“Sound of Freedom” is one of the most unexpected box-office hits of the year, grossing over $200 million in its theatrical run. But the film, which dramatizes the story of Tim Ballard and his anti-sex trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad, has also faced numerous controversies, including a backer charged with child kidnapping, accusations of inaccuracies and sensationalism, and rumors that the film has ties to Qanon.
Now, the film’s hero faces a massive controversy of his own. Ballard, who founded OUR in 2013, left the organization in July. A new report from Vice, published Monday, reveals that Ballard’s departure from his nonprofit allegedly came after an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct involving several women at the organization.
According to the Vice report, Ballard — who has faced numerous accusations of exaggerating and falsifying the company’s work — would allegedly invite women to pose as his wife on overseas missions ostensibly intended to rescue trafficking victims. During these missions, he would allegedly coerce the women into sharing a bed or showering with him in order to “fool traffickers.” He also allegedly sent a photo of himself in his underwear to at least one woman he brought on these trips, and asked another “how far she was willing to go” for their assignment.
At least seven employees were among those who alleged to have experienced sexual coercion and harassment from Ballard, but Vice notes that it’s also believed that female contractors and OUR volunteers experienced similar treatment.
In a statement to Vice, OUR wrote that “Tim Ballard resigned from O.U.R. on June 22, 2023. He has permanently separated from O.U.R. O.U.R. is dedicated to combatting sexual abuse, and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization.”
In July, Vice also reported that donors for anti-sex trafficking causes received an anonymous letter accusing Ballard of sexual harassment. The letter also alleged that OUR’s board and lawyers made agreements to prevent executives from discussing the circumstances around Ballard’s exit from the company.
Ballard did not respond to Vice’s request to comment. According to the report, he is allegedly trying to find a way back to the organization following the scandal. Ballard also made headlines recently when several outlets reported he was considering a run for Senate