A group of women who allegedly experienced abuse while working for Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) — a nonprofit that claims to fight sex trafficking, and was behind the summer blockbuster Sound of Freedom — are speaking out via a lawyer, Suzette Rasmussen. On Thursday, the attorney released a statement from the women, who are all remaining anonymous.
“Our involvement with Operation Underground Railroad was rooted in our commitment to fighting against human trafficking,” the women said in a statement. “But while engaging in that noble cause, we were subjected to sexual harassment, spiritual manipulation, grooming, and sexual misconduct.
“Though we value our privacy as we work to rebuild our lives, we also feel a responsibility to speak out and state unequivocally that these allegations are true,” they continued. “We acknowledge the risks involved in challenging someone as prominent as [OUR founder and former CEO] Tim Ballard. We will reveal our stories in our own time and on our own terms, but for now, we choose to remain anonymous.”
A rep for Ballard did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment in time for publication.
Ballard recently stepped down from his role at the organization amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Vice reported that seven women claimed he had made unwelcome advances toward them, asking them variously to pretend to be his wife while on trips abroad. He allegedly would ask them to sleep in the same bed with him and shower with him. He also allegedly sent a photo of himself in his underwear to one of the woman asking what she was up to doing to save children. “As with all of the assaults on my character and integrity over many years, the latest tabloid-driven sexual allegations are false,” Ballard said last week in response to the accusations. “They are baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children.”
Ballard had left the organization quietly around the release of Sound of Freedom, a film that extolled the organization’s virtues. He also exited a CEO role at Nazarene Fund, another anti-trafficking group. He remains an advisor to another group, the SPEAR Fund.
He published a video to Instagram on Wednesday ahead of the women speaking out. “Just a few days after I delivered this speech, a flood of false allegations made their way to the front pages of many news outlets across the country,” he wrote.
A rep for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints denounced Ballard, who is Mormon, calling his actions generally “morally unacceptable,” according to Vice. The rep did not specify which actions of Ballard’s the Church was calling into question.
Read the women’s full statement:
As former employees and contractors who worked closely with Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), we are choosing to give a public statement about our experiences with Tim Ballard. Earlier this year, complaints were filed that opened the door for an internal investigation. We now stand together to affirm the truth behind these allegations.
Our involvement with Operation Underground Railroad was rooted in our commitment to fighting against human trafficking. But while engaging in that noble cause, we were subjected to sexual harassment, spiritual manipulation, grooming, and sexual misconduct.
Though we value our privacy as we work to rebuild our lives, we also feel a responsibility to speak out and state unequivocally that these allegations are true. We acknowledge the risks involved in challenging someone as prominent as Tim Ballard. We will reveal our stories in our own time and on our own terms, but for now, we choose to remain anonymous.
We wish to express our gratitude for the outpouring of support from those who have responded and commented to the media and social media posts. We also want to extend our support and solidarity to all survivors of harassment and abuse of any kind. We believe you, and we are standing by your side as you embark on your own healing journey.