Dec. 15, 2022

Hiding in Plain Sight – Raising Awareness to Untraffick America – with Eric Colton – [Ep. 149]

Hiding in Plain Sight – Raising Awareness to Untraffick America – with Eric Colton – [Ep. 149]

The explosive rise in underage sex trafficking is creating a traumatic impact on individuals, families, businesses, communities, and our country. We must not ignore this and hope it will go away. It will not. Eric Colton, Founder and Chairman of...


The explosive rise in underage sex trafficking is creating a traumatic impact on individuals, families, businesses, communities, and our country. We must not ignore this and hope it will go away. It will not. Eric Colton, Founder and Chairman of UNTRAFFICKED®, an organization committed to ending domestic child sex trafficking, joined Linda to discuss this sensitive and important topic. Child sex trafficking IS happening in schools, workplaces, and in nearly every community across America. Traffickers are often hiding in plain sight. Learn how to become a Guardian so you may detect them and protect your own children and other vulnerable young people. Be part of the solution. Listen today.

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Transcript

Linda J. Hansen  

Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen. Your host and the author of Prosperity 101 - Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck, and the creator of the Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course, and the entire podcast library can be found on Prosperity101.com. I seek to connect boardroom to breakroom and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs.

 

My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement, and retention and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit Prosperity101.com.

 

Thank you so much for joining with us today. This is a sensitive topic, but I hope you'll stay with us. While sex trafficking has long been a plague upon society, the increase in the victimization of children through sexual abuse and trafficking has skyrocketed in recent years. Their traumatic effects are impacting individuals, families, businesses, communities, and our country. We must not ignore this and hope it will go away. It will not. We must be aware of how to stop it, how to protect young people and how to bring hope and healing to all parties involved.

 

My guest today is Eric Colton, Founder and Chairman of Untrafficked, an organization committed to ending domestic child sex trafficking. Eric is a repeat guest. I'm honored to have him again. For those of you who would like to listen to our first episode, it's Episode 126 and the title is, It Could Be Your Child: Why We Must Work Towards An Untrafficked America. Eric, thank you for joining with me again, and thank you for your work. I really want you to share with the listeners updates about the growth of your work with traffic and how listeners can be more aware of how to protect young people in their families and communities.

 

Eric Colton  

It's wonderful to be here, and thank you for having me. And I thank you for joining us in this very important work that we're doing to both protect children that are at risk and then to recover and restore children that have unfortunately been trafficked.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

You have had an amazing success rate this year of young people who have been rescued through your efforts. Could you share with the listeners some of these stories and what you've done?

 

Eric Colton  

Sure, I'm happy to do so. And just to reiterate, Untrafficked is built of four pillars. They're operational. One of them is to generate awareness to allow the public in the United States of America to know that, you know, sex trafficking amongst children does exist. And so, we've reached out to now over 30 million people thus far. And so, in three years of operations, we have developed our Prevention Division, which nobody's really–no organization is focused on that before, and it is built through the Guardian Program which equips parents in households to be able to untraffic America, one family at a time, one home at a time. And then encourage to go out to their neighborhoods and untraffic America one neighborhood at a time and then one community at a time. And it's made up of a carefully and thoughtfully composed curriculum, with a goal to inform parents on how to become well-trained defenders of their homes, to be able to protect their children by being groomed by sexual predators and traffickers, both online and through other methods.

 

And then third, the question that you asked about today is, you know, what does intervention look like and what does restoration look like? And I'm happy to share with you that today, we have recovered 242 children across the United States, and we have participated in the arrest of 559 perpetrators. And so, that's through direct. We've been contacted directly by a family member or a friend telling us that there has been a child that has either been groomed or that has been trafficked. We contact law enforcement, and then we provide them an intelligence report. And then we collaborate with law enforcement through that intelligence report, and also through real-time tracking to be able to locate both the child and the perpetrator and ensure that they make the arrest. Our arrest record and our recovery rate is 100%.

 

And so, very grateful for our team to utilize several different technologies that we have integrated together in order to be able to do this, both legally and ethically, while being able to, you know, protect and rescue these children. And then we have a network of care facilities, where if it's required for us to be able to bring them to a place outside of their family in a home, we'll go ahead and take them to a restorative care facility so they can get the care that is needed for them to become fully restored. Sometimes it's a month, sometimes it's six months, sometimes it's a year, sometimes it's just ongoing, because sometimes the level of abuse is so severe. And we really want to be there to love them, to cheer them on, and to continue to be there for them and support them financially and emotionally, and physically and mentally, and even spiritually, if they need prayer.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

It's a wonderful organization, and you're doing such great work. I know there are several organizations also trying to help victims of sex trafficking, but they don't have the success rate that you do. And it is just really a testament to the hard work and to the team that you put through and all of the thought and research that has gone into your approach. You have had this on your heart for several years. And how can people be involved with Untrafficked? How can they become guardians for their children or grandchildren, or other relatives or friends?

 

Eric Colton  

Thank you so much for the kind words and Linda, I will tell you that collaboration is key. And so, oftentimes we don't work alone. Oftentimes, it's not just the Untrafficked organization. We collaborate with other organizations as well, who are willing, who are led by those that have servant's hearts, to be able to work together and humbly join forces to be able to make the safety of the children their top priority. And so, we do often work with a lot of other organization. It's going to take a village to be able to solve this problem.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

You have several outreach efforts to help expand this message and to increase awareness. Can you tell us about those?

 

Eric Colton  

I sure can. So, number one, I challenge everybody in the United States to become a guardian. You can go to www.untrafficked.org, and please post this on your website as a link so they can go ahead and click a link to it. It's an absolutely no cost to the guardian. And so, we wanted to provide this service and provide it at no cost. It's incredible training. It's done through animated characters. And it's actually taught from the perspective of children.

 

And so, rather than Untrafficked, you know, telling parents and telling grandparents how to be able to raise their little ones, this is taught from a position where it's children that are actually inviting their parents and their grandparents and their older siblings and aunts and uncles and so forth, whoever wants to get involved in being protectors of their family into their reality, while they're on a cell phone, while they're getting private messages, while they're playing online video games, and they get, you know, messages through online chat rooms that ask them to go to a park to play Pokemon GO or to an arcade, and wherever they go or at school, if there's a problem.

 

The Guardian Program guides families on how to be able to have meaningful conversations about a very difficult subject in a creative way and even fun, we don't want to scare folks into donating to our organization. That's not what we're about. We want to provide hope, and we want to provide victory. It is it is essential that we're not just fear mongering out there. It's not enough to be able to talk about the problem. There's a lot of folks that are out there that are doing that and saber-rattling in order to be able to garner donations, and we don't want to be that organization.

 

Our organization is to serve you families, to strengthen them, and so that these children tell their parents what's going on in their world when a stranger, or even who looks to be, appear, reaches out to them, and tries to lure them away. And so, that's the prevention side. You know, there are many pedophiles that have been interviewed that say that they will never ever, ever target a child who has a strong relationship with their parents. So, they operate in the shadows, and they target insecure children that are looking for some type of a belonging, some type of being included.

 

And it's a psychological operation on behalf of their part. And so, what we did is we responded to their psychological operation with our psychological operation. It's cool to be close to your parents. It's cool to have conversations with your parents. In the Guardian Program, and they'll be able to see it, they're going to get–you know, once a guardian logs onto our website, they will have access to our portal and in our portal is the Guardian Handbook that is online. And like I said, it's free. And then through our monthly newsletter, they're going to get expanded lessons on different scenarios that kids engage in, in their everyday lives. So, parents can continue to be further equipped and further educated to be able to protect their children.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Well, this is just critically important because as I mentioned before, sex trafficking is something that is hiding in plain sight. It is everywhere. You have shown how easy it is for children to be lured into relationships with pedophiles, while they're sitting on the couch next to their parents, while they're watching a movie or something. And parents have to be aware of this. Grandparents need to be aware. You have an outreach into churches and other civic organizations as well.

 

So, this is all about awareness and education, and also activating people to be involved. Because it's one thing to know, it's another thing to do. And we can know all about these things, but if we don't do something to actually help prevent this harm upon so many young people and to help rescue them, this will just continue. You know, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. That quote from Edmund Burke is so true. And if we do nothing, this will just continue. So, Eric, along with being aware of things and understanding, I've heard so many reports of the sex trafficking increase through the victimization of children at the border and what's happening there. Could you address that?

 

Eric Colton  

Yeah. We do understand that there's, you know, from different sides, politically from different sides, culturally, you know, there are many, many stories about what may or may not be happening at the border. And so, what we did is we launched four reconnaissance border operations. Three of them are in Texas and one of them is in Arizona to be able to find for ourselves exactly what's happening. And there are indeed border crossings happening at the tens of thousands of folks per day, and a lot of those are children.

 

As a matter of fact, on American Airlines while I was on a flight from Phoenix to DFW, there were six undocumented, unaccompanied minors, they call them UUMs. And one of the flight attendants that I asked about it, she says this happens every single day. And they have government-issued, you know, badges. They have government-issued bags. They're all wearing brand-new braces and they have an iPhone, and we don't know where they're going. And I engaged with their handler, and he would not tell me anything other than that he was their handler, but to be able to contact the Dallas Fort Worth Airport executive office, because this is one of their personal projects.

 

And so, we are now looking into that and working with the FBI and law enforcement in order to be able to get to the bottom of why our laws being broken by complicit organizations, such as airports and airlines. So, that's number one, and then two, we are doing our best to be able to communicate with both ICE and Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations as well as the FBI in order to in order to be able to figure out how to respond in this manner.

 

The problem at the border is so large, that it's very difficult. And so, right now we're trying to gain as much information as we can, and then to do everything that we can. And this is, again, a grave importance on why the individual home needs to be insulated, and parents need to be trained and grandparents need to be trained so that they know how to take a stand and untraffic America, one home and one family at a time.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Exactly. And hopefully, we can be advocates for those children who are here without families or children who do not have supportive families, or even for those children whose families may be involved in trafficking the children, and that does happen as well. So, you know, as the border crisis has increased, every town is a border town.

 

So, what would you say to people who, you know, maybe they don't have small children in their home, or maybe they do, but not only shall we protect our own, of course, but how can we be more aware of what is happening? So, when we're out in our communities and, you know, we're at a restaurant. We're at a movie theater. We're out with our kids at a park or, you know, wherever we may be, maybe our workplace. What types of things should people be aware of so they can start to possibly identify some of these victims?

 

Eric Colton  

Sure. Thank you. That's a great question, Linda, and it's very difficult to answer. One, situational awareness needs to be raised, number one. Number two, you know, sometimes it could look like, you know, a 17-year-old or 15-year-old couple, and one of the person is 23 and the other one is 14, but just looks a lot older than that. And they're at a restaurant, and they're eating or drinking, and looking like they're having fun, whatever the case is, and it's a crime scene. It's a trafficking scene. They met online. You know, somebody was, you know, a guy or a gal pulled a young girl or young boy into a scenario.

 

And so, there's just so many different ways to be able to look at it. You know, in the past, it's, you know, looking for tattoos that are marks of certain pimps, and so forth. Although that is a part of it, it's very, very little. And usually trafficking hides in plain sight, in almost every neighborhood across America. And that's the most unfortunate thing.

 

And so, one of the ways to be able to look at this is to determine what the behavioral indicators are. And so, if children are looking down at the floor, if they look depressed, if they're non-social, if they just look out of the ordinarily uncomfortable in a scenario, being able to walk up to somebody and say, “Hey, I just noticed that you're sad. Are you okay?” Or if there's law enforcement nearby, ground law enforcement, and say, “You know, this could be a potential trafficking scenario. Would you please look into it?” Or they can always call us or they can send us an email or shoot us a private message on our on Twitter, on our Instagram account, or on our Facebook account. We have received so many–of the 242 children, so many of those cases have come through social media. And we're grateful for them because those children have now been recovered, and they're in restoration, restorative care.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Well, that's just so important, and I thank you so much for sharing that because as people just raise their level of awareness. Again, listeners, please go to Untrafficked.org and sign up to become a guardian. Whether you have children or grandchildren, I'm sure you know children, all across your community, and we all need to step up.

 

The adults in the room need to be the adults in the room protecting children. And we just really need to become more aware of this, as you said more situationally aware, so we can identify some of these indicators. I think sometimes, you know, we have a sense when someone might be struggling. And if we're just more aware of it, and we can be able to kind of listen to that intuition we have, and so often that is what makes a difference between rescuing a person from a trafficking situation versus having that person be continually victimized.

 

So, again, people don't be afraid. The Guardian Program will help you understand what to look for, how to have conversations with young people in your life, and I just recommend it highly. It's a fantastic work that you and the other members of your organization are doing. I'd like you to recommend what employers may do as they have employees in their workplace, maybe some underage employees or even adult employees just being aware of what signs to look for in the workplace.

 

Eric Colton  

Sure. Those are great questions. Number one, again, individual families become guardians. And then there have been banks, there have been churches, there have been sports organizations, professional sports teams, they want to untraffic their organizations. And so, there are there are corporations that have wanted to partner with us that we've partnered with, and national organizations as well that are over a lot of these companies and so forth, that we partnered with so we can train, the executive teams and leadership, train the staff, and then give them, the staff, the ability to become guardians. And so, we can go ahead and build a custom corporate program for them, as we already have it. So, that's number one.

 

And then two, we're working now with 2,059 churches to be able to train their pastoral staff or their clergy, train the leadership, and the church staff. And then we'll host the Guardian Day at the church. And so, the Guardian Day, we have videos, we have information, you know, they can sign up to become a guardian right there on their phone. And then we really make it an engaging experience for the faith body in order to be able to really build this culture, of taking an offensive position, but a safe position, and becoming a guardian and protecting your family and your home.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

That's just fantastic. And I love the way you're partnering with other businesses, churches, and organizations to make sure that this gets spread far and wide. So, I have such a heart to make people more aware of this problem because it does hide in plain sight, and there are young people hurting all around us. We need to do everything we can to help rescue them, and to end this horrible victimization of the young people. It's up to us and it's up to all of those listening here.

 

We can't do everything. We can't solve every problem, but we can all do at least one thing. And becoming a guardian is one thing, becoming more aware. So, please, listeners go to untrafficked.org and sign up to become a guardian. And before we close the interview, could you please share a few examples of rescues that you've been involved in and stories of victory with these young people?

 

Eric Colton  

I sure can. Yeah. First, I wanted to tell you that I wanted to thank the Dallas Police Department and then the Grand Prairie Police Department, and then Chaplain Edward Smith for hosting an event. Over the last 30 days, we won three awards from law enforcement and special recognitions. And so, we're grateful for that. Again, we love and support and care for our law enforcement partners that are out there and our desire is to make their job easier.

 

They're inundated by pressure from the society, by being underfunded. There's still a lot of folks out there that wanted to fund the police and they have to deal with all that. And when it comes down to, you know, sex trafficking of children, we want to make it a push-button solution for them. They can contact us. We'll provide them the intelligence and the tracking that's needed. And they can go ahead and make the arrest, and together we can recover the child.

