Group fighting sex traffickers moving to city
An organization that has saved more than 3,000 children from sex trafficking will move its Indiana support center to Fort Wayne by the end of January.
Currently located in North Webster, the new office will be at 10339 Dawson’s Creek Blvd.
Aaron Brown, national director of operations, said the move was made because of growing support in Fort Wayne with volunteers, churches and businesses.
“Fort Wayne is a growing area and we’re a growing organization,” Brown said. “We needed to find a place that would allow us to put our roots down and to be able to grow, and we see Fort Wayne as being that place.”
The organization, started 17 years ago by Tony Kirwan, focuses on six countries, and has offices in the United States, Australia and Thailand.
There are 10 offices throughout the United States, with about 25 paid staff members. Brown said the Fort Wayne support center will employ about 15.
Destiny Rescue works to rescue children internationally in areas where extreme poverty and lack of resources make it easy for children to fall into sex slavery.
Its role in the U.S. is to create awareness, raise funds for rescue missions and team trips and develop talent.
The organization receives some foundation funding from corporate and church partnerships, but Brown said most of the money comes from families and individuals.
“It’s people from all walks of life who say, ‘This is not OK, and I’m going to play my role to help end it,’” Brown said.
At the end of 2018, the organization celebrated just over 1,000 rescues for the year, a record number. The prior record was in 2017 with 620 rescues. It also had its youngest rescue, an 18-month-old girl.
On team trips, there are two types of rescues. One is a hard rescue, where the organization partners with local law enforcement to raid a location.
The other type, a soft rescue, involves someone from Destiny posing as a customer. They earn the trust of the victim and offer her a way to freedom.
Once the rescue is conducted and the child is safely removed, they are placed in an after-care program.
“They come into after-care programs where we meet their needs physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually,” Brown said. “We teach them vocational skills, and then ultimately we reintegrate them back into a successful life.”
Dominic Lombardo, director of criminal justice and prelaw at Indiana Tech, spent last June helping Destiny Rescue perform raids on bars, brothels and massage parlors in Southeast Asia.
Lombardo met Brown when he came to one of Indiana Tech’s Tech Talks. Brown knew of Lombardo’s background with the Los Angeles Police Department, and asked him to come on the trip.
The team traveled to Cambodia and Thailand during a 10-day trip, rescuing girls as young as 5 years old.
“Their destiny is not to be involved in the sex trade,” Lombardo said. “No one wakes up and says, ‘I want to be involved in the sex trade.’”
Lombardo said moving to Fort Wayne will give Destiny Rescue more exposure and access to a qualified pool of future employees.
He plans to help the organization again this summer.
“The biggest reason why I do this is to increase awareness of it, and make people see that this isn’t something that’s isolated in Southeast Asia,” Lombardo said. “It’s all over the world and in our own backyard.”
This year, Destiny Rescue plans to beat its current record and save 1,250 children.
“We believe that being here in Fort Wayne sets us up in the United States to be able to accomplish that goal,” Brown said.