cast themselves as black tanktop-clad vigilantes, going outside the law to kill the bad guys, often cults and child traffickers.

‘Not Exciting’

Journalist Sabra Boyd is another survivor of child sex trafficking who has spoken out against the film. And of course its fans have called her a pedophile for rightfully saying it was Hollywood B.S. She told Motherboard:

“When fans of the QAnon movie called me a pedophile because I dared to criticize how the film did not hire any survivors to help write the script or consult, I spent an hour crying. I can’t comprehend saying that, especially not to a child trafficking survivor.”

She continued:

“I don’t understand why fans of the movie would rather listen to Tim Ballard than actual trafficking survivors. But the problem is that solutions to human trafficking and child trafficking are not exciting like an action movie.”

Yeah, we’re pretty sure she just answered her own question right there.

It’s easier to believe in this Wild West idea of bad guys wearing black hats, bad guys who just grab kids and put them in vans, being able to stop human trafficking with nothing but bullets. It’s too much to think about trafficking being something that takes education and compassion and empathy. All that stuff is BORING. These people want the Hollywood bulls**t version where they can shoot trafficking with guns.

Related: Missing 14-Year-Old Girl Found In US Marine Barracks — Aunt Says She Was ‘Sold’ To Them!

There’s also something a lot of people don’t want to admit — that traffickers, groomers, and other monsters mostly aren’t guys with assault rifles and accents moving shipping crates full of victims. Many of them are people who develop trusting relationships with their victims first — priests and youth pastors, teachers and coaches, cops and foster parents. And of course, a lot of the time it’s new boyfriends who collect women to eventually traffic as a business. Like what Andrew Tate bragged about doing on his site before he was arrested for trafficking.

The idea that it’s all foreigners, all the LGBT community, all Democrats, or any other group that you already hate — it’s just nonsense.

For more on how Sound of Freedom is actually hurting the fight against human trafficking, read Motherboard‘s full story HERE.

[Image via Angel Studios/YouTube.]

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Aug 08, 2023 18:22pm PDT