Sound of Freedom is an eye-opening movie which tells the heroic story of former government agent, Tim Ballard, who goes on a mission to rescue hundreds of children trapped in sex trafficking. The film was produced by Angel Studios, and released on July 3, 2023.
With many movies, we can leave the emotions at the door when we walk out of the theater because, “it was just a movie.” While this is a cinematic depiction of what human trafficking looks like, the sad reality is that the abuse and exploitation shown in Sound of Freedom is an actuality for millions around the world.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry worldwide, bringing in an estimated $150 billion per year . But this industry is far from new. Slavery has existed for thousands of years. However, there are more slaves today than any other point in human history – even compared to when slavery was legal .
Bringing this issue to light is one of the first steps in combating it. If you have seen the film, you are now aware that human trafficking exists, and we pray that you take action. As William Wilberforce once said, “you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
While we aren’t going to break down every scene from Sound of Freedom, we’re left with several key takeaways, and topics for further discussion.
1.) The movie focuses on international trafficking of children. Is this what human trafficking looks like everywhere?
There are 25 different types of human trafficking and a multitude of ways in which people are bought and sold. What was depicted in Sound of Freedom is child sex trafficking. There are millions of children sold into slavery every year, and yet, children comprise just a portion of the 49.6 million slaves world-wide . In Pennsylvania, of the victims identified, 1 in 4 are children .
Methods through which people are recruited and sold can vary greatly. One must take into context a country’s legal system, culture, and the demand for services, among other factors. Recruitment and exploitation in Mexico and Columbia, for example, naturally look different from recruitment and exploitation in Pennsylvania, where Greenlight Operation is based. Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities. However, if you’re keeping your eyes open only for the techniques which were depicted in Sound of Freedom to identify victims in Pennsylvania, you’re going to miss the mark.
There is no universal formula for human trafficking. Rather, it is crucial to listen, hear victim stories, and support survivors and experts in taking down the network of traffickers.
2.) Should I take on traffickers like Tim Ballard did?
Keep in mind that Tim Ballard was a federal agent and highly trained. Chances are that most of us do not fall into this category. While vigilante techniques can be appealing out of a desperate desire to help, they are dangerous not only for you, but for those you’re trying to rescue.
It’s important to understand that extractions like those seen in Sound of Freedom are international collaborations between different legal systems. In America, if you were to conduct a similar extraction on your own, even with the best of intentions, you could not only get hurt, but you could also impede justice for victims. Do you know that many vigilante cases get thrown out in court? Not only that, but you could face serious criminal charges for taking this kind of action.
If you suspect human trafficking, call the police and the National Human Trafficking Hotline. It’s important that you take action by reporting the crime, but do not take justice into your own hands.
3.) Are my kids in danger of being kidnapped?
Most child victims in the United States are exploited by someone they know or through online tactics. While kidnapping could be a method of recruitment for human trafficking, it’s far less likely in the United States as it raises an alarm when someone goes missing.
Traffickers are master manipulators who want to make as much money as possible. If the police are alerted to their schemes right away, they are likely to lose out on the profits they hope to make. As a result, traffickers try to blend in and take approaches that may not be as easily recognized.
Some of the best ways to protect your children include:
- Training yourself and your children about online safety and setting boundaries with technology.
- Communicating about safe and unsafe physical touch.
- Discussing what healthy relationships are.
- Being safe and approachable for your child to address concerns they are facing.
- Empowering your children to learn about human trafficking.
- Thoroughly vetting those who care for your children, including relatives.
- Taking reports your children bring to you seriously.
- Teaching your children that secrets should not be kept between them and adults.
- Having conversations about pornography, relationships, and sexuality.
Ultimately, you know your child’s maturity and depth of understanding. Perhaps in an effort to guard your children from the frightening reality of human trafficking, you may be tempted to neglect important conversations with them about the dangers. This can, in fact, leave them more vulnerable to exploitation and ill-equipped to handle difficult situations. The best thing you can do is start having open and honest conversations. Set boundaries. Repeat them. Be consistent. Be the person your children trust.
4.) Where are buyers coming from?
Those that live in the land of the free are statistically the top consumers of sex tourism internationally . Daily, Americans seek to have their sexual desires fulfilled here in the United States, and will also travel around the world to places that are less regulated. Human trafficking wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a demand for it. Until people refuse to abuse others for their own self-gratification, human trafficking will continue. This includes viewing and partaking in exploitive content online and in-person.
5.) How can I make a difference?
- Educate yourself and others about human trafficking. Continue learning from reputable sources about human trafficking so you can take informed approaches.
- Interested in hosting a human trafficking seminar? Fill out our speaker request form here.
- Consider giving to anti-human trafficking organizations like Greenlight Operation. Many resources are required to combat a $150 billion criminal industry and to help restore those who have been harmed by it. Consider partnering with us on a monthly basis so we can continue to do the work that’s necessary to bring freedom and restoration to those who were enslaved.
- Volunteer with an anti-human trafficking organization!
- Here are some volunteer opportunities we have available.
- Use your voice to advance legislation that will make a difference in the lives of victims.
- Here is a list of bills that, if passed, will help those who have been trafficked.
- Ask if your local police force has a strategy for combating human trafficking or has even been trained on handling human trafficking cases. Many smaller stations throughout PA lack training and a strategy for combating modern-day slavery.
- Greenlight Operation offers free consultations to police and can also connect police with resources that are readily available to them. Our faithful donors allow us to keep these consultations free so more frontline workers can be trained.
You may be experiencing a sense of righteous fury after watching Sound of Freedom. Don’t let that fizzle out! Channel that passion toward intentional work to combat human trafficking. Use your voice, talents, and resources to help those who have been trafficked and to prevent future cases. Together, we can make a difference.
 DHS Center for Countering Human Traffcking. (n.d.). Home | homeland security. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-02/CCHT%20Annual%20Report.pdf
 Human trafficking. A21. (n.d.). https://www.a21.org/content/human-trafficking/gqe0rc
 International Labour Organization. (2022, September 12). Global estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and forced marriage. Report: Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/publications/WCMS_854733/lang–en/index.htm
 “Pennsylvania State Report for 2021”, Polaris Project, (2023) https://humantraffickinghotline.org/sites/default/files/2023-01/Pennsylvania%20State%20Report%20For%202021.docx%20%281%29.pdf
 Operation Underground Railroad. (2018, February 2). 3 reasons child sex trafficking is an American problem. End Child Trafficking. https://ourrescue.org/blog/3-reasons-child-sex-trafficking-american-problem