Just weeks after members of the mainstream media dismissed “The Sound of Freedom” movie as “a QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theory” and a “delusion fomenting moral panic” over “this grossly exaggerated ‘epidemic’ of child sex trafficking,” the FBI announced that it has rescued 200 victims of the heinous crime, including 59 children, during a two-week operation in numerous states.
The FBI publicized the results of Operation Cross Country, a two-week anti-trafficking operation, last week. The operation was in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Operation Cross Country led to the arrest of at least 126 suspects related to child exploitation, as well as 68 human traffickers.
The 59 children were victims of sex exploitation and trafficking. The youngest was 11 years old.
Victims and suspects were from across the country, with 17 individual operations having been conducted.
In the San Francisco Bay region, 17 adults and 3 Bay-area children were rescued. Officers arrested nine suspects and found three illegally owned guns.
FBI San Francisco agent Bob Tripp stated, “Rescuing children has always been a top priority for the operation. They’re our kids. They’re living in our communities. They’re living in our streets, and they are not for sale.”
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said that services have and will continue to be given to the victims.
Children from Atlanta, Kansas City, and other areas were also rescued. One Atlanta teenager was found in Virginia. Dunwoody Police Sergeant Michael Cheek said they received a call on July 28 from a woman saying her granddaughter was missing. The police learned the teen had been chatting on social media with a 38-year-old man in Virginia who drove over 1000 miles roundtrip to meet the girl and drive her back to Newport News, Virginia, where she was found and he was arrested.
“I don’t think people are quite aware of what people who are in this illegal operation will do to keep it going,” Cheek cautioned. “Be involved with what your kids [are doing], especially their social media sites. It doesn’t matter the kid, the income level, the status, it doesn’t matter.”
In addition, the FBI located and rescued six missing children off the mainland in Hawaii. FBI Special Agent for Hawaii and the Pacific Steven Merrill reminded Americans that while this operation involved only two weeks, the FBI works continually to rescue people from human traffickers. “We’re always doing this, 12 months a year,” Merrill stated.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement regarding the operation, “Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our society, and their crimes scar victims — many of them children — for life. The FBI’s commitment to combatting this threat will never waver, and we will continue to send our message that these atrocities will not be tolerated.”
Michelle DeLaune, president and CEO of NCMEC, said in a statement,
“Behind every statistic, there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live a life free from child sex trafficking and exploitation. As a society, we must work together to ensure the protection, support, and empowerment of those impacted by this heinous crime.”
This operation comes in the wake of scores of media outlets dismissing and mocking the threat of child sexual exploitation and trafficking shown in “The Sound of Freedom.” Those media outlets are liars. Child trafficking is happening and it is big business. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), 1.7 million children are sex trafficked and the sexual exploitation of both women and children generates $150 billion a year.
As the FBI and local police warn, all children are potentially at risk these days. However, children and teens who are frequently left alone with little supervision, who are given unfettered access to the Internet, who are inundated with sexual images and themes, or who are groomed by adults and asked to keep secrets from their parents have the highest chance of becoming victims of this heinous crime.
Parents must listen to those who have witnessed firsthand how these crimes are committed. Protect your children by limiting what they can do on social media and who they are allowed to hang out with and talk to. Don’t drop your child off at an activity or let your child go somewhere without knowing exactly who the adults will be and ensuring that they are trustworthy. Don’t let schools, libraries, the mass media, and social media influencers sexualize and isolate your children. Talk to your children frequently about their personal interactions at school or in their extracurricular activities. Teach them to confide in you if they feel uncomfortable or pressured to do something they don’t want to.
And don’t buy into the notion that you should “co-parent” with schools and the government. Parents, God gave your child to you to raise, guide, teach, protect, and steward, and anyone who insists otherwise does not have your child’s best interest at heart.
We should praise God that these 200 trafficking victims were rescued this past week — but we should also never forget that there are tens of thousands of others who are far from home and suffering the worst possible torture and indignities. May we all pray and do what is needed as a society to rescue more children and adults from traffickers and make sure that others aren’t also subjected to these same horrors.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.