Interview by Hannah Rabalais. Photos by Hunter Lacey.
Today we are sharing an interview with George Lynch, CEO of Traffick911. George is a leader and activist who is recognized as one of the prominent voices in the anti-child sex trafficking movement. Based in Addison, Traffick911 is celebrating ten years and is now working in more than 20 communities across Texas, Arkansas and Florida, with the goal of preventing young people from being trafficked, identifying victims, and walking with survivors as they begin their journey of healing.
Tell us about where you grew up and how giving back was a part of your family dynamic.
I entered this world to join my mom, dad and two older sisters in Dallas. My dad’s job moved our family to Denver and then Chicago. Each location opened my eyes to new cultures and diverse people. A gift from those moves? Empathy. Being ‘the new kid in school’ multiple time gave me insight to life as the underdog. Out of survival, I looked to be a friend to those who needed one (because I could use one, too). And I got to see generosity modeled well by my mom and dad. A simple example: While our family was at Dallas’ Thanksgiving Day, it began to rain. At that very moment, the Dallas mayor came riding by on a flatbed truck – without any rain protection. Dad saw a need and stepped from the curb to give his umbrella to the Mayor. The parade continued. And though my father gave his umbrella with no hope of it returning, the Mayor’s staff made sure it made its way home to my dad. Good lesson: don’t expect return from generosity. But don’t be surprised when good returns to you.
When did you first hear the truth about human trafficking and how did it impact you?
My business career was in the travel industry—much of it at Sabre. Our CEO, Sam Gilliland, had met with Marilyn Carlson, Chairman Emeritus of The Carlson Companies. She connected the dots to the evils of human trafficking and how travel companies’ assets were often used by traffickers in this deplorable trade. Sam endeavored to be a change agent and called a number of us to create a social responsibility program to educate industry employees about human trafficking. He was the champion that opened my eyes.
The more I learned, the angrier I got. My mind raced with the horrors children and adults faced at the hands of traffickers.
My next reaction was to look away. It was too ugly.
But I couldn’t unknow what I now knew existed. I kept asking “how on earth does a child or adult stand up after such exploitation?”
But then I remembered. I serve a God who is far BIGGER than any harm man can dole out. He weaves resiliency into lives everyday. He grew my hope and helped me expand my worldview to see exploited people as He does – people just like me.
Would you share your story of how you first joined the board of Traffick911 and then became CEO?
After I posted a human trafficking article on my Facebook page, my friend Jeff Sherman texted “We ought to have coffee.” I learned he was president of the board of a great organization called Traffick911. Clearly the issue had gotten my goat, so when he invited me to serve on the board I said YES. Serving on the Strategic Planning Committee exposed me to the issue at a 30,000 foot view. Though addressing this community issue is a daunting task, I saw a path to real impact in our state.
When the founder decided her time had ended, I was asked to “hold the ship together” for 60 days. After working closely with staff and seeing the tremendous potential Traffick911 could unleash for child sex trafficking survivors, I decided to accept the CEO position full time. I’m so glad I did. To see changed life trajectories for child sex trafficking victims because of true collaboration across law enforcement, prosecutors, hospitals, CPS and Traffick911 makes me smile. It’s been the best way to spend my last 5 years.
How has it been for you being a male leading an anti-trafficking organization?
Not gonna lie. Sometimes odd. There are conversations that are best had without a man in the room. (Trust me, I know when to leave!) But sex trafficking is a human rights issue and it takes women and men coming together to prevent it and empower those that have endured it. Empathy knows no gender, right?
How do you get men involved to combat this issue?
Frank conversations. The issue of child sex trafficking exists because of relational brokenness. Men need to be recognizing heartache in their children’s, their friends’ and their own lives. And encourage positive action to fill voids in their lives. There are so many better ways to feel better than to buy a sexual experience that traumatizes a young victims’ life. Our kids and our communities need men to rise up and choose better. And be champions of opportunity for survivors. They bring so much to our workforce and community. Be the “reset” button for someone coming from a hard place.
What stories have most impacted you during your time working with young people trying to exit out of “the life”?
One teen had overcome big challenges and lots of self-absorption through several years working with her Traffick911 advocate. One day, she was on her way to her much-loved (Whoop!), part-time job. She noticed a woman huddling her infant child in the bus stop shelter. It was 30 degrees and misty. The woman shared she was running from a violent partner and thought she’d ‘settle in’ for the night in the bus stop shelter. Our client thought ‘I don’t know what to do—but I know someone who does’ and she called her Traffick911 advocate. A three-way call ensued with a trusted domestic violence agency who aided this mom. On this chilly afternoon, this child became the link to great services for this 30 year-old woman and her child. And she had the presence of mind to call her boss and say she would be a late: “for a good reason, I am helping someone in need.” The empowerment she gained by empowering another was immense. There were lots of high fives around the office following that phone call.
Can you touch on the issue of porn and how it’s interconnected with sex-trafficking?
And let’s not sugar coat pornography as “a harmless indulgence.” Porn is the engine that fuels demand for buying sex from another person. It comes from the Greek terms: Porne and graphein. Porne is ‘depiction of prostitution” aka as sex trafficking when force, fraud, coercion or underage are present. Graphein is “writings about.” Of note, “teen sex” has been in the TOP TEN most searched forms of “online porn” for the last six years. Not only is it considered child porn (a federal and state crime), but it is shaping sexual templates for countless porn viewers. Do you think it’s possible to assume the appetite for teen porn influences the porn consumer to think that sex with teens is acceptable, or more exciting? Or that the younger a child looks, the easier it is to have sex with her/him, or the easier it is to take advantage of the child?
What hope do you have for ending human trafficking in your lifetime?
I take hope in seeing one life step out of darkness. One Life. One at a time. I am encouraged by growing community awareness with major news stories and conversations. But lives are changed one by one.
How can people support your work and get involved?
Volunteers are the heartbeat of our prevention work – with support from professional staff. Trained and vetted volunteers take our program into dozens juvenile detention centers, youth shelters, youth groups across the state each month. Visit www.traffick911.com/volunteer to learn about volunteer opportunities and orientation.
Our empowerment work rests on professionals for crisis response and ongoing case management. It takes dollars to purchase emergency clothing and toiletries for victims, shared meals with Traffick911 advocates, relationship-building outings, equine therapy, mileage reimbursement and most importantly trauma-informed staff. Each life is worth investing in. And every dollar helps children from hard places become who they are meant to be.
If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.