*Note: We are currently updating our information on our faq page. Most of the information below is still accurate, but thank you for your patience as we edit.*
Have a question about The Exodus Road? Chances are, it’s answered here:
1. What IS The Exodus Road?
The Exodus Road is a coalition of organizations and individuals fighting sexual slavery and human trafficking. Primarily working in SE Asia and India, the coalition exists to facilitate and empower undercover investigations, raids and rescues for victims, and arrests of criminals – all in close partnership with local governments. We have teams we support and field offices in SE Asia and India, and our home office is currently located in Colorado, USA.
We are a registered 501c3 in the United States, and we are also a registered charitable foundation in Thailand.
2. How did The Exodus Road begin?
The Exodus Road was begun through the work of Matt Parker, our Founder/CEO, in the Fall of 2011. Living and working in the counter-trafficking community in SE Asia, Matt began to see the deficiencies of intervention efforts due to a lack of funding, collaboration, training, and equipment. After building relationships for two years with both the government and local NGO’s and through his own investigative work into over 250 brothels, he began The Exodus Road coalition as a means to empower and unite those in the field already working in investigations and interventions. You can read about he and his wife’s personal story by checking out their book, The Exodus Road.
3. Does The Exodus Road have its own investigative team or does it just provide resources to other organizations?
Both. We do have a Director of Operations in a city in SE Asia who manages cases The Exodus Road team funds and operates directly. Working with local governments and other NGOs in the community, The Exodus Road fuels specific cases and raids- providing investigators, support, surveillance equipment and operational funding.
In addition, we also make grants to other investigative groups for specific needs (such as equipment). To apply for a grant, individuals or organizations must be accepted as part of the coalition and will be held accountable according to coalition standards, including a Best Investigative Practices Handbook. Reports will be submitted proving the correct use of funds or equipment, but our staff will not necessarily be directly involved in all cases involving granted resources. The idea here is that we want to empower the good work that is already being done by governments and NGOs– not to absorb other organizations. We are not building an empire, we are building a community.
4. What does The Exodus Road give its teams/members? How does a group/individual join the coalition?
We provide several benefits to members of the coalition, including: operational funds for investigations, contract salaries for national investigators (if needed), professional covert equipment, collaboration within the intervention (and after-care) community, investigator-care (including counseling services and safety measures, if needed), investigator training, access to our social media outlets (including our team of bloggers), consultations/help in development of websites or marketing efforts for a project or member organization, and facilitated relationships with government officials. You can read more about benefits HERE or about why a group might join HERE.
To join the coalition, individuals or organizations must be active in the field of targeted interventions. (We are also developing an after-care arm of our coalition.) Members must apply online and undergo an interview process. Membership is free and can remain anonymous. You can apply HERE.
Essentially, the coalition is not about status or an empirical structure. It is about collaborative relationships among those who are active in rescue work and it is about making those investigative efforts as effective as possible.
5. Why are you focused on targeted interventions with local governments?
There are three main areas of the fight against modern day slavery– prevention (awareness, education, sustainable development, etc.), intervention (investigations, raids, arrests, prosecutions, etc.), and after-care (trauma counseling, safe houses, rehabilitation, education for survivors, job training, re-integration, etc.) All three areas are crucial and require tenacious efforts. (You can read an illustration of this HERE.)
The Exodus Road was birthed out of a recognition of the deficiencies of intervention efforts specifically, and it will remain focused primarily to that end.
We also believe that when arrests and prosecutions are made in respectful partnerships with the local governments, we are slowing the lucrative machine that is trafficking and the underage sex industry. When the local police raids and arrests, a message is sent to brothel owners, risk for illegal activities increases, and the bribed relationship between government and brothel owner (in some countries) is broken. We are not only rescuing the victim today, but we are also rescuing the many victims who the imprisoned brothel owner will not enslave tomorrow. This is a strategic, effective, long-term method of causing positive social change.
6. In which countries do you work currently?
The Exodus Road currently empowers teams in SE Asia and India. We are rolling out a volunteer investigative force here in the United States mid-2014.
7. What are your stats?
As of January 2013, The Exodus Road has directly supported the rescue (through funding, equipment, investigators, and in-field support) of 284 children from sexual slavery since July of 2012. Our investigative team consists of 56 undercover investigators with official relationships with the coalition. Several of these investigators work for other organizations but choose to collaborate on cases together. Their collective career-experience has resulted in over 2,000 victim rescues, over 700 prosecutions and over 100 years of investigative experience.
We also have close networked relationships with five after-care facilities and work to support over 25 government and non-governmental organizations.
Because of the nature of our work, our stats are always changing.
8. Who are your undercover investigators?
We’ll never tell you.
