Wednesday, January 17, 2024

More Than Disturbing

 I had every intention of publishing this over the weekend, but I needed a little more time to process it and make sure I used proper words to convey what I wanted to say. It’s too important of a topic.

This past weekend, I watched a movie, Sound of Freedom, that is based on the true story of Tim Ballard, an agent for Homeland Security, played in the movie believably, if not expertly, by Jim Caviezel. The story dealt with human trafficking, and in this case, with children. Again, I want to say it is based on a true story. 

In 2013, Roberto Aguilar, a poor father of two from TegucigalpaHonduras, is approached by a former beauty queen, Giselle. She offers to sign his young children, RocĂ­o and Miguel Aguilar, to child modeling contracts. The father accepts and takes them to the photoshoot. When he returns to pick his children up, they are gone. It is revealed that the children have been abducted and sold to be used as sex slaves. (Wikipedia)

When I was a counselor in California, I had volunteered to work as an adjunct educator for the Wetterling Foundation for Stranger Abducted and Sexually Exploited Children. The organization still exists, but I believe the name has changed. My job was to educate parents and caring adults on how to protect children and to spot signs of possible exploitation, and I taught kids how to protect themselves. 

Jerry and Patty Wetterling’s son, Jacob, was abducted one night in October 1989, in front of his younger brother and his best friend on the way back from a convenience store after they rented a movie and purchased candy. The abductor wore a mask and had a gun, and in the early to middle nineties when I worked for the foundation, this accounted for about 1% of all abductions (FBI statistics). Jacob was never found until 2016 when a suspect confessed to the crime and led authorities to Jacob’s remains. Jacob had died from a gunshot the same evening he was abducted.

When Kim and I had our children, Wil, age seven adopted from Guatemala, and Hannah, born to us naturally, I had to take a step back from my speaking because instead of picturing Jacob Wetterling, Elizabeth Smart, Johnny Gosch, and others, I pictured Wil and Hannah. But I always wanted to tell the story of missing kids, of kids who had been abused sexually, emotionally.   

As a counselor, I had thought I had heard it all from kids and parents, but each next story shared with me was a horror unto itself. One story doesn’t compare with another, even though the circumstances are mostly the same. In most instances, the abuse takes place by someone known to the child and the family, and is often a family member, immediate or extended. It is both tragic and horrific.

What many don’t know is that human trafficking is a $140 million dollar industry, and the underbelly of the United States is and has been involved. I applaud the men and women who work to put an end to all of it. They work tirelessly, and in most cases, in the shadows outside of the spotlight. They deserve much more credit than they receive. God Bless! 

As I said, I had always wanted to share the stories of the kids and parents who, behind closed doors, shared their stories with me. So in 2014, my first book Taking Lives, Prequel to the Lives Trilogy, and my second book, Stolen Lives, First Book of the Lives Trilogy, were published. I’ve won an award or two for Stolen, and both books rose as high as #3 and #4 on Amazon, which is pretty remarkable for a first-time author. While they are stories of abduction and sexual exploitation, the series is a story of hope and survival, of strength. And the awards, while nice, meant, and mean, nothing to me, because human trafficking still exists. 

Recently, a fellow author, Cam Torrens, wrote an award-winning book, Stable, which takes a different point of view on the subject. Torrens uses his expertise in Search and Rescue to tell his tale. A brilliant book and terrific writing.

For your convenience, I listed the links for purchase below in case you are interested. They are dark reads, but worth it. As I said, they are stories of hope and survival. 

But the main point I want to make is that we, as citizens of a great country, need to protect our most vulnerable from predators. We need to protect our children- and the children of other countries- from being exploited and preyed upon. It will take more than those in law enforcement entrusted to rooting out this evil. There aren’t enough agents and officers, so it will take all of us. All of us. Please help. Please. Something to think about …

To My Readers:  

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at under the Inspirational Blog tab. I can also be found on Facebook at:   

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:

FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out.  

Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!

Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved.   

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:

The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. 
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:

Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death?   

Stable, by Cam Torrens

From debut author Cam Torrens comes a gut-wrenching suspense novel based on an actual missing person case.

A 911 call sends Search & Rescue on a search for a missing girl in the Collegiate Peaks. They find a child…but not the one they seek.

Air Force pilot Tyler Zahn's life disintegrated when he lost his son. He discarded his family, his career, and his dignity, finding solace in apathy and beer. Eight years later, armed with new confidence, he invites his estranged daughter, Daria, to visit his Rocky Mountain home. Zahn tries too hard to mend their relationship, and as the tension between father and daughter increases, forgiveness seems out of reach. Especially when his Search & Rescue work pulls him away from Daria and she finds romance at the church camp next door.

But Zahn can't get the missing girl he found—and the one he can't find—out of his mind. Someone in this mountain valley is collecting children, and Zahn is gradually drawn into the case while still trying to break through to his daughter.

Then she disappears too.

Photo Courtesy of Loren Joseph and Unsplash

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Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe