In this vitally important episode, DJ invited Operation Underground Railroad representative, Tyson Wright, on the show to discuss human trafficking, and more specifically child exploitation and child sex trafficking. Listen in as they broach these sensitive topics that will arm you with knowledge of how predators utilize the internet to communicate with our youth and educate you on resources to become familiar with… as well as prevention and intervention methods so you can take the steps to protect your own children. Share this episode to help raise awareness and spread the word to other parents and caregivers in your community.
Tyson Wright is the Education Program Manager at Operation Underground Railroad. Tyson started as a volunteer for O.U.R. in 2015 and found a passion for supporting the organization and educating the community. He began working as an employee in February 2021 in the Outreach Department and has supported the department's growth and expansion from volunteer management to include education and prevention efforts. In his current team he oversees the development of prevention and education programs. Tyson has certifications in Trauma and Resilience, and Human Trafficking Prevention and Intervention. He is on the board of the Washington County Children's Justice Center and enjoys volunteering in his community.
• [3:46] Tyson explains what Operation Underground Railroad is and how it got started… Their focus or mission is to end human trafficking.
• [7:19] “40% of all human trafficking has a familial connection to it… in that it's a family member who either initially sold them into the trafficking situation.
• [17:14] Tyson discusses how to empower our children through educating them.
• [36:42] Tyson shares the most important conversations that need to happen between a child and a parent to prevent online exploitation.
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DJ Stutz 0:13
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes Podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA.
You're listening to Episode 91 of Imperfect Heroes - Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host DJ Stutz. And today I have a very special guest on imperfect heroes. His name is Tyson Wright. And Tyson is the director of aftercare at Operation Underground Railroad, which is a nonprofit organization. I think a lot of you may have heard of it, that fights against human trafficking and the exploitation of children. And Tyson has spent his career dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating victims of trafficking, and then providing them with the tools and resources necessary to live a healthy and fulfilling life. He has worked with survivors from honestly all over the world, and is a leading expert in the field of aftercare for trafficking victims. And we are honored to have him with us today to share his insights and his experience. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.
Parent teacher conferences are an essential component of a child's academic success. But do you ever find yourself struggling to make the most out of these meetings? They're so short. Well, I have a downloadable workshop that aims to guide parents through the conference process, we're providing insight into what to ask what to share, and then how to navigate what can sometimes be a difficult conversation. It's free for the month of March. But there's an opportunity to meet with me afterward, to prepare for the conference, and then debrief afterward, to make sure that new rules and accommodations are working for your child. Don't miss this opportunity to empower not just yourself, but your kiddo. The link to the workshop and the calendar are in my show notes as usual. And if you like what you hear in today's podcast, please be sure to rate and review. And then tell a friend all about it.
You know, I want to just jump right into my conversation with Tyson. It's right at an hour long, letting you know. And it's so full of important information. So let's listen.
Welcome, everyone, and thank you for spending this next little bit of time with Imperfect Heroes Podcast. And today is such an important day for me. I have been wanting to do this interview for a long time. And it's taken me a while to figure out how to find out who to talk to and everything. But I finally was able to get a hold of Tyson Wright. And Tyson, you are involved with something called Operation Underground Railroad, which is O U R for short. Would you tell us a little bit about what that is?
Tyson Wright 3:46
Yeah, I'd love to start off by saying thank you for having us on today to share about human trafficking. And as that is our focus and fighting human trafficking and combating as you said, my name is Tyson right. And I'm the Education Programs Manager here at Oh, EUR and focus on a lot of our prevention efforts and community engagement and education. So this fits exactly into what we need and grateful for the opportunity to share today. Operation Underground Railroad, as I briefly mentioned, is a nonprofit organization. And our mission is summed up into one quick sentence is to end human trafficking. We primarily focus on child sex trafficking, and trying to eradicate that specifically. We've been around for almost 10 years now in existence started in the early 2012 or so as we came into existence. We were started by a gentleman named Tim Ballard. And before o u r started, he was a federal agent with Homeland Security. And he was investigating as a Federal Agent human trafficking cases, doing his part in fighting it from that side. But he found that he was very limited by some of the bureaucracy and red tape that was in place, as being an agent of the government so often happens, and realize that in order to make the difference he wanted to make, he needed to step away from that and start, Oh, you are. And that's exactly what he did, you know, retired at that moment, to pursue to cases specifically that he was investigating at that time. And from those kind of early, humble beginnings. Now, we've been around for almost 10 years now, and been able to support law enforcement globally in their fight against human trafficking, to support survivors through their aftercare services, and helping them find that healing and recovery that they need. You know, there's a number of different ways in which we go about fighting this and taking this on. Because it's a problem that doesn't just exist in one area or facet of life. It crosses over into many different areas, through online exploitation in person, it can happen in so many different ways. And so it takes a lot of effort in trying to fight this. And we try to be that support that we can in supporting other organizations and supporting individuals who have been caught in this evil of human trafficking.
DJ Stutz 6:29
Evil is the exact right word for it. I'll tell you that. I think one of the things that really draws me to Oh, you are is the fact that you do the aftercare as well. It's not just catch and release in in so many ways. And in fact, as I've listened, I've been to a couple of events where I've heard Tim Ballard speak, which is kind of how I got to become familiar with Oh, you are. And one of the things that he talked about, was that in some of these really, extremely poor, third world countries, that you can save someone, take them back to their families, but it's their families that originally sold them. Yeah, so you're just putting they'll just gonna sell them again.