We consider the safety of our operatives in the field of utmost importance. Because many of the agents live in the same countries where they are investigating, it is difficult for them to publicly show their faces, names or needs. By becoming a part of the coalition, The Exodus Road becomes a mouthpiece for these undercover investigators, a means by which they can communicate their stories and their practical needs, while protecting their own identities.
We can tell you that the investigators in our network are from at least five different religions and six different countries. Many of them are ex-military, and some have been trained and worked for other investigative NGOs in the past. Of the investigators, we have a slightly higher percentage who are national than foreign. Currently, most are male and two are female. And all are incredibly brave.
9. What are your standards for investigative operations?
The Exodus Road has a standard operation procedure handbook by which all investigators while on mission with The Exodus Road or while using granted funds from The Exodus Road commit to adhering to. All operations also operate within local laws and in partnerships with local authorities. While specific policy is, of course, kept secure for the investigative community, we can say that investigators are trained, travel in partners when engaging in higher level surveillance, and are committed to not further “victimizing” the victim during the course of investigations. With policy and accountability in place, The Exodus Road desires to encourage quality, effective investigative practices for the entire community.
10. Where are your offices?
We currently have a stateside office in Colorado, USA. We also have three safehouses/offices in difference locations in SE Asia.
11. How is The Exodus Road organized?
In Colorado, USA, at the home office, a staff of seven work to fundraise, raise awareness, and engage donors. We also test covert gear and network with organizations and supporters to communicate the needs and stories from field teams. Matt Parker, Founder/CEO/travels several times throughout the year to visit investigators, facilitate training events, and network with coalition members.
In SE Asia, a Country Director handles the case load and the finances for our team of investigators, working closely with the local government and other NGOs. He maintains the cache of equipment for the teams there and manages missions. The Country Director stays connected and gives field reports to the CEO, who then passes on needs and (washed) stories to the marketing team or donors. We also support another team in a different part of SE Asia, which is managed by a Director of Operations.
In India, we manage partnerships from our office in SE Asia with oversight given in consistent field visits and reporting.
Financially, The Exodus Road is a nonprofit corporation in good standing in the state of Colorado with our 501c3 status from the IRS (tax id: 46-1384815). Thus, all gifts from the United States are tax deductible.
12. Who is a member of The Exodus Road Coalition?
We have several partners in the field who have chosen at this time to remain anonymous for various reasons, including safety. Intervention in some parts of the globe can be dangerous, and we respect their desire to protect their families or the children in their care. We do have a few partners who are willing to make their involvement in the coalition public, including Nightlight International.
13. What about after-care?
After care is an essential component in the redemptive rescue of anyone out of sexual slavery. And while The Exodus Road does not possess expertise in holistic after care, we are networked with several facilities in SE Asia and India who do. When our investigative teams are involved in a raid/rescue, we try to immediately place victims into an after care facility in our network. Ultimately, however, it is in the authority of the local government to place victims into after-care and there are often cases when victims are placed into a government facility to await interviews or repatriation to their home countries.
Our goal is to direct a portion of our funding to the after care facilities or advocacy projects that receive rescued victims to help cover the expenses of that child’s placement. We have funded several projects in the past to this end, including covering repatriation fees, paying for projects to improve conditions of after care centers, and paying the salaries of social workers.
14. How do you protect investigators and victims in your media and fundraising?
We are committed to truthful reporting. The Exodus Road will not knowingly exaggerate or over-dramatize for the sake of fundraising, appearance, or competition. We also are committed to protecting the rights and privacy of both our investigative team, slavery victims and exploited children. Because of that, certain facts in our reporting of actual cases will potentially be “washed,” or altered to protect those involved. Places, dates, and names will often be changed, while actual details (such as number of victims rescued, money spent in operations, the “story”) will not be changed.
We are also committed to protecting the methods by which our investigators gather their intel. Thus, we will not be giving sensitive information on strategies, types of equipment, or safety measures our team takes.
We will not show footage or reveal information from any live case, and undercover footage will show faces of potential victims blurred or eyes blocked out to protect privacy.
Photos used on our site are typically representative and are rarely photos of actual victims, places, or investigators. You can read our full media policy HERE.
15. If you find a victim of trafficking or sexual slavery, why don’t you just take them?
Great question, and one we get often. There are several reasons why “grabbing” a victim of trafficking apart from government sanction is not an acceptable course of action:
1. It is typically illegal and is qualified as kidnapping. Because it is of the utmost importance to keep positive working relationships with local governments, an investigator must work underneath the framework of the national police force. Otherwise, the investigators themselves could be arrested for illegal activity or kicked out of the country for kidnapping (or, technically, “trafficking”). This method of “grab and go,” while seemingly the more compassionate solution, actually undermines the authority of the local government in destructive ways.
