‘Sound of Freedom’ film exposes scale of child sex slavery

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Albert J. Countryman Jr./Staff -- A billboard on Route 130 in Delran (Burlington County) raises the issue of human traffickers who target girls 12 to 15 – and in some cases, younger – and sell them as sex slaves.

By Albert J. Countryman

An unseen, brutal world where child sex slaves are sold, raped and abused by human traffickers and pedophiles is the focus of the summer hit movie Sound of Freedom.

The film highlights the efforts of Tim Ballard, a U.S. Homeland Security agent who – after rescuing a young boy from traffickers – learns the boy’s sister is still being held captive by rebels in the Columbian jungle.

Ballard quit his job and put his own life at risk by embarking on a dangerous journey to save the girl and other sex slaves. During the mission, he ends up saving 123 people, 55 of whom are children.

The film – which has grossed $85.5 million as of July 18 since its nationwide release three weeks ago – also endeavors to explain how the global sex industry makes billions of dollars a year and ruins the lives of children caught up in slavery all over the world.

Attacking the problem in this state is the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force (NJHTTF) – formed by the state’s attorney general and its Division of Criminal Justice – that describes trafficking as modern-day slavery.

“Victims of human trafficking, men, women and children, can be exploited for the purpose of commercial sexual activity, including prostitution and pornography, as well as many types of forced labor, including domestic servitude and migrant agricultural work,” according to information from NJHTTF.

“Traffickers lure and control their victims through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, and employ techniques such as physical and psychological abuse, false employment offers, document holding, and isolation.”

The taskforce has called human trafficking a rapidly growing criminal industry. Due to its dense population and prominent location along the Interstate 95 corridor, New Jersey is considered especially vulnerable.

The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) warns that advances in technology – particularly the internet and mobile devices – “have facilitated the sex trafficking of children by providing a convenient worldwide marketing channel. Individuals can now use the websites and social media to advertise, schedule and purchase sexual contacts with minors.”

“These children become hardened by the treacherous environment in which they must learn to survive,” adds the DOJ website, “and they suffer psychologically from depression, self-hatred and feelings of hopelessness.”

The NJHTTF combats trafficking through education, collaboration and prosecution. Its goals are to train and assist law enforcement in identifying victims and signs of the crime, coordinate statewide efforts in the identification and provision of services to victims, and increase interdiction and prosecution.

Sound of Freedom has highlighted a global problem in a dramatic fashion. Its message is that “God’s children are not for sale.”

Unfortunately, they are.

Editor’s note: The film Sound of Freedom has been met with criticism of its protagonist, Tim Ballard, who’s been accused of distorting the complex nature of human sex trafficking, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper’s fact checker found no evidence of Ballard’s claim that 10,000 children are smuggled into the U.S. each year for sex.