Film confronts horrible reality of child trafficking

This past summer, millions of theatergoers encountered the gut-wrenching reality of child sex trafficking in the film Sound of Freedom. This movie tells a story about the fight between good and the gravest of evils, spanning genres of drama, suspense, and action to inform the public about the horrible truth: Every year over 1 million children become victims of sex trafficking. 

The film stars Jim Caviezel—famous for his portrayal of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ—in the role of Tim Ballard, a federal agent who arrests pedophiles. Through a moving encounter with a young boy he saves from traffickers, Ballard feels called to leave his job. He decides that instead of simply arresting those responsible for the continuation of child sex trafficking, he must find a way to liberate children from these horrors and bring them to safety.   

Caviezel captures the audience in his portrayal of this real-life hero whose bravery saves countless children. The film does not solely focus on Ballard, but on telling the stories of the child survivors, specifically a brother and sister. These children, Timoteo and Rocio, are the core of Sound of Freedom—they are the ones whom Ballard seeks out unceasingly and ultimately reunites with their loving father. 

Sound of Freedom depicts the great evil present in those people who violently strip a child’s innocence for pleasure or financial gain. The viewer witnesses a fraction of the despair of those who live the horrors of trafficking without hope or freedom. Sound of Freedom challenges its viewers to confront the depths of evil in the world, but does so without harming the viewer through graphic depictions of child trafficking. 

The message of the film is incredibly important in the United States of America, the country that is the largest consumer of human trafficking in the world. As Caviezel’s character comes to realize in Sound of Freedom, “You can sell a bag of cocaine once. A five-year-old child, you can sell them five to ten times a day for ten years straight.” He discovers how traffickers have relied on the darkest recesses of humanity to make human trafficking a $150 billion-a-year international criminal enterprise based on the exploitation of the most vulnerable who are most worthy of protection.  

Mainstream media coverage of this film has been almost entirely negative, labeling the film as a “QAnon tinged thrilled” catering to conspiracy theorists. The film is not partisan, but rather begs the viewers to attend to the exploited and vulnerable children in the world who are abused each day. Instead of turning their efforts to fight for the protection of these children, the mainstream media is focused on avoiding the reality of child sex trafficking because it is an ugly truth, uncomfortable to contemplate.  

Other critics argue that Sound of Freedom inaccurately depicts the majority of trafficking cases today since in the film two children are taken from their loving father against his will. The sad reality that was not portrayed in the movie is that many children who are trafficked know their trafficker and live in vulnerable home environments.

The influential host of the Bible in a Year Podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz gave the film a positive review, pointing to the great struggle between goodness and evil in our world. He told viewers that in seeing the depiction of incredibly evil people who would use innocents for their own gain, he was able to fully appreciate the brave men and women who were willing to lay down their lives in the service of others. Fr. Mike ended his message teary-eyed, reminding us to pray for these children, speaking to the film’s great emotional power.

Yet even in the great perversion and evil of human trafficking, there is still hope. 

In Sound of Freedom, the labors and sufferings of a few virtuous individuals save children who would have likely spent the rest of their lives in modern-day slavery. In the real world, organizations like Operation Underground Railroad save hundreds of children from sex trafficking. Some Catholic religious orders focus their whole apostolate on loving and serving survivors of sex trafficking. Many safe houses and centers exist specifically to care for child victims because many trafficking victims cannot return to their unsafe home environments.  

This film holds special importance for Catholics, who believe that each person has invaluable dignity because God created them in His image and likeness. The Church and its members have a special obligation to protect children and their innocence. Catholics are called to nurture and protect children, body and spirit, so they may be safe from the evil that has entrenched itself in the lives of those who perpetuate the abuse of children.

Ending child sex trafficking is perhaps the most common-sense battle of the day, yet remains an unsolved issue. This fight against trafficking includes eradicating child pornography and fighting against a culture that unceasingly consumes sex without any regard for the dignity of the human person. The fact that forced child sex continues in our own backyards speaks volumes about this fallen world, and Catholics and American citizens have a great obligation to defend the sanctity of all human life.

While Sound of Freedom is difficult to watch, it is necessary to confront the reality of these evils and work towards a world where child sex trafficking and the abuse of children is absolutely abhorrent and unthinkable. 

Viana Schlapp is a junior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies with a theology minor. She spent the summer working at a beautiful maternity home in North Dakota, where she watched Sound of Freedom in a packed theater. If you would like to further discuss this movie, email

Photo Credit: Angel Studios

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