RESPOND: Applying What You Learn


You never know when you might come across someone in need of your help. For one flight attendant, it happened when she was on the job. On a flight from Seattle to San Francisco, Sheila Fredrick, a stewardess for Alaskan Airlines, spotted a pair of passengers who seemed suspicious. When she saw a young girl traveling with an older, very well-dressed man, she acted, leaving a note for the girl in the airplane bathroom, which the girl responded to. Fredrick made sure that police were waiting at the terminal when the plane arrived. Fredrick had previously been trained by a group called the Airline Ambassadors. They are an organization teaching flight attendants how to spot trafficking victims traveling with their captors. The program has been effective, as Fredrick was able to put her knowledge and training to good use.

When Uber driver Keith Avila picked up a few passengers heading to a hotel last month in Sacramento, California, he heard some unusual talk and knew something was off. Instead of the normal chatter heard in the back of his cab, he overheard two women discussing the delivery of a young trafficking victim to a john. Avila called the police as soon as the women had left his car. Both women were arrested, as well as the john at the hotel. Avila was congratulated by Uber, who praised both his actions and his professionalism.

Law enforcement officers use their training to help victims of human trafficking on a daily basis. In the first few days of February, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department made 474 arrests, all in relation to human trafficking. The arrests were part of the department’s yearly Operation Reclaim and Rebuild, an annual effort to focus and crack down on sex trafficking in the Los Angeles area. This year, 28 children and 27 adults were rescued as part of Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.

Dr. Robert Pless is also using his training to fight human trafficking. As a professor of computer science and engineering at Washington University, Pless’ research focuses on computer vision. He works to find what satellites, cell phones, and other devices can see, and how what they see can help us understand the world around us. Part of his work has been focused on developing an app called TraffickCam. With TraffickCam, people can take photos of their hotel rooms whenever they happen to be staying in one. These photos can then be run against photos in online ads, which help police identify where a victim might be located. Pless’ training in camera software has allowed him to help others rescue victims of this crime.

After attending a Women at Risk, International Civilian First Responder (CFR) training recently, one Virginia woman was able to use her training and knowledge to save another human trafficking victim. This woman spotted and reported a child abduction in her neighborhood while walking her dog. She was able to keep herself safe in a dangerous situation, and help others in similar danger.

If you want to be prepared, both to protect yourself and others, please consider attending an upcoming Civilian First Responder training through Women At Risk, International. At these events, you will learn more about the lures used by traffickers, signs of exploitation, helpful reporting techniques, and how to get involved in the fight against this injustice. We encourage you to be prepared in case you come across someone who might need your help.

Voices of WAR: A Celebration of Rescue and Hope

Women At Risk, International is excited to announce the recent release of our first CD project, Voices of WAR. You won’t want to miss this stirring compilation of worship songs sung by four talented survivors near and dear to the heart of WAR.

The inspiration for the Voices of WAR CD took root several years ago when two of the women unexpectedly met each other at WAR, Int’l headquarters. President Becky McDonald introduced them, saying, “Survivor, meet survivor,” and asked them to sing for each other. She describes what happened next:

Standing in the shelter of the WAR boutique, they sang—binding their hearts. Staff and shoppers held their breath as they witnessed the unique “circle of protection” that exists between survivors: a powerful, invisible bond, an instant connection. The trauma scars that once held their bodies and hearts captive evaporated as these survivors found safety and refuge in each other’s presence. They held each other’s hearts tenderly, without judgement, with eyes too old for their souls, having walked the same path.

That day, the dream of recording their voices was born.

Several years later, these talented vocalists, along with another talented survivor, gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, to make that dream come true. (The fourth singer recorded her songs separately.) Joined by a world-class producer and musicians, they assembled in Reba McEntire’s studio and poured out their hearts in song and celebration of the journey to healing.