Tyson Wright 7:19
Yeah, you know, in that is a reality of it. And not just in third world countries. Globally, the statistic is that it's right around 40% of all human trafficking, it has a familial connection to it in that it's a family member who either initially sold that individual into knowingly sold them into the trafficking situation, or is their trafficker and is the individual who is ongoingly, trafficking them and selling them. And that's not just outside the United States, that statistic holds true in the United States. As we see, with so many abuses, it's not always and in most cases, it's not a stranger who's doing these abuses. It's someone that the individual knows, and in many cases care for him. In the United States, specifically 39%, in addition to the 40%, that's familial. 39% is made up by an intimate or romantic partner, a boyfriend or a girlfriend of some sort. So between those two 80% of the time, it's someone that the survivor knows, it's not just a random person off the street.
DJ Stutz 8:36
That is so horrific in my mind, it's hard for me to even fathom how that is all. We're, you know, we worry about the balance between protecting our kids from bad things. And then giving them the opportunity to be free to play and to run around and to ride their bikes around the neighborhood and go down to the corner store and get some candy. All of those great experiences, I know that my kids make fun of me when we're around where my husband grew up, and I tend to continually Well, that's where your dad rode his bike to here. And that's where your dad did this and went and played in the canal and all of those fun things. He was not totally world but somewhat rural in his growing up. And boy, you just wouldn't even really think of them having that freedom now, but yet that is so important in their development, and their ability to problem solve and their individuality and their independence and all of that. Where do you find the balance? What advice do you have for parents?
Tyson Wright 9:47
I think it's important to again to kind of reference in transition from the piece that we just talked about is that it's not always an individual that the child doesn't know. Oh, and so it's a discomforting piece. But there's also maybe there could be some comfort in that is that maybe not the risk isn't coming from an external source as often as it is coming from an internal source, if you will. And that there is the stranger danger, as we used to call it right and taught so much to it, that does exist and being aware of the risks that exist out there in the world is important. But it doesn't mean that we need to be paralyzed by the thought of Oh, the world is getting worse and worse, and my kids can't go out on the street. It takes effort on behalf of parents, it takes maybe more of an involved and focused effort in some regards of being present in our kids lives, from knowing where they're going and who they're interacting with. I do think that Gone are the days that our kids can just go and wander and then come back for dinnertime, we need to know where they're going, we need to know who they're interacting with, not because we need to be a hovering parent and control all those things, but just being more aware, but that takes effort on behalf of us as parents, right. And it takes a lot of time to know what's going on in our kids lives and to be present. And with kind of where our society's going, a lot of our pieces are online. And it's easier kind of just to check out and feel safe. That's a place where our kids are safer, we're safer, it's easy for us to kind of disappear into those. And it takes effort to be present. So I think that's a key to it is being present in our kids lives, knowing who they're interacting with knowing where they're going. And then in with that present is having the conversations that need to happen with our kids to keep them safe. That might be as simple as don't talk to strangers. But it's also maybe gets more complex to talking about the online dangers that exists with our children, it might come to helping to educate them to some of the tactics that predators might try to employ to manipulate an individual as well. Having those conversations is important with our children.
DJ Stutz 12:09
Yeah, so if anyone's been listening to me for any amount of time, you know that this is my first year as a retired kindergarten teacher. And one of the things that I always taught my kids, my students is that if anybody ever tells you don't tell your parents, the first thing you do is tell your parents
Tyson Wright 12:32
actly Yeah, exactly. I,
DJ Stutz 12:35
I also teach them that someone did come and grab them or try to take them that you can say Help Help or whatever. But I think the most effective thing is to yell This is not my mom, or this is not my dad. And I got this from Gosh, back when I first got married. And I went to visit my parents, they lived in Bellevue, which is a suburb of Seattle. And there was a police officer that lived in their area. And that went to the same church that my parents went to. And, you know, they have the little Junior Sunday school, you know, the little guys, this cop had a son that was in there, I think he was like four or five years old, little guy. And someone came in and grabbed him, which they didn't think because you always you know, in a church setting, you might have an uncle or a cousin that's visiting or whatever come. And so he came in and kind of took this kid by the hand, and was taking them out and the little boy started screaming, this is not my dad, this is not my dad. And that pushed everyone into action. And it turned out that this was someone the the father had arrested this guy's brother, and he was gonna get even by taking his kid. But it was that experience made me think about that this is not my mom, this is not my dad.
Tyson Wright 13:58
But I think in that regard, you know, we have to, I think as parents, we walk this line and kind of have this piece where we think I can protect my kids. And as long as I'm knowledgeable, I can protect my kids. And I don't want to share too much information with my kids because I might ruin their innocence or I might make them take away from their childhood, that they might think the world is evil or or they might start to maybe even explore some of these things I want to teach them. But that's not the case will be far more effective if we have a mentality of empowering our children with the knowledge that they need, rather than think I'm their sole protector, because we can't be with them all the time. Number one, but also that doesn't allow them the growth that they need to gain these tools that they'll need for the rest of their lives. And so the earlier we can teach them some of these empowerment and empower them with these tools, the better off that there'll be in the long run and that example that you shear is a great example of the child being empowered, and then a situation coming up that then they can put the tools in place and feel like they're capable of doing it. And I think as we adopt that mindset, in most things, it but especially in this prevention of abuse and prevention of human trafficking, as we trust our children, to empower them with knowledge, that then they'll be able to not only protect themselves, but protect others, and then we can do the same as well, in protecting others.
DJ Stutz 15:33
Absolutely. I agree. And I think having kids that are empowered, I've got grandkids that go to, you know, they call it dojo, and it's some little martial arts things, but they're just a little guys that are just, but I've been to several of their classes. This is out in Reno. And it's been really interesting watching them, because they're teaching them that empowerment piece, stay away, back off, and how to protect themselves if God forbid, something like that should happen. And I really think that's a key thing. I have my youngest brother and his wife. They live in Idaho, we're all over the place. And his wife is actually a rape crisis worker. And so she'll get called out to help when so sadly, someone's been raped. But she said that It's so typical that it's not fight or flight that we go into when we're in a situation like that is a shutdown. We shut down freeze.
Tyson Wright 16:39
Yeah, it's freeze. That's
DJ Stutz 16:41
the word she used.
Tyson Wright 16:42
Yep, exactly. And that's where it's actually a new term that's kind of it's been added into that, that saying, fight, flight, those were the ones that we've always kind of attributed. But freeze is another one. And in addition, fond is another piece that will get put into there as a reaction of kind of another survival instinct that's outside of our control in many situations. But it doesn't mean that we can't help to empower better response, right, that we can help to overcome some of those reactions. And that comes through the empowerment. And sometimes that empowerment takes maybe a different look than we might think, for example, in our family in our home, I obviously work for Oh, EUR and see the things that I see here with working and, and hear stories, but my wife is also a licensed social worker, and therapist, and she focuses on therapy towards individuals with sexual trauma. And so she sees a lot as well. And we've realized in one thing that we've adopted into our home is this philosophy, that empowerment through teaching our children, and helping to educate our children can go a long ways. And so for us from a very young age, we've empowered our children, I have a four year old girl and a two year old boy, and empower our children in an area that might seem maybe controversial to some to do this, but may also inconsequential to others, in teaching our children correct anatomy, in that we've always referred to body parts by their proper names in our home. And from a very young age, our daughter knew that she had a vulva, and knew what a penis was, and could identify it as such. And, again, this comes from our backgrounds and connection. And a few reasons why that I'll point out as an example, here is number one, if she's ever in a situation where someone's trying to abuse her, we've let her know that they'll that's inappropriate and wrong. If someone outside of mom or dad changing a diaper or helping you in the bathtub, or a doctor with mom or dad present in those are situations where it's okay for someone to look at or touch your vulva. And so she knows that outside of that that's inappropriate. And we've told her that if someone's doing that, let them know that that's inappropriate. And you can only imagine at a predator side that if my daughter were to say to anyone trying to touch her, Hey, that's my vulva and you're not supposed to touch it. Now, she's taken aback in that situation, some of the power, because the predator is hoping that she won't know what's going on. The Predator is hoping that she won't be able to identify what that person is doing to her. They're hoping that she's as naive as possible, so that they can cover up their story in those cases, but now, it's a small piece that can provide that empowerment to our daughter. Then on the other side, you know, maybe taking it a step further, as if something does happen in the situation. Hopefully, it's identified law enforcement gets brought in to help to investigate. Well, they're under certain limitations within themselves. and some of these pieces are in our systems for good reasons. But one of these pieces that's in place is that the child is going to go through an interview, a forensic interview. And that forensic interviewer is very limited on questions that they can ask and how they ask them, so that it can actually be submitted into court. And again, a good piece about our judicial systems, their structures and whatnot. But you can imagine that if it comes to that forensics interview, and my daughter can identify and say, this individual touched my vulva, that's very clear, we can all understand what happened if a law enforcement officer asked, but if the law enforcement officer follows the rules and ask their questions in the appropriate way, and my daughter were to say, he touched my Willie Wookiee, well, now, that could be an elbow, that could be a shoulder that could be, it could be anything. And it allows for some doubt to be brought into that prosecution. And so not only is there empowerment, maybe towards that prevention, but also if something does happen, then it helps in the process towards the end. And I just use that as one small example that we tried to have in our home as an empowerment piece, that by educating our children, it can help in the processes of hopefully preventing, but also if something does happen, making in this case, prosecution easier.
DJ Stutz 21:26
Yeah, yeah. It's interesting. You brought up part of keeping track of our kids and being aware of what's going on. And before we started recording, I mentioned this to you, but I went into my emails this morning and opened up my emails, and there's an email from Oh, EUR. And it was about a new program. I don't know if it's really new, but it was about a program that you guys have for parents on Internet safety for little kids. Can you talk about that?
Tyson Wright 21:56
Yeah, it is one of our newer programs. And we recently launched it in the last three months or so. And we've been slowly pushing it out, having groups go through it to make sure it functions like it's supposed to, and, and so in the last little bit, really pushed it out to all of our supporters, and everywhere we can. And it's a resource about online safety. It's geared towards the parent is really who it's meant for, to try to educate parents. Because in reality, and I think we can all agree to this fairly quickly and without much hesitation. Kids are smarter when it comes to technology than us adults. And it's almost intuitive to them. And so we started there as educating parents, because they're a group that needs maybe in some cases, more education, and in a lot of cases, more detailed or dumbed down information. But it's an online course you can access through our website. And you go click on it. Once you get on our website, it says resources and then online safety, and walks you through some of the most important pieces when it comes to what we need to know and understand to keep ourselves but primarily children safe online. It focuses on some of the tactics in which predators try to manipulate, a solicit, and then eventually exploit children and other individuals online, a statistic that came out in a study that came out not too long ago from the FBI, their estimation is that at any given moment, in time, there's 750,000 individuals online, who were there with the sole purpose of trying to manipulate a child and to exploit a child. That's why they're online at any given moment at three quarters of a million people. And with that in mind, you know, I would be terrified if it was 50. But that number of people is intimidating and scary at times. And so we tried to create this resource that can help parents understand how some of those predators are trying to exploit some of the tactics in which they use some of the pieces, it points out how to spot a fake account on social media, some of the more prevalent locations such as games and apps and websites and social media platforms that predators are using. It talks about how to increase to the best of what's available privacy settings, so that you can help to protect yourselves and children online, in dives into a lot of that information, and a great resource, but for us also a stepping stone to more pieces that we want to start to introduce in the future, as well. It's not a one sided conversation. It's not just a thing that parents need to do. And it's not just a thing that kids need to do, but it's collectively there's things that we all need to do to ensure that we're being safe in this case. Online. So we want to introduce pieces directed towards children that are age appropriate and that help them understand some of those vulnerabilities and risks that exist just by being present online.
