At the #MAKERSconference this year, Marisol Nichols spoke about her advocacy of saving women & children from human trafficking, and in educating and spreading awareness about this most serious issue. Marisol also introduced her podcast, #MarisolNicholsPodcast, a true crime show where she talks about her undercover work to bring child predators to justice in partnership with key organizations such as Operation Underground Railroad (@OURrescue), headed by founder, Tim Ballard.
The Yahoo MAKERS Conference (@makerswomen) is a global leadership event that brings together hundreds of individuals in business, entertainment, tech, sports, finance and more to explore ways to accelerate equity for women in the workplace and beyond.
If you want to learn more about Marisol’s organization and her work fighting human trafficking, visit Foundation for a Slavery Free World at www.SlaveryFreeWorld.org.
#makerswomen #makingthefuture #jointhefight #truecrime #yahoo #lululemon #girlup #23andme #mattel #meta #morganstanley #pwc
00:00 – Introduction
00:26 – Learning about Child Trafficking
02:09 – Meeting with various groups to learn more about Human Trafficking
02:30 – Worldwide Human Trafficking Statistics
03:03 – Human Trafficking in the United States
04:00 – Starting an advocacy event
05:31 – Establishing non-profit organization, Foundation for a Slavery Free World
06:07 – Meeting O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroald) Founder, Tim Ballard
06:48 – Working with Tim and O.U.R.
07:18 – Becoming an Undercover Operative
10:10 – Trafficking cases online
10:40 – Tips in protecting your loved ones
13:10 – Importance of educating both you and your kids
Voice Over: Please welcome Marisol Nichols.
Marisol Nichols: Hi, everyone!
First of all, I wanna say, I’m beyond honored to be asked to speak at this conference amongst such incredibly powerful women. And with a theme about Making the Future Better.
So I wanted to start out because usually people ask me, “How in the world did you go from being an actress in Riverdale to showing everyone that you’re an undercover operative?”
Which I am.
So first of all, I started learning about, and this is a dark subject. So I’m very aware of this subject.
People don’t necessarily want to hear about it. Right?
At least good people because it’s dark.
And my purpose in doing this talk is that, if good people don’t hear about it, then nothing gets done about it.
Because all the bad guys know all about it. Right?
So about 2012, I started learning about human trafficking. I befriended a woman who was traveling around the world, educating people about their human rights.
And she would come back and she would tell me these things about child brothels.
And I’m like, “Wait, what?” And child sex trafficking.
And I was like, “Wait, those words should never be in a sentence, ever, together.”
And I couldn’t believe that this was happening.
My daughter at the time was four, five. I couldn’t sleep. Literally.
I would take her to the park, and I was that mom that was looking at all the cars that are parked along the side and seeing if there’s a guy like hanging out in there.
Or if there was a dad at the park, I’m like, “Okay, does he have a kid?”
“Is he watching a kid?”
“Or is he just staring in general?” Right?
And I couldn’t sleep. And I’ve always believed that if you’re going to do something about anything, you have to learn about it.
I wanted to be educated about it. So I dove in.
And I met with everyone and anyone that would meet with me.
I met with law enforcement.
I met with different nonprofits that were tackling this from a different side.
I met with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
I met with the State Department.
I met all the way up to the Executive Branch of the White House under Barack Obama.
So I could learn as much as I could. And I learned that this was a $115 billion industry with estimates because it’s estimated between 35 and 40 million people trafficked worldwide.
And out of that, four million of them are children. Caught up in the sex trade which is unthinkable.
And when you hear about this, you think, “Okay, those poor kids or girls in the Philippines or Cambodia or Thailand, over there.”
But these unthinkable abuses are happening in the United States. In every single city in the United States. And 75 to 80 percent of the girls that are trafficked in the United States are United States citizens.
It’s not bringing people from overseas over here. Although that does happen, but it’s rare.
Because trafficking is supply and demand. And unfortunately, we have the supply here and we have the demand here.