For three days, they sang, laughed, cried, prayed, and sang some more, as Becky sat and scribbled in a journal, capturing the thoughts and memories of those days:

I’m sitting in Reba’s studio. It doesn’t look like a studio. Oh, yes, there are buttons everywhere that the sound engineers are magically controlling. But it looks like my home. This makes me happy. My survivors will feel like we are hanging out in a cozy safe place. This is good. I feel at home.

I look at the women gathered here for this precious day. Oh, Evil, when you picked on these girls, you picked the wrong crowd. They have been to hell and back. But you cannot keep them down. … I look at the pain on their faces as they sing and I determine—so help me God—to buy it back, one tear, one song at a time. May their tears of joy turn those listening away from sorrow and into a new circle of protection and hope! I want every listener to feel God’s presence like light seeping into their darkness.

We invite you to be one of those listeners, allowing the joyful voices of these gifted women fill you with God’s presence as you join them in a celebration of rescue and hope. From the rousing strains of “Break Every Chain” to the quiet strength of “In You,” from the fiery declaration of “Giving Back Love” to the worshipful tones of “The One,” Voices of WAR will inspire you, delight you, and draw you into a worship experience like no other.

Tackling Trafficking at Super Bowl 51

It’s that time of year again, and everyone is gearing up for Super Bowl LI. The Patriots will be battling the Falcons on February 5, and all over the country people will be gathered around their televisions with jerseys on and snacks in hand. The Super Bowl is a great time for family and friends to come together, have some good food, and cheer for their favorite team. However, while we are all excited for the big game and the even bigger commercials, there is a side to the celebration that is not as well known.

In recent years, claims have been made that the Super Bowl draws a higher number of human trafficking cases than any other major event. There has been some controversy over whether or not this is true, and a recent study has been cited which disputes those claims, finding higher instances at several other events. Regardless, it is clear that human trafficking does increase around major events, and that includes the Super Bowl.

Houston, this year’s host city, is aware of the issue facing them as people flock to Texas for the biggest sporting event of the year. They are on the lookout for signs of trafficking in the city. One officer reportedly had this to say: “For the johns coming into this city, we’re putting you on notice today. We’re going to have undercover officers, so you think you might be looking for a little boy or little girl, or a young woman. And what you might find is a police officer ready to arrest you” ( It is heartening to hear that this issue will be among the top priorities for Houston police as it comes to a head.

Yet city officials recognize that human trafficking in Houston is not just a Super Bowl problem but a 365-day-a-year problem. Texas is estimated to have more than 300,000 labor and sex trafficking victims, with nearly 79,000 being children under the age of eighteen. Within the state, Houston is considered to be a trafficking hub. One recent case involves a 21-year-old woman who was brought to the city against her will from her home in Ohio. Last month, she was abandoned alone in the city when her captor discovered that she suffered from seizures. Her case is just one of many under investigation by Houston police.

While law enforcement is on increased alert during the Super Bowl, Houston has been stepping up its efforts to combat trafficking in the city year-round, creating its own strategic plan to combat human trafficking. The city has several goals, including institutionalizing the city’s response to human trafficking. They plan to do this by closely examining Houston’s city ordinances for massage parlors and similar establishments as well as implementing new ordinances to prevent additional “adult” businesses from popping up. The Houston Health Department will receive new training in human trafficking prevention, which they will in turn use to educate local workers in places such as hospitals and restaurants. The city will also launch an awareness and prevention training program for hotels and offer incentives to participating businesses. Efforts to raise local public awareness include a new media campaign incorporating celebrity PSAs (public service announcements) in cooperation with TV and radio partners.

Like the city of Houston, we need to recognize that human trafficking is a problem that needs to be addressed year-round. Our concern should not be whether the rates of human trafficking increase most around the Super Bowl, but that it is happening at all. The increased awareness that such events bring to the problem of human trafficking can also serve a reminder to educate ourselves and others about this issue. If you would like to learn more about how to fight trafficking and help survivors through Women At Risk, international, please visit our Take Action page.