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The Business of Trafficking Falls Apart When You Stay in the Fight


The Business of Trafficking Falls Apart When You Stay in the Fight

After almost 15 years with IJM, Philip Langford shares why "It turns out that traffickers aren't brave." Persistence wins the fight for freedom, and in hotspot after hotspot, IJM's proven theory of change has seen slavery and trafficking rates fall by 70-80% or more.


hen I first started at International Justice Mission almost 15 years ago, there was very little consciousness or conversation that slavery still exists. And even less energy and investment to end it. Today, I’m so encouraged that the world has awakened to this brutal reality. Slavery and trafficking have become a part of the regular conversations and priorities among governments, churches, corporations and communities.

But knowledge of this problem and inspiration to stop it is just the beginning. Now, we need to pour ourselves into the solution—until the job is done.

I’ve led our front-line work in nearly every country of operation for IJM—across Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa—and led our efforts to combat almost every form of injustice we cover in these regions, including human trafficking, gender-based violence, online sexual exploitation of children and police abuse of power.

In those years—through the experimentation, innovation, failure, learning and perseverance that you empowered—we have landed on the solution.

It turns out that traffickers aren’t brave. Their criminal business enterprises thrive only where they perceive that the risks of getting caught are low. They target those in the most abject poverty and vulnerability because they don’t want a fair fight. They target those they believe cannot stand up for themselves—those they believe have been forgotten and abandoned.

In fact, I can’t tell you how many violent predators and traffickers have told those we’ve served, “You wait. That organization, just like all the other ones before, will go away. And then we’ll come for you and take what we want.” Their business model assumes no one will stand in the gap—that no one will bring strength and resolve to the side of the those trapped in slavery.

But our business model—the model you have empowered and sustained—is to partner with local law enforcement, survivor services and community partners to deliver strong law enforcement and survivor services and to stay in the fight until the slavery and trafficking businesses fall apart. We stay until this critical work is finished, so that all can be free.

And, oh my goodness, how quickly things change when the predators realize they’ve miscalculated the risks!

A Closer Look At IJM's Business Model

Strengthen Justice Systems

We collaborate with justice system and community leaders to respond effectively to violence. Together, we design improvements that serve survivors, deter criminals and dramatically decrease violence.

Rescue and Restore Victims

We partner with local authorities to rescue individual victims of violence and restore survivors to safety and stability.

Bring Criminals to Justice

We work alongside justice system officials to ensure that criminals are held accountable, stopping the cycle of violence and deterring others from abusing vulnerable people.

Scale Demand for Protection

We convene and equip champions to advocate for protection as an essential and tangible future for everyone.

In hotspot after hotspot, we’ve seen slavery and trafficking rates fall by 70-80% or more.

We have seen again and again that when we equip our law enforcement and survivor services partners—those who have sat on the sidelines for years—to mobilize rescue operations and prosecute perpetrators, the traffickers begin to run for cover. The costs become too high; the economy for slavery begins to dry up.

In hotspot after hotspot, we’ve seen slavery and trafficking rates fall by 70-80% or more. That number means millions of people who will now never have to be rescued in the first place!

In my early days, we believed this approach would work, but we had not proven anything. We needed friends like you to bet on this hope. To empower us to risk, to fail, to learn and to keep going. We needed friends like you who were willing to draw close to the brutality and pain and to carry us in hope and promise that what was broken could be restored—that transformation was really possible!

That’s exactly what you did. We’re so thankful to be in mission with likeminded teammates like you. You’ve stayed in the hard fight and you have refused to go away.

Because of all of you, either new to our team or a Freedom Partner who has supported us monthly from the very beginning, we are witnessing game changing transformations that are fueling fresh vision, innovation and hope for what is possible all around the world. Rescue operations like this one.

In February, 247 men, women and children were rescued from bonded labor slavery at a massive brick kiln in southern India on the initiative of the Indian government.

The government orchestrated the entire operation, from mobilizing the officers to provide security and make arrests to arranging facilities where 247 people could be protected, cared for and fed. Then, they worked with a neighboring Indian state to set up a place to relocate and restore them to their lives in freedom.

The importance of the Indian government’s actions cannot be overstated. When I started with IJM, this was unheard of. There was very little proactive government effort to find or rescue people like them.

Because Freedom Partners and supporters like you believed in us to get on the ground and stay until the work of justice was done, transformation on this massive scale can happen. In India, government-orchestrated rescue missions like this one are now becoming the norm.

Freedom Partners empower the kind of transformation that in any other context would seem too good to be true.

Officials who were once on the sidelines, now have a new sense of mission to rescue those enslaved. Powerful perpetrators who once walked freely, now are brought to justice. Survivors who have lived their entire lives in violence, now are using their voice to help others like them.

I’ve seen these transformations happen with my own eyes. Even in the midst of the uncertainty of these days, the results and transformation we are seeing in India continue to deepen my confidence and hope that we will see the end of slavery in our lifetime.

The struggle ahead is real and will require all of us, but I’m so thankful and thrilled to partner with you as one team with one fight until all are free.

About the Author

Philip Langford is the President of IJM US. Since joining IJM in 2006, Philip has led and pioneered the development and expansion of IJM in over ten countries across Africa and Asia-Pacific. He is convinced that we have the historic opportunity to be the generation that put slavery and violence out of business for good.

You can be a Freedom Partner who can help us shut down the business of trafficking for good. Help those trapped in violence and slavery find their freedom by joining this unstoppable movement today.

You Can Help Send Rescue Today.

When you give a gift today, you’ll be fighting slavery, violence, and injustice across the globe. Together, we can end slavery and violence in our lifetime.

You can make the most impact as a Freedom Partner today.

Your generous monthly support will help send rescue to vulnerable children and families at a moment’s notice, stand with them as they rebuild their lives in freedom and have perpetrators held accountable.


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