Founded in 2006 in India, Freedom Firm works to Rescue minors who have been sold into the commercial sex trade, Restore their identities, and seek Justice against those who perpetrate these crimes.
We interviewed Becky Morris, a Freedom Firm Senior Representative, regarding their organization and what they do.
Q: Could you tell us what sparked the birth of Freedom Firm and why you chose India?
A: Globally, there are an estimated 2 Million children in forced prostitution. 500,000 (or 25%) of those children are in India.
The U.S. State department calls India the “source, destination and transit” country for a majority of trafficking in Asia.
When Mala Malstead heard about the reality of sex trafficking in India, she knew God was calling her to give her life to this cause. In 2000, Mala and her husband, Greg, moved with their children to Mumbai, India where Greg joined International Justice Mission (IJM). For five years, Greg worked for IJM as their Operational Field Director for Mumbai and established IJM’s first anti-sex trafficking work in India. During his time with IJM, Greg’s team lead and participated in interventions that resulted in the rescue of over 450 victims and prosecution of more than 180 perpetrators, with 6 successful convictions.
Greg and Mala passionately believed that the most effective way of creating change was through the rescue and legal work. But they also recognized that the life of each rescued girl was profoundly damaged through their experiences. The girls needed more than counseling; they needed consistent, thorough restoration.
Combining Greg’s legal expertise with Mala’s creative passion and teaching background, Freedom Firm was founded in 2006. Today, Freedom Firm works to rescue girls, bring their perpetrators to justice and walk alongside the survivors as they begin their journey to restoration.
Q: What are the ways in which Freedom Firm is combatting human trafficking?
A: Freedom Firm seeks to eliminate child prostitution in India by providing Rescue, Restoration and Justice for victims of sex trafficking. We accomplish this by mobilizing law enforcement agencies to rescue victims and arrest perpetrators we have identified, assisting the legal system during prosecution and enabling rescued girls to engage in effective rehabilitation. All three components are vital to the goal of ending sex trafficking in India.
RESCUE – Freedom Firm’s undercover investigators follow leads and monitor red light areas throughout India that have a high incidence of sex trafficking. Using hidden cameras, our investigators identify minor victims as well as their perpetrators. With assistance from Freedom Firm, the police raid the brothels and rescue the girls. The perpetrators are arrested and our legal team files criminal complaints against them. By partnering with the local authorities, we ensure the girls have legal standing and are represented fully as justice is sought.
RESTORATION – Freedom Firm’s team of social workers closely follow each rescued girl as she moves through the government process. They provide ongoing counseling, facilitate medical care and provide access to education and employment. This ensures that each girl is given the tools she needs for a life of self-worth and self-reliance outside of prostitution. Our holistic aftercare program not only facilitates each girl’s emotional, physical and spiritual healing, but also equips her for a future of self-sufficiency and independence. We have 3 unique aspects to our restoration programs: Ruhamah Designs, Leg Up, and Freedom Camps.
It is Freedom Firm’s micro-enterprise which employs women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. This provides them with a viable, sustainable occupation and an opportunity to start a fresh life with marketable skills. Ruhamah Designs is a reverse business model that revolves around our employees, focusing on their needs and abilities. Honest, hard work lends a sense of dignity and pride as they help themselves instead of depending on charity. You can see our artists’ beautiful work at www.ruhamah.in.
Leg Up provides positive growth for survivors of sex trafficking through assisting with horse therapy for children with disabilities. Situated in the mountains of southern India, we take advantage of both the beauty of God’s creation and the unique social and emotional instincts of horses to provide opportunities for healing in a hands-on setting. For more information, visit www.legupindia.org.
Freedom Camp gives us a tremendous opportunity to work in the lives of rescued girls. Most of the girls are from hot cities and garbage strewn brothels. They have been the object of hate, violence, degradation and abuse. The camp gives us an opportunity to treat them with love and provide an environment to have pure, healthy fun, surrounded by the beauty of mountains, lakes and streams.
JUSTICE – At Freedom Firm, we believe it is vital to bring justice through conviction of the perpetrators. When traffickers are imprisoned for their crimes, they are unable to continue exploiting girls and a message goes out to all those engaged in similar practices that they will be held accountable. This creates a strong deterrent to further trafficking. Therefore, justice = prevention.
Q: Freedom Firm has been operating for about a decade. From your experience, what would you say is the toughest challenge in this fight against human trafficking?
A: The toughest part of this fight is remaining faithful despite the numerous and constant challenges we face. Freedom Firm deals with apathetic & corrupt law enforcement, judicial systems and social welfare systems. These broken systems can lead to tip-offs, acquittals of the perpetrators and girls being re-trafficked into the brothels after rescue. Our staff also faces the reality of walking the path to recovery with a young woman for years only to have her make a life-changing bad decision or disappear and cut off contact with us.
The trauma the girls have experienced is not healed overnight and so with the victories comes heartbreak as we watch girls make poor decisions. As challenging as these issues can be, we remain hopeful and cling to the knowledge that God is at work through us.
Q: Could you share with us a story of victory in the life of Freedom Firm?
A: One of our memorable victories was when we received our first conviction of a brothel keeper in 2008. After the brothel keeper was caught selling 15 year old Sunita in her brothel, we successfully asked the court to deny her bail request. Then we worked hard at gathering the evidence, doing the legal research, and preparing the witnesses for testimony. After all was said and done, in December 2008, justice won! The conviction was a huge victory, particularly since conviction rates in anti-trafficking cases are extremely low due to the corruption, poor police investigation and difficulty in getting the girls to testify in cases because they either can't or don't want to testify. We have received 9 convictions since then and praise God for each and every one!
Q: How can the every day person join Freedom Firm in fighting human trafficking? What advice would you give for someone who wanted to really make a difference?
A: Human trafficking is known as modern-day slavery. We need to fight this injustice with modern-day abolitionists! The first step to becoming an abolitionist is to get informed. You can find a number of resources to get you started at the bottom of page on Freedom Firm’s website: www.freedom.firm.in/why-india.
The next step is to roll up your sleeves and get involved. Commit your time, energy and resources to the cause of anti-trafficking. Freedom Firm relies on people all over the U.S. to help us spread the word and raise funds so that our work can continue.
Host an awareness event for your neighbors, classmates, co-workers, church, small group or anyone else you know! We have an award-winning documentary called Horse & Rider that you can show to a small group of people in your home or in a large auditorium setting. Get more information here: www.freedom.firm.in/hosting-a-horse-rider-screening.
One of the very best ways you can make a big impact for Freedom Firm is by hosting a jewelry event! Sign up to host a party in your home, school, office or church and we will ship you a kit full of beautiful jewelry, hand-made by our rescued girls in India. We will even include pictures and stories for you to share with your guests and a video to show about our work. It’s that easy! To get more information about hosting a party, visit www.freedom.firm.in/hosting-a-jewelry-party.
Consider giving a monthly donation to Freedom Firm’s work. Our greatest need is supporters who would be willing to become a sustainer for our mission. A monthly donation of any size allows us to plan and budget our programs accordingly. We are so incredibly grateful to those who would stand with us through their financial support. Donate here: www.freedom.firm.in/donate.
Another way to support them is to purchase our shirts and spread the word. 10% of our sales until AUGUST 14 will be donated to Freedom Firm. CLICK HERE TO SHOP