2. It does not help the big picture. Immediate and vigilante rescue apart from the law might save one victim of trafficking, but it does little to help future victims. Working within the legal system and with the local police are key elements to lasting social change, as human trafficking will become less lucrative with every arrest made and brothel shut down.
3. It is dangerous. Working outside of the law and independently puts all involved at greater risk, including the victim.
4. In some cases, however, there might be exceptions. If an undercover investigator finds a victim in grave and immediate physical danger, we encourage investigators to remove the victim and make immediate calls to local police for reporting and immediate help. Again, investigators must do everything possible to work within the framework of local authorities.
16. Why is video evidence so important?
Video evidence of a crime is some of the most air-tight evidence, often (though not always) permitted in court. While victims may be intimated to not testify truthfully or while other evidence may be blurred or lost in the legal process, covert video evidence is crucial for successful prosecutions.
Video evidence is also crucial in motivating local police to conduct raids/rescue missions.
17. What about fiscal accountability?
The Exodus Road is committed to fiscal responsibility and accountability. As a nonprofit corporation in good standing in the state of Colorado, we also have our 501c3 status from the IRS.
While 80/20 is the current generally-acceptable nonprofit model (80% of donated funds to operations/ 20% to administration costs), The Exodus Road operates on an average of 12% of donated funds earmarked for administrative costs, this includes the fees we must pay for accounting, office space, and international wires. We are able to keep expenses extremely low primarily because most of our staff are on financial support from other sources or are volunteers. Because we primarily utilize the services of undercover investigators that work as volunteers, we are also able to maintain fiscal leanness.
In addition, all funds given to The Exodus Road as restricted funds for a certain purpose will be designated to that given project. If there is an overage of funds for a project, funds will be dispersed to the greatest area of need. Undesignated funds will also be allocated to the greatest area of need.
You can see our full Financial Impact Report for 2013 HERE.
18. How do you keep your mission expenses so low?
Most of our field staff/members do not receive a salary. They are supported humanitarian aid workers, have other jobs, or are employed by other organizations or foundations, both abroad and stateside. We do occasionally offer temporary contract salaries for national investigators or support staff.
Also, most of our investigative team live in the countries where they are operating, thus deployment costs are kept extremely low. In fact, we rarely fund overseas investigative deployments and instead ask for volunteers to raise or fund their own travel/lodging expenses.
Our general model is that The Exodus Road fuels the actual investigations, operations, and equipment, thus empowering the rescue work, not salaries or general living expenses.
Stateside, we strive to maintain a lean model for operations, utilizing volunteers and obtaining grants specific for administrative costs.
We are also in the process of developing several business concepts which will hopefully fuel both rescue work internationally and continue to underwrite the administrative costs of the stateside office.
19. Is The Exodus Road a faith-based organization?
No. The Exodus Road is a 501c3 nonprofit, registered with the US government, without religious affiliation.
We believe that one of our unique functions in this field is to gather as many people as possible “around the table” for the sake of bringing justice to the modern day slave.
We also believe that because we work internationally, it is important for us to reach out in a neutral way to the governments with which we work. Right now, our teams in the field represent five different religious beliefs, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christian.
Having said that, the members of the executive leadership at this time do identify with the Christian faith and are motivated for justice out of their faith. Currently, many, but not all, of the after care facilities in our network are also faith-based. You can read an article we wrote about this philosophy HERE.
20. How does a typical case work and where does the money go?
You can read all about an average case which The Exodus Road funds in SE Asia, including estimated costs, by visiting this post HERE.
In India, we are finding that cases work more quickly and using less financial resources. Whereas in SE Asia, a case from investigations to raid may take several weeks to several months, in India our investigators document evidence of a victim and typically return the next day or the next week with police to raid the location. A typical case in India costs the team, from investigations through raid costs, a bit less than $1500 USD and typically results in the rescue of several victims.
21. Why is preference given to national investigators and organizations?
We believe the strongest agents for social change are nationals. The Exodus Road will not operate as “white saviors” but rather will remain a quiet force in the background empowering nationals to greater success in their own rescue efforts. By filling in the gaps, we want to supply local governments and foundations with the tools they need– whether it be equipment, funding, or training– to be successful at bringing greater justice to their own countries.
And while the majority of our funding will continue to support nationally-led investigative efforts, we will also continue to support the work of the foreign NGO community. We recognize that there is room for all of us in this fight.
23. There are many anti-trafficking organizations today. How is The Exodus Road different from the rest?
The crisis of modern day slavery is quickly gaining attention from a global audience. Because of this growing awareness, we are seeing an influx of nonprofits which fight human trafficking. This is deeply good, because the freedom of 27 million slaves is going to require the influence of more than a handful of individuals and organizations.
