CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Tim Ballard explains ‘couples ruse’ tactic in response to sexual misconduct allegations

Sep 25, 2023, 5:17 PM | Updated: Oct 23, 2023, 12:10 pm

tim ballard...

Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard discusses a documentary series on Dec. 22, 2022. (Business Wire via Associated Press)

(Business Wire via Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Anti-sex trafficking activist and potential Senate candidate Tim Ballard issued another statement Sunday in response to sexual misconduct allegations in which he explained the so-called “couples ruse” used to fool traffickers while on undercover rescue missions.

Ballard, the founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, previously called the allegations “false,” and “baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children.”

Vice News first reported the allegations last week, saying “sources familiar with the situation said (Ballard) … invited women to act as his ‘wife’ on undercover overseas missions ostensibly aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking. He would then allegedly coerce those women into sharing a bed or showering together, claiming that it was necessary to fool traffickers.”

Ballard has also been accused of sending at least one woman a photo of himself in his underwear and reportedly asked another “how far she was willing to go” to save children, according to Vice. It reported that Ballard’s departure from Operation Underground Railroad in June followed an investigation into the claims.

In a video posted to Instagram on Sunday, Ballard further defended his actions by detailing what he described as a “couples ruse” used by himself and other operatives posing as potential clients of sex traffickers.

“You need to understand that children don’t just fall out of the sky. They don’t fall onto your desk, this is a very proactive work,” he said. “So, if I am a man, or one of my operators is approached by a trafficker trying to put a child to service on that person … and that man, that operator doesn’t partake of what’s being offered, they lose credibility.”

By having a female pose as their partner, it gives the men cover to decline, Ballard said.

“Now you go in and one of you could pretend that, ‘Yes, I want to partake in this sex act with this woman or this child, but I can’t because my girlfriend won’t let me,'” he said. “But the bottom line is we blocked for each other. So, the trafficker sees the situation and recognizes that I have every excuse not to partake.”

Ballard went on to claim that “hundreds, maybe thousands” of children have been rescued using the tactic.

“It’s time for you to look under the hood and you can make your own decision about these tactics,” he said. “But I want to pay homage to these female operators. I want to give them their opportunity to tell their story and bear witness to the amazing work that they have done working with our teams.”

Ballard’s statement did not address why the “couples ruse” would necessitate showering together, though his previous statement asserted that “any suggestion of inappropriate sexual contact is categorically false.”

Ballard posted a separate video on his Instagram with the testimony of one such operator on Monday afternoon. The woman’s face was blurred and she was identified only as Nataliya.

“I’ve worked on various missions with Tim Ballard specifically ranging from different countries, different continents, and during my time working with him there has been zero inappropriate behavior, any sexual contact, any inappropriate sexual contact whatsoever, before, during or after a mission. Everything was kept very respectful, very professional,” she said. “In fact, I think the OUR team went above and beyond to make sure the safety of both the operators and the victims and anybody involved in a mission.”

Operation Underground Railroad said Ballard has “permanently separated” from the organization, when asked to respond to the initial allegations last week.

“OUR is dedicated to combating sexual abuse and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization,” the group said in a statement to KSL.com. “OUR retained an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all relevant allegations, and OUR continues to assess and improve the governance of the organization and protocols for its operations.

“To preserve the integrity of its investigation and to protect the privacy of all persons involved, OUR will not make any further public comment at this time,” the statement continued.

Ballard, whose work as a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security was the inspiration for the recent hit film “Sound of Freedom,” told Sean Spicer that he is considering running for Sen. Mitt Romney’s seat in 2024.

Investigative documents recently obtained by KSL.com show Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad may have misled donors about missions to “rescue” trafficked children.

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Tim Ballard explains ‘couples ruse’ tactic in response to sexual misconduct allegations