DJ Stutz 25:10
Yeah. I think that that's so important because it's just become such a huge part of our society in the lives of our kids. And so if you were to say, oh, no, I'm not gonna let my kids get online until their ex, whatever age, all of a sudden, you're this crazy person. Yeah. Freak.
Tyson Wright 25:31
Yeah. Even a step further. Now, it's almost unrealistic to even be able to do that. A lot of school nowadays, even in a even a junior high high school level, has some sort of need for connectivity online. And it's not, it's not always the social media apps that come to mind. For us. It's not always Instagram and Facebook and Tik Tok, even though there is a terrible problem that exists on those platforms, it can be as simple as the ABC game that's on your iPad that's supposed to teach a kid how to say his ABCs. Even those apps have connectivity to the internet, and have and can be exploited by predators. And so a lot of what we talked about in this beginning resource is to help parents identify those places, that probably most of us have no idea where even a risk or a vulnerability that we've introduced our kids to in some ways, or through necessity they've of use in the world we live in, that they're vulnerable to,
DJ Stutz 26:37
right? Well, and I can tell you from Oh, probably about 2015, on in teaching kindergarten, the kids either had computer lab in kindergarten that they went to a couple of times a week, or more. Or I had iPads, each child had their own iPad, within the classroom, and we use different apps for different things. And so even in kindergarten, they've got that connectivity. The problem with iPads was kids know how to manipulate things that by kindergarten, they know. Yeah. And so we had a couple of instances, it wasn't in my class, thank heavens, but in another class where kids were taking inappropriate pictures of each other in kindergarten, of course, at that age, they're not smart enough to delete them or anything. They just thought it was funny, but still not. Okay. So you need to be aware of what's going on and giving your kids these tools. And don't think that just because they're at school, they're safe. And or just because they're in kindergarten, they're safe. It's there.
Tyson Wright 27:53
Yeah, exactly. And it can happen at any age, and in any almost situation. And I will say this, that in a lot of these cases, that this is happening, the child is following every rule that the parent has asked them to follow. They're doing everything exactly, by the book. And then what happens is there they're in this environment, this virtual environment, and just by being there, they're at risk. And that's a part that parents need to understand is that there's inherent risks with our kids being in these phases. But just like, in the real world, we don't need to be paralyzed by the risks that if I send my kid out the front door, something could happen to him, so I'm never going to send them out the front door, there's benefit, like you mentioned in the beginning to going outside and playing. While there can be benefit in this online world. There needs to be rules and pieces set around it. But we need to understand that if they're in these environments, there's risk just like in the real world, there's risk, and we need to be aware of it. And so our our children are doing exactly what they're supposed to be we've asked them to do inside this virtual world. But understanding that there's predators out there who are trying to identify and then manipulate our children. And so they're doing everything. And then a chat comes in, where they're on a game, and someone starts to communicate with them, and talk to them. And they are a child, and they may not fully understand. And if we haven't prepared them. That's when they might get manipulated. They're not seeking to be manipulated. They're not seeking in most cases, to do something wrong or to break the parents rules. They're seeking for connectivity. They're seeking for friendship. They're seeking for a good time with someone online. They're seeking for maybe that release from the stresses of life, even though they're a kindergarten. They experience all the same emotions we do as an adult show and they want those releases. And online is a place where you know more and more we find them and predators have a lot of things to their advantage online. They can be whoever they want, they don't have to be themselves. They can create a profile to be whoever they want, age, gender, anything that they want to be online. And so they approach our children. And then children are manipulated, but they weren't doing anything wrong. In most cases, they were following all the parents rules, everything that they should. And maybe it was one little place that after they were contacted by a predator, then they started maybe because they didn't understand they started making choices that weren't the best. But we need to understand that in this situation, the child is the victim. And the predator is the individual who's done the wrong here, they approach that child with the intent of trying to manipulate and exploit them. And the child was taken advantage of so many times, as we approach this, we forget this. And we react as if the child was the person who did something wrong. And we can all agree, I think that our natural reaction in this situation is I'm going to pull everything away on my kids not going to have a phone. My kids not going to have a games station, they're not going to get online. We're going Amish, we're moving to Pennsylvania. There's the answer. Right? Yeah. problems though, too. Yeah, exactly, exactly. And all we've done in that situation is punish the child, we've made them feel like they did everything wrong. And they're taken away. We're thinking in our heads, I want to protect my child. But that's not how the child's seeing it. The child's saying it is, I'm being punished for everything that happened to me, this individual took advantage of me, they said they were my friend, they said that they cared about me. And then they started exploiting me for this or that or something else. And I feel guilty for that. And now my parents making me feel worse, right? Because they found out about it. And so it's important to understand that dynamic, as we're experiencing and having these interactions as they're happening with our children, is how are we going to react, our first reaction wouldn't be to punish and yell at our child. If they were taken at the park, we would welcome them back with open arms, we'd hug him we'd say, I'm so glad you're here with me again, and then maybe down the road, we would tell him, why did you go with him or whatever. But that's not the same reaction that we have when it happens online. Some of our reactions, in essence, are punishing our children as if they caused the problem.
DJ Stutz 32:42
And then they'll believe that and then that hinders any kind of recovery or healing, that's going to be taking place down the line,
Tyson Wright 32:50
or prevents it from ever being disclosed, in so many cases. And disclosure never happens. Because a child feels guilty, they feel dumb, they feel like they've done something wrong. And they perceive or they've defined already in their head, that my parents going to react this way. And I'm just going to feel more guilty, and I'm going to feel more dumb. So instead of having more heaped on, I'm just never going to disclose it, I'm going to make sure this never comes out, I'm going to continue to play into the manipulation that this predator is trying to exploit. Because I don't feel like I'm gonna get the support I need if I were to tell someone,
DJ Stutz 33:30
right? Yeah, all of this is so scary in so many different ways. And so parents are kind of paralyzed themselves in that, how do I handle it? How do I approach this so that my child is more empowered and knowledgeable without scaring them? And where's the line? And so you have to look at developmental, okay, just because they're four doesn't mean that every four year old is ready for this information. Some are totally ready, some are not able to process it as well. So it goes back to knowing your kids, understanding them, listening to them, looking at how they process information, so that you're giving it to them in a manner that is conducive to their understanding at that time.
Tyson Wright 34:26
Exactly. And actually taking that step to actually do those things, I think is one of the hardest steps as a parent to actually cross that threshold, especially as it comes to these topics when it of sexual exploitation of sex trafficking, of sexual abuse. Because I think as parents, maybe we're not fully comfortable about talking about these topics. We don't feel like we have the answers we don't feel like we even know we feel paralyzed ourselves. And this online resources is one to try to help break that down from a parent's standpoint, so that they maybe feel more empowered themselves and less paralyzed so that they can have those conversations. But they're important conversations that need to happen. And they need to happen, again, in a collaborative sense. And that's a hard barrier to come over as a parent is, my kids are young. But I know that when the time comes, that it's going to happen this way that we're going to have the conversations about online safety and whatever. And every kid maybe it's born into them, I don't know, it comes in their instruction manual of how they operate. They don't like parents giving them advice or telling them what to do, even if it's for the best reasons. Right, right. We've all been there and can think back on conversations we had when we were children, with our parents, and we thought, Oh, you're old and you don't understand or quit trying to control me. You're you. And I don't think there's a silver bullet answer to that. Yeah. So I think in saying that there's no like surefire way silver bullet to the answer to how do I do that. But I think that having a open and collaborative conversation with our children, helps in making that possible, in that it's not just us lecturing or telling them, but it's coming to an understanding that they bring thoughts and emotions. And in many cases, when it comes to technology, better understanding than what we bring as adults, and being open about why we're doing the things that we're doing, we might set a limit on how long they can have screen time. And they're going to see it as Oh, you're you're being restricted, you're controlling me, you don't. And then they'll go to things like what you don't want me to have friends, you don't want me to talk to anyone in the world. Because to them, again, they're not utilizing these things to do evil, right? They're not going online, to be exploited, they're going on for connectivity to know what their friends are doing to feel like they're in the know. And when you say, well, if they only get 15 minutes, they're gonna think, well, you're ruining my social life. And so it's having those conversations so they understand why. And then I think one of the most important conversations that needs to happen between a child and a parent connecting this back to prevention of online exploitation and empowering of children, is the conversation where a parent asks a child and has the conversation with the child of how do you want me to react, if this ever happens to you, we need to educate on what happened but have that conversation. And as a parent, don't come into it have, I'm going to tell you, because, again, in this situation, if we were to say this was to happen, the child's the victim, and they've had a lot of things happen to them and a lot of emotions that they're going through. And we need to listen, and we need to be there. And before ever even happens, having that conversation of how do you want me to react? Yeah. How do you want me to be in this situation? And then talking about it, and defining what that's going to look like? Yeah. And it can go as even as detailed as and specific is, maybe you don't want to tell me the details of what happened in the moment. But maybe you need some support. Or I know, all you need to me to do is give you a hug and tell you I care in that moment. And later, we can work out the details. Like we let the child define the parents reaction. And then the parent can contribute and say, here's why I want to do this, I want to call the police or I want to inform so and so or we need to do this and explain why why that's important. Again, understanding that in that moment, the child is going to feel guilt, they're going to feel shame, right? And we need to try to help them process those feelings. And understand that there are certain actions that are going to need to be taken as we do those and but work together on that plan.
DJ Stutz 39:10
I agree. And I think too, if God forbid something did happen, you might even need to revisit the plan. I mean, how many times do we have a vision of usually it's something more positive, but how something's going to go and then you actually get into it. And you realize, oh, there's all these different emotions that I wasn't expecting. And so to come back and say, All right, here was the plan. Is that still going to work for you?
Tyson Wright 39:39
Yeah, exactly. And having that communication with our children is important, because it introduces to them that we see them as part of this solution. Working with us, it breaks down some of that power dynamic or can break down some of that power dynamic of parenting child and parent being the authority and the child listening or being submissive to it, it helps break down some of that and make it more of an equal relationship.