So as I said, this is a very dark subject. But in order to change it, I need people to be willing to hear about it. And so I hope to present this in a way that is not so overwhelming that you’re like, “I don’t want to hear that. I can’t do that.”
But that you’ll hopefully learn more and join me.
So as I was saying.
Back in 2012, so I was learning about all of this. And I was at the same time promoting a TV show.
I was on GCB. And I was walking the red carpet. And what happens sometimes is,
I would get invited to a big nonprofit event.
Let’s say this one particularly was, I believe, promoting backpacks for children. Right?
And so I’m gonna go. And InStyle is covering it and Associated Press is covering it.
When you get your outfit and you talk to your stylist and you get the whole thing. And my publicist would give me what’s called sort of like a ‘cheat sheet.’
So that when Access Hollywood asks me, “Why are you here?”
I can remember the cheat sheet and I can go, “Well, I’m here because 60,000 children in the United States don’t have backpacks and don’t have this. And so we’re here giving backpacks to children.”
And it looks like I care so much about this issue. Which is not to say that I didn’t.
But I literally just got the cheat sheet. Right?
And that’s usually what happens. And what I noticed was because all these other celebrities are on this red carpet. By getting all this press for this issue.
And I was like, “Well, children are being trafficked. And we need to be talking about that.”
I don’t understand why there’s no riots in the streets on this.
And so I was like, “Well then, what if I put together my own event.”
And I invite a bunch of celebrities.
And I invite the Associated Press, and whoever else will cover it.
And then I can get that word out. And that’s what I did.
And I formed a nonprofit called Slavery Free World, so I could be taken seriously.
Like, literally that was why. So I could open up more doors and get into more doors and
meet with more people.
And so I held the red carpet.
And I had Terry Crews come.
And Kelly Preston came and Kristin Chenoweth came and sang.
I gave them all the statistics. And they said it on the red carpet.
And it was great. And we got the word out. And I invited the nonprofits and different legislators that I worked with to come and speak and educate them. Right?
So now, it’s my second year. And I was doing my second event. And this is where I met my partner and how I ended up going undercover.
So I needed a keynote speaker. And someone introduced me to Tim Ballard, who was former CIA, former homeland security.
And he headed up the Child Sex Crimes Unit for 12 years. And all he did was travel around the world. Infiltrating trafficking rings and rescuing children. And he had just left the agency to form his own nonprofit called Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.).
And I met him and I was like, “Oh My God, you’re the guy.”
“I’ve been looking for you.”
Because who’s getting the kids? Who’s getting these kids out?
And I’m like, “Will you come and speak at my event?”
And he said, “Absolutely.”
So he came and spoke at my events. And we hit it off. And we became immediate best friends.
It was like, bam!
And then one day, he said, “Do you want to come with us?”
“We’re going to Haiti.”
At that point, they were going to take down a house that was being used for organ trafficking.
Just dark stuff.
And I said, “Yeah, I’ll come.” And so I went, just to observe, just to watch.
And then on the way back, he’s like “Do you want to go undercover?”
And I was like, “Wait right now?”
And he was like, “Yeah.”
“What do you need? What do you mean?”
“Oh, we’ve been tracking this guy. He’s been traveling around the world, going to these different sex parties. And if we have a female, it works better.”
I was like, “Okay.” And so he immediately gave me a character.
He’s like, “Okay, so here’s the deal.”
We just came back in the Dominican Republic. We came from a big sex party. You’re the person who set up the sex party.
And let’s get as much information from this guy as possible.
He puts on a baseball cap. Hidden microphone. Hidden camera. The whole shebang and go.
And I did.
And I came up immediately with some kind of character. What kind of person would travel with men for a sex party overseas?
And so I just adopted an accent and did the whole thing. And became that character and we got information out of the guy.
For a second I said, “I’m kind of good at this.”
And so it went on and on and on and on. And that little piece that you saw in that video, that was me playing.
I would change my voice to be a little 9 year old girl or 12 year old girl. We placed ads on Craigslist, believe it or not.
And we put an ad in there that said, “Nine year old and Twelve year old girl in town for three days only.”
Need someone to come and educate them.
And within 15 minutes, we had 35 appointments in this tiny godforsaken town in California.
And they needed someone to be, so I played the meth’d out mom. That’s how you saw the hair all messed up and all that stuff.
And I played the little girl. And for an entire weekend, all I did was talk to pedophiles.
It was insane. But we got them. And we put him behind bars.
So I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years. And traveled all over the world. Doing it in very dark places.
But I want to disabuse you of the idea that it’s not easy for any of us exposing these abuses.
I’m talking battle hardened Ex-military, Navy SEALS. Other operatives that deal
with crimes against children. Like you never forget the images that you see.
You never forget the faces that you see. And the people that you confront.
But we’re here today to make a better future that is safe for our children. Right?
Today in America, most trafficking happens online.
And on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they reported a 98% increase in online child enticement reports. In 2020 compared to 2019, there were 1.6 million reports in the United States in one year, in 2020.
So I want to give you guys some tips. And what you can do to keep your children safe.
Your sisters’ safe.
Your nieces’ safe.
Your nephews’ safe.
So first of all, when you’re posting most kids, let’s face it, are on TikTok, Instagram or Facebook or whatever the new bubble bath thing is. Right?
So one of the things you have to be careful about is what you’re posting. Don’t post yourself or don’t let kids post like in front of your home or in front of a car with a license plate.
Anything personal or in front of the school. It’s so natural.
A kid wants to be like whatever the school is Northwood High Cheerleaders. And now that guy knows where your kid is, and knows where they go to school. Right?
These guys are clever. Most of them, this happens on games, this happens on apps.
And the first thing they try to do is get your child into a separate chat room like Discord or Snapchat. Right?
And these guys have fake profiles. Like Facebook, you can put anything up there. So these guys will get a fake picture of a boy that goes to junior high. Three towns over.
Put up his picture. His thing looks like a whole entire profile, as a 15 year old.
And chat up a girl for three months, four months.
They know how to talk like a kid. They’ll misspell words. Literally like I’ve talked to these guys. They misspell the words. They do it like a kid.
They use the slang. They do all of that.
One of the things that you can do as a parent, if your kids say, “But I’ve been talking this person for a year”
“And they’re my friend.” And I understand that.
“Oh Great. Have them send you a video of them talking.”
Because you can send fake pictures all day long. How about a video?
“Hi, Jenny. It’s me. I just wanted to say hi.”
There you go. That’s one way of proving it.
The other thing is they look for angry kids.
They look for the kid that’s posting like “I hate my parents”
“My parents grounded me.” Boom target.
In America, the profile for kids that get trafficked are foster care kids and runaways. Truly.
And they’re looking for these guys. Like I worked with law enforcement all the time. We put up these fake profiles all the time.
“F my parents”
It’s crazy. It’s crazy.
So if you want any more tips, I’m happy to talk to anybody after this.
Or please reach out to me. I have a podcast that I formed where we talked to experts in this field. And other guys that I’ve gone undercover with.
We show footage. You have to educate yourself. And educate your kid.
I’ve talked to my kid.
Give you some little tips that I’ve said to my child. Because you have to do it in a way that’s not overwhelming. Because you don’t want to scare your kid.
And I tell her, “Honey, 80% of the people out there are really good people. Truly.
It’s just the small bad guys you got to worry about. And they’ll do things like this. Don’t tell them who you are or what age you are.
They might ask, “Oh, do you have to get up for school in the morning?” They’re phishing.
“Oh, is it your bedtime now?” Things like that.
And you can talk to your kids in a way that won’t overwhelm them but so they’re educated.
So I invite you to please listen to my podcast, Marisol Nichols Podcast.
Go to Slavery Free World, my nonprofit organization. Go to missingkids.org. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
There’s lots of resources out there. And find a way to have those tough conversations.
Thank you for having me.
Let’s make a really safe and beautiful future for our kids.