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Sound of Freedom Rings in Theaters

On July 4th, Angel Studios released a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller, Sound of Freedom. The movie stars Jim Caviezel who plays a US Homeland Security agent who embarks on a mission to rescue child victims of sex trafficking.

Sound of Freedom is based on the true-life experiences of Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). A rescue operation similar to the one portrayed on a Columbian island in the film was conducted by OUR in 2014 (ourrescue.org). In contrast, the jungle rescue mission is not true to life as portrayed in the film (ourrescue.org).

At times, this dark movie is hard to stomach due to the subject matter, which centers around two victims of child trafficking. While rated PG-13, its content may not be appropriate for younger teens. Still, the film succeeds at portraying child exploitation without being overly graphic in nature or exploitive of the child actors. Keep in mind that the movie may be particularly unsettling or triggering for survivors of sexual abuse.

Sound of Freedom portrays the clear connection between pornography and child trafficking. In a world where the viewing of pornography has reached epidemic proportion, it’s vital to understand the link between pornography and trafficking. The film also portrays the connection between the commercial sex industry and sex trafficking. This is an area in which Hollywood has notoriously presented prostitution as a victimless crime. In reality, children and adults are exploited regularly within the commercial sex industry.

In the film, a father and his two young children are tricked by a trafficker posing as an employee of a modeling agency. Traffickers commonly trick victims into trafficking through false promises. These may be promises of fame, financial gain, material needs, or love.

Sound of Freedom includes real-life security camera footage of children being kidnapped. While forceful kidnappings do happen in child trafficking, they are less common than other methods traffickers use. In most cases, traffickers have established relationships with victims. Child victims are often trafficked by a relative or individual connected to the family. Traffickers are often experts at manipulation and usually spend time developing “trusting” relationships with victims before trafficking ensues. Traffickers commonly “date” teens or young adults to lure them into trafficking. This false relationship may be built in-person or online.

The victims portrayed in the movie are from third world countries, but in reality, trafficking occurs all over the world including in all 50 US states. Victims of trafficking can come from any nationality, race, or economic background.

In Sound of Freedom, the traffickers are directed to bring as many victims to the party (sting operation) as possible. The movie’s portrayal makes us cringe a little out of concern that some victims might be recruited due to the increase in demand created by the rescue effort. This is likely a tricky line to walk in real life as well, with wanting rescue operations to have the greatest impact without creating demand that will lead to the recruitment of new victims.

One aspect of combating trafficking that is not portrayed in the movie is the restorative care that’s critical to provide to survivors. Removing a victim from a trafficking situation is only the first step. Without ongoing care, counseling, and support, survivors often end up back in exploitive situations.

When viewing the movie, it’s important to recognize it as one man’s story that has been dramatized for theaters. It serves as a motivational piece to open eyes to the existence of a horrific industry that exploits the most vulnerable. In this way, it succeeds, but viewers shouldn’t walk away from this movie, believing they’ve received an education on recognizing and responding to child trafficking.

If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, we encourage you to attend Bring to Light: Unveiling Truth about Human Trafficking on September 15 at 7pm at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro. This free community awareness event will include survivor stories, online safety strategies, and information on recognizing and responding to trafficking. Visit AbolitionNC.org/light to learn more and RSVP.

Will Sound of Freedom inspire people? We think so. We expect it will motivate viewers to become more aware and more active in anti-trafficking efforts. We also believe the film will lead others to make a commitment to not purchase sex or look at pornography. Ultimately, reducing demand has the greatest potential for impacting change. This is something we seek to do as an organization. Through our awareness and prevention curriculum in NC schools and beyond, we work to educate youth and reduce future demand.

By Cindy King, Executive Director AbolitionNC

Note: This article is intended as a movie review of Sound of Freedom and is not intended to provide an opinion regarding the organization, Operation Underground Railroad or its founder, Tim Ballard.

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