DJ Stutz 40:10
Yeah, I heard a statistic moving on to kind of a different topic that just broke my heart. But you can tell me if maybe this is true or not, but that when we look at child predators who are moving outside of the country, like maybe in Belize, or Taipei or Taiwan or whatever, that are coming to these countries, specifically to be a child predator to engage in child prostitution, they're from the United States, most of them. Is that
Tyson Wright 40:45
true? Yeah, the United States is one of the largest participants in what's called sex tourism. And that's an individual going to another country, another location, with the sole purpose of participating in the sex industry, in that area. And in I can't say in all places around the world, but in most places around the world, human trafficking is illegal. And so by participating in this where the victim, the individual being sold, is probably being forced to do it in some regard or coerced to do it. And in that case, that would fall under human trafficking. And the United States is one of the largest participants in that industry. And when it comes to children, there is no such thing as a child prostitute that can't exist. They're always being if they're being sold for sex. They're a victim of human trafficking. That's a term that's used in because I think we don't know how to define it. And so we call it a child prostitute. But it's one of those terms in the industry that we try to move away from because prostitute, in some regards, makes us think that there's some sort of consent in that relationship. Yeah. And children cannot give consent. In this regard. They cannot consent to do this. And even if they say that they have, it's because they've been manipulated, to say that to give that consent. So just a little nomenclature piece there that is changing within in the way that we define these things.
DJ Stutz 42:32
And so let's talk just for a second about the work that Oh, you are does in rescuing these kids? And then what happens
Tyson Wright 42:42
with those children from their Yeah, like,
DJ Stutz 42:44
when Oh, you are goes in? And I don't know if it's a sting, or whatever you call it? What's the process of going in rescuing kids? And then are they just turned over to the authorities? Is it different in the United States than it is in countries outside of the US?
Tyson Wright 43:01
That's a great question. And the way that we support law enforcement varies depending on where in the world that we're supporting law enforcement. For example, in the United States, we don't currently participate in any undercover operations. We support law enforcement and a cool little fact. And something that we're kind of proud of is last year alone 2020, we were able to support law enforcement in every single state in the United States in some regard or another, that can be through training that can be through resources, such as software, with so many crimes. And as we focus focused on today, a lot of this moving and having a digital aspect comes the need for software and hardware to investigate those types of cases, trainings to be able to use those software's. So we've used we've done a lot of that in the in the United States, but we don't currently participate in any undercover operations. Whereas outside the United States, we do all of those same things. But we also do participate in the support of undercover operations. We try to, we try to utilize that terrible fact that we just talked about, that the United States participates in sex tourism more than anyone else. We try to take advantage of that, if you will. And we can come in and provide that American face that can work hand in hand with local law enforcement to go in and make contact with traffickers. And they'll believe it, they'll believe that we're just another American coming to their country to manipulate and to exploit a child or an individual for sex. And we work again hand in hand with law enforcement. We identify the trafficker rings, we approach it as if we're the buyer in the situation, and we'll set up operations to gather the evidence that's needed to identify the survivors of the individuals being sold. Generally, we'll have a meeting where they'll bring that individual, and we'll bring law enforcement will gather whatever evidence we need to, and then law enforcement will come in and make the arrest, and then will intervene and get that survivor out of the situation that they've been exploited. And we've been doing this almost this is from the very beginning model in which o u r was built on. And we've been very successful in it, we've been able to participate in support over 1000 operations that have happened. And by following this model and doing this, we've been able to intervene and to help over 6000 survivors get out of those situations, and support law enforcement and over 5000 arrests of traffickers from there. Of course, on the trafficker side, prosecution happens, we participate in getting evidence and providing the evidence that we've gathered through the investigation so that they can prosecute the cases. Now, on the survivor side, they go into our aftercare services. And this is what it's all about. This is why we do everything, why we do operations, is to get that individual onto a path of healing and recovery. Most of the time, that looks like them going into a facility of some sort, if they cannot go back to their family, or the family is not around for whatever situation it is, if their family was complicit in the trafficking, or, in a lot of cases, this might be an orphaned child or an unaccompanied minor of some sort. So right, depending on what they'll go into a service, sometimes that's a residential treatment. And we partner with facilities all over the globe, who are working in their own communities, we don't own any facilities ourself, we don't feel like that's the model that is best in our opinion. We don't need to come in as an outside organization and say, we know how to solve this problem. So we partner with local communities who are trying to make a difference in their own community. And we vet them and make sure they're good. And then we offer continual support, through training or other resources to make sure that they have everything that they need as a facility to support the survivors on their, as we call it, healing journeys. But important aspect of this whole aftercare piece is that the survivor defines their story, and defines their journey, they direct us, they help us know what the best way is to support them. And we've supported survivors through their healing in in a number of different ways, through education, in in receiving education for children that might be going and continuing to get maybe a high school degree of some sort of continuing in their education from where they left off, going on to higher education, providing the resources that they might need for tuition or books or laptops to be able to do that. We've supported survivors in vocational training, going to hair school or cosmetology school, to become a an esthetician are going to be come cooks or photographers, whatever their passion is, and the direction that they want to take. They define it to us, and we support them in finding that healing as they go through that path.
DJ Stutz 48:36
And I think that is such an important piece that is there. So when someone donates to Oh, you are you are not only donating to capturing predators, rescuing victims, but you're also contributing to that healing process that goes on after Am I correct?
Tyson Wright 48:59
Yes. 100% 100%. We have about four pillars I would say inside all you are that kind of sum up our areas. Number one is our operations. That's the interventions that happen the law enforcement support, and that's one avenue which donations are utilized. The second is our aftercare support facilities or survivor individually offering the support that they need directly to them or directly to the facility that supporting that survivor is another avenue in which our donations are utilized. We have a channel called and within us kind of a group called Children need families. They're an avenue and what we found that a group of individuals who are vulnerable and are manipulated so often are orphaned children. Either they'll they'll get the age out of programs earlier, some in some parts of the world at 14 out of the program, and then they're on their own and they're on the streets and they're vulnerable. So chilled Need families helps to offer grants to families who are trying to adopt. We're not an adoption agency. But we're a grant agency, as so often one of the biggest hurdles in an adoption is funding, right. And so we try to fill that gap of funding, families can apply for a grant, and in which we'll fund their adoption, to help remove as many children out of that vulnerable state as we can. And the final pillar is through prevention and education. How can we increase the knowledge of individuals and how can we help identify vulnerabilities that exist, and then help prevent trafficking and other types of abuse by hopefully removing some of those vulnerabilities that individuals have around the world so that they don't ever get trafficked? So prevention education is there. And we are a nonprofit organization, we do function 100% on donations that come in. And it's very simple ways to donate by going to Oh, EUR rescue.org. There's a button on the top that you can donate a one time donation, you can come part of what we call our abolitionist club, that is on a monthly donation. And it's just a recurring donation, as small as five or $10 a month that you can become part of it. And it's through these actually our abs club that we get a lot of our donations. And since it's a recurring donation, it allows us to plan for the future. And we know that this money is coming in and it's not, oh, we got a big donation. And will we get another big donation next month or next year that will allow us to continue these through this monthly recurring donation allows us to better plan in how we can support, you can also go if you click on our site under there's a little tab of what we do, you can learn more about those areas that I spoke of operations after care and children need families. And you can learn about specific needs that we have within those programs. We call it our fill in need program. Some of them that as I was just looking at it earlier today that exist under our after cares piece is providing food to a survivor. Again, in a lot of situations, it's been that support system, the family, the loved ones, who might have manipulated the situation and exploited them and sold them in trafficking. And so even though we've rescued them, they don't have that system to go back to. And so they don't have support, they don't have family, they don't have steady food coming in. And so one of the needs that was on the site that I just saw was to provide a meals for a week for a survivor. And it gives a description of what is in need, and then $1 value associated to it. So you can also fill a need in that request and a one time donation, identify a need that you want to support. And there's a number of those that are on our site as well.
DJ Stutz 53:00
So many options, I can tell you that you have to be careful on who you donate to. And you want to do your homework to make sure that your money is actually going to the cause that you are donating to. I only have three places that I donate money to. One is to my church. Another one is to Mercury one. And the last one is Oh, you are and I am part of your abolitionist.
Tyson Wright 53:28
Oh, well, we appreciate it. We appreciate it. Well,
DJ Stutz 53:31
it's so easy. I just want to tell everyone, like I just signed up so that it's just a monthly withdrawal. I don't even think about it. So it's no big deal. I mean, it sounds like oh, you're doing a good job. But really, I'm not I just signed up. And there it goes. And it is more than $5 that I chose to give it is a little bit more than that. But you make it so easy. And I love animals. I have two dogs, we're moving up to Idaho, and we're gonna have a couple acres, we're gonna need a couple of cats. I'm gonna get some goats, all these things, you know, I love animals. But I don't give to animal things until our kids are safe. Every time I will go for the kids. And that's just me. I know other people have other interests. And that's great. And our veterans need people to support them and all of these other things, but for me, every time it's children, that's just where my brain is. And so you are Oh you are have made it so easy to do a one time to have a special cause that you want to donate to. If you want to make it a monthly thing. You can do that. And really what's five bucks out of your budget, even if you are fairly low income. Five bucks. That's a cup of coffee. Yeah, that's going out and having a beer with your friends is A child worth that? To me? The answer is always yes. But that's me.
Tyson Wright 55:05
I'm right there with you. It's always a resounding yes, for me as well. And, and yeah, if I need to make a little sacrifice here or there for that opportunity, I'll always make it and, and we appreciate and understand that, you know, there generally is, for most individuals a sacrifice connected to any donation that they make, if that's recurring, or if that's a one time donation. And we always keep that in mind as we're contemplating where to spend and where our focus should be. And our goal at o u r is to spend 85% of every donation that comes in towards our mission. Now, the nature of every nonprofit is that you do have administrative costs, right? That there's individuals who need to work here, and we need a space to work in and all those those fall into overhead at a nonprofit. And I'll let people look into what an appropriate amount is, according to IRS and whatnot, of what's acceptable when it comes to mission spend versus overhead spend, it's fairly low, sadly, to be a nonprofit, but we aim to make every penny count that we can. And so whenever it comes to spending, whenever it comes to how we're going to use the sacred donations that have come in from individuals, we always take into that equation that we want 85% to go towards the mission, and not to fundraising, and not to our buildings and things like that. We want every piece that we can to go to rescuing a child or supporting them as they are on their healing journey. That's what matters to us. So we try to be great stewards as well.
DJ Stutz 56:55
Well, and you use that word sacred. And you're exactly right, in using that word, it is sacred money, it comes off of the backs of working people, but as a donor, as someone who is donating. For me, it is an absolute privilege to be able to give that money. What am I going to do with that? You know, to give that, what am I going to do that would be more important than rescuing a child who is in danger who was suffering? Who was I think of Epstein Island and my toes, just curl in anger. And so that's where that's where we are. So it is sacred. And it is a privilege to be able, but it's a sad privilege. I wish that there was no need.
Tyson Wright 57:47
Yeah, yeah, I say that all the time. It's terrible that US and other organizations like us have to exist. But I'm glad that we do exist, and that we have the support from individuals like yourself, and many others who allow us to, you know, stand toe to toe and face to face against this evil, and you know, not back down and not say we're going to shrink away from it. But we're going to be right there at the front line. Doing our best we have a saying for the one that will do anything that we need to do, even if it's just for one individual, one child that we can make the difference in their life, from rescuing them from preventing this from ever happening, whatever it is, we'll do it for one kid. And we're grateful for the opportunity that we get to do that. And it's because of those amazing supporters that we have.
DJ Stutz 58:38
That's great. So our listeners, if they want to get involved, they just need to go to is it o u r.org?
Tyson Wright 58:47
ourrescue.org. Yep. And there you can find the information from who we are, what we do avenues of how you can get involved from donations to raising awareness and spreading the word in your communities. I think that's a key that can go right alongside that donations is spreading the word. There's been a lot of increased awareness over the last couple of years to human trafficking. But in all reality, it's a topic that as a general, in society, and in communities, there's not much awareness about it, people don't realize what it looks like and how it is happening, even right in their own communities. And so raising that awareness and spreading the knowledge that it exists and how it looks, is a huge piece that can make a difference is well within your own communities and especially within your own families. And there's a lot of resources directed towards how we can better do that. That can be found on ourrescue.org.
DJ Stutz 59:41
Yeah. And I'd like to offer a challenge to all of my listeners to go there and you've got this great little place where you can choose something to put on your socials and spread the word that way. I would love to challenge all of my listeners to go to ourrescue.org Find something that they want Want to connect to their socials, and just post it on? whatever platform you're on? And to help spread that word, that would be probably the most important thing that you can do today.
Tyson Wright 1:00:12
And that you summed up that point perfectly as a great challenge.
DJ Stutz 1:00:15
Yeah, hey, so before we go, I always ask all of my guests the same question. It's interesting, the different answers that I get, but I always ask them, How would you describe a successful parent?
Tyson Wright 1:00:30
I would say, I would, I would pose it, you posed this question to me earlier and gave me some time to think on it. I've been trying to think of where my answer would be. And I always come back to the same thing, which is a present parent, a parent who's present and who's involved in their children's lives. There's so many distractions in the world. And it's easy for us as parents to get pulled away. And then, and then oftentimes, the reaction is us being frustrated with our kids or thinking they're interrupting us, but all we're really doing is sitting on our phone or, you know, distracted by something, that doesn't really matter. And our kids are trying to connect and be there. So I would say, a present parent is a successful parent.
DJ Stutz 1:01:21
I agree. You know, there's that saying, Don't let good things keep you from doing great things. Yeah, yeah. And I think sometimes we think we're, we are doing something that is a good thing to be involved in. But if it's keeping us from being present, with our children, it's keeping us from doing great things. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, well, Tyson, this is a subject I do not want to let go of. And so I know that I'd like to have you back on again, and to maybe talk about some other aspects, different ways that people can get involved. But the work that you're doing is nothing short of God's work. There's no doubt in my mind. And I think that as long as this is a blight on society, and the fact that most of this sex tourism is coming from the United States, it's gonna withhold the blessings of heaven from us when we need them so badly. And so I just appreciate the work that you do. And I definitely want to talk with you again.
Tyson Wright 1:02:27
Well, we're always here and me personally, always here, and would love to continue to share the information, answer any question and support and offer the same thing to all of your listeners, we have ways to request additional information from us, if you have a group that you'd like us to come and speak to, there's ways to request a speaker to come out ways to do projects and events in your communities. And we can talk more about that. But we want to be a support, we want to help to increase your confidence that you can make a difference in this area. And so to you and to your listeners, please never hesitate to reach out to us and let us know how we can support in that way.
DJ Stutz 1:03:08
Absolutely. Thank you so much Tyson. Wright, and I look forward to talking to you again.
Tyson Wright 1:03:14
Yes, you too.
DJ Stutz 1:03:18
My plan is to have more conversations like this as we are moving along. And while we keep age and developmental growth in mind, it is so important to empower our children to help them protect themselves. And this is, I believe, to be the most effective thing that we can do to help keep our children safe. In addition, you can donate time, and or money to Operation Underground Railroad. And by doing that, we are protecting more than just our own kids. We are making a difference in the lives of other children of God.
I am so excited to announce that the Cicerone Society is opening up for registration again from March 18 to the 27th. And this is actually a rare opportunity to join our group parent coaching program, as we only open up registration three times a year. So our Thursday evenings zoom sessions provide a safe and supportive space for parents to share their ups and downs. And your expert coach will guide you through the challenges of raising young children. And you're gonna learn practical strategies that can make a big difference in your family's life. Don't miss out on this chance to connect with other parents and find joy in parenting. So Register now for the Cicerone Cociety and guess what!? The link is in the show notes. Very, very good. Well, next week's guest is Susan host. And Susan is so good at helping parents become leaders. in their family, so anyone can be a parent. Right? But well, almost anyone, but how do we develop that into becoming a leader in our family? I have worked with Susan on several projects and she's really amazing. So check it out and see. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Education Program Manager
Tyson Wright is the Education Program Manager at Operation Underground Railroad. Tyson started as a volunteer for O.U.R. in 2015 and found a passion for supporting the organization and educating the community. He began working as an employee in February 2021 in the Outreach Department and has supported the department's growth and expansion from volunteer management to include education and prevention efforts. In his current team he oversees the development of prevention and education programs.
Tyson has certifications in Trauma and Resilience, and Human Trafficking Prevention and Intervention. He is on the board of the Washington County Children's Justice Center and enjoys volunteering in his community.