On June 26th, 2018, Joseph Blake Ballard, at only 22-years-old, was charged with the felony counts of trafficking, pimping and pandering two women in Irvine, CA. Joseph was caught because one of his victims contacted the Irvine Police Department from a gas station after being kicked out of the hotel room the three were sharing. From there, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) investigated the case and located and arrested Joseph at the hotel.

Ballard is accused of pimping and pandering one of the victims since June 2017 and the other since April 2018. He is also accused of keeping all money made by his victims’ commercial sex acts and threatening them if they did not meet their quotas. When arrested, Ballard was found with one of his victim’s ID, money and all her possessions. These are all classics signs of the typical abusive and controlling environment that make escaping one’s trafficker extremely difficult.

In this case one of the victims was able to find a safe place to contact the local police. While on the surface this seems like an easy thing to do, it is very rare for victims of human trafficking.

Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to enslave their victims. While most victims of domestic sex trafficking are not bound in chains, they are mentally trapped by their oppressors. Pimps and traffickers know how to play on victims’ weaknesses and have been known to threaten victims’ family members.

Ways Traffickers Manipulate

There are many ways pimps and traffickers manipulate from acting as a boyfriend to offering fake glamorous job opportunities and acting as a father figure the victim never had.

If you are looking to help victims of trafficking, here are some signs to watch out for to recognize potential victims:

·    Indirect or no direct eye contact

·    Fearful/Anxious

·    Possibly overly made-up

·    No verbal communication

·    Possible bruises

·    Branded with a tattoo showing traffickers’ ownership

While direct contact for the specific purpose of intervention is tricky and usually not advisable, by recognizing the signs you may be able to position yourself as a safe person for them to reach out to. You should also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline or the police if the situation appears life threatening.

How You Can Help

When women break free of their traffickers they need a safe place in loving community to unwind the invisible ties and break the lies they have come to believe about themselves. Then they need supportive mentors to coach them toward educational and professional goals. Help us provide these services to survivors by becoming a Guardian and giving monthly. Any amount from $25 to $100 a month makes a difference.