Generally speaking, anti-trafficking or freedom organizations typically fight slavery through 1} awareness and in prevention (business strategies, education, community development, etc.), 2} engaging in interventions, raids/rescues and prosecutions, or 3} caring for victims and rehabilitating them back into society. In addition to those potential differences in purpose, organizations can have a host of varying ideals and values.
Here are a few of our differentiators:
- We are a coalition. We believe in fueling the work of many and value collaboration for the sake of victims.
- We focus on targeted interventions. Our niche is fueling undercover investigations and raids with local police. We believe this is a strategic way to fight trafficking, big-picture. While we do have partnerships with many quality aftercare partners and direct a portion of our funding to both aftercare and prevention, our main focus will always be intervention.
- We believe “justice is in the hands of the ordinary.” The organization was birthed in humble beginnings and in the wild belief that we all have a role to play in freedom. We still believe that, and we work hard to give everyone a chance to make an impact.
- We bring donors to the frontlines. Through text updates, covert footage videos, and opportunities to join a literal rescue team, we try to connect our community here with our field teams there. Sometimes raids fail, investigators get discouraged, the police are corrupt– we think donors are mature enough to get the real stories, and we deliver those as much as possible.
- We value the national. Ultimately believing that nationals are the most equipped to bring change to their own communities, we highly support our national investigators and organizations.
- We are victim-centered. We keep the girl or boy trapped in sex slavery at the center of what we do, what we fund, and how we implement strategies in the field.
- When we say “rescue,” we mean RESCUE. Though the term “rescue” is ambiguous, especially in this field, when we use the word “rescue,” we are specifically speaking of a deliverance from a situation of sexual slavery. This can include cases involving restricted movement, trafficking across borders, underage prostitution, debt bondage, or pedophilia. All cases are worked under the authority of the local police.
In a field where so many are unsure of how to really help, we at The Exodus Road are fueling teams on the ground in the largest geographic area of modern day slavery in the world and equipping those frontline teams to find and rescue victims of sexual slavery and exploitation.
The two heartbeats of our organization are empowerment and collaboration.
24. Do you host trips where I can come to the field and help?
Not right now. The focus of our organization is in undercover investigations, and we do not believe this is a field where most people can safely get “hands-on” experience. We are also a small nonprofit and do not have the staff needed to host teams or individuals in SE Asia or India. In addition, we are committed to protecting the privacy and the relationships we’ve built with our investigative teams and feel that could be easily jeopardized if we begin inviting large numbers of foreigners to the field.
Having said that, we do believe that everyone has a valuable role to play in the freedom fight. Consider investigating other organizations that do specialize in hosting teams overseas or check out the bottom of this page where we list a number of way you can help support The Exodus Road.
25. Is The Exodus Road concerned about the legal prosecution or the rescue of a victim?
We believe that every girl or boy trapped in slavery deserves freedom. If we lose site of the value of the one, we lose a bit of our humanity and compassion. So, yes, our teams work hard to rescue and care for each individual, specifically by advocating for their placement into qualified after care facilities in our network.
We also recognize that the bigger-picture of trafficking must be battled within the legal systems of a local government. We understand that to slow the mechanisms of slavery, we must make it riskier and more expensive to buy and sell human beings. The primary way this is accomplished is via the local legal system. We know that for every brothel investigative efforts shut down, for every trafficker given prison time or large fines, we are working not only to rescue the girls in the brothels today, but the many more that could find themselves in that same brothel in future years.
26. What can I do to help?
We are building an Exodus Army, and we want you to join us. Here are some avenues to get started:
Subscribe. The easiest way to stay connected with the work of The Exodus Road and its partners is to subscribe to our site/newsletter. It’s a free, simple way to not forget about us. You can enter your email on the sidebar or by clicking HERE.
Become an Exodus Road Blogger. This team writes stories from the field monthly and uses their social influence to fight slavery. You can read more about this program by going HERE.
Give Financially. Fuel the efforts on the ground by committing to a monthly or one-time financial gift to The Exodus Road. You can also visit our site and help fund our latest project. Donate HERE.
Sponsor an Investigator. The monthly backbone of our efforts is in surveillance through funds from our Search and Rescue Program. With $35/month, you’ll be sending out a local trained investigator to gather intel on where victims of slavery are located, and you’ll be connecting with a real field team. This is the first essential step in investigations. Join Search and Rescue Here.
Volunteer. We have developed a host of ways you can practically impact the rescue work of the frontlines. From writing letters to becoming an online hero to bringing a Freedom Weekend to your community, we want you to have a variety of choices to help us. Here’s how to get started.
Socially Invest. Share, share, share. You have influence within your own circle of friends and family; leverage it for rescue. Connect with us on facebook or twitter (@theExodusRoad) or instagram (@theexodusroad) and personally invite others to do the same. Never underestimate the power of your voice.