 

But here are a couple of examples of what we've done in the past. On July 7, a 15-year-old female from the Houston area was talked into going with who was supposedly a young man, but he sent his aunt who was an older lady. And the older lady drugged the 15-year-old and transported her to the Dallas Fort Worth area, 352 miles away. Untrafficked conducted due diligence and intelligence. Within 45 minutes, we had provided an intelligence report to the Houston area Sheriff's Department. And then once we located where this person's residence was, which there was two potential residences, we contacted law enforcement at each one of those County Sheriff's offices, and they responded.

 

And so, within two minutes of the arrival of this older woman and the trafficked girl, we were there with law enforcement in order to be able to make the recovery. And so, in 5 hours and 31 minutes, 352 miles away, we apparently set a record, according to the FBI, of the fastest sex trafficking rescue today. And so, it was quite astounding to see how much technology and intelligence, and a capable team and a willing law enforcement organization matter to something like this.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Where did you get the first tip of what happened to this young woman?

 

Eric Colton  

A gentleman that served under me when I built a security ministry at our church had contacted me and it was one of his family members, adopted daughters, who was kidnapped. The mother and the child got into an altercation. The child, the 15-year-old was upset, and she thought it would be better to go with her boyfriend. But in reality, she was talking to a 42-year-old woman the whole time that was acting like a 16-year-old boy.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Well, that can happen so easily to so many people. And so, again, family members, community members, business colleagues, pay attention, because this is a remarkable rescue. It's just a beautiful story, and it gives us hope for helping so many others. Do you have any other stories you'd like to share with us?

 

Eric Colton  

Sure. Just a couple of other different and unique operations that we've ran. And so, in December, so just a couple of weeks ago, within the last couple of weeks, we ran a joint collective operation in Houston in order to identify leads on underage prostitution in the Bissonnet area. And during the operation, two pimps and several prostitutes were spoken to, and the rest of it is confidential.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Understood. That's exciting though. I mean, you're making so much progress, and I hope that it encourages others to get involved because they see progress and real hope on the horizon for rescuing young people.

 

Eric Colton  

Well, thank you. And there's one more and this has to do a little bit with advocacy, which we're not taking a deep dive into advocacy yet, but we will. The more guardians that we have, the more voices that are there, the bigger impact we can make when we want to influence policy in the United States of America. And so, in March of 2022, Untrafficked help with the drafting of legislation regarding this issue in the state of Louisiana, and the input from Untrafficked was well-received, and it was directly implemented to draft the bill.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

That's wonderful. Legislators need to have accurate information from people who are sober-minded, who are factual, and who can present a broad range of solutions that can help to bring this to an end. Many legislators don't understand the issue. They don't understand that it's happening in every community, that it's happening in their neighborhoods. They are unaware.

 

And so, creating awareness, building out the Guardian Program, helping people to be able to be advocates for their family members and children in their community, but also just to be advocates for policies that will help all across the nation. And, you know, when we help America, we help the world. So, when we strengthen the laws against human trafficking, sex trafficking, other forms of trafficking, we truly help strengthen this across the world.

 

And so, we can be advocates for freedom, advocates for hope and restitution, healing, and hopefully this can spread all over. And so, Eric, I just can't thank you enough for your work, your passion for this. I talked to you so many times. And the passion and love that you have for the people that you serve is just amazing. And so, to all listeners again, please go to Untrafficked.org. Sign up to become a guardian. Sign up to learn more. We can help rescue young people and we can end sexual trafficking as much as it depends on us. It is something that we can reduce and bring healing and hope to victims everywhere. So, Eric, any other closing comments?

 

Eric Colton  

No, just wanted to thank you again, Linda. Thank you so much for your caring for the children across the United States of America. We're here to serve you. We're here to serve them. And let's just continue to get the word out and just have more guardians sign up. The more guardians that sign up, the more equipped America will be to be able to end this epidemic.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Absolutely. Well, thank you for your work as well. Thank you for joining us today, too.

 

Eric Colton  

My pleasure.

 

Linda J. Hansen  

Thank you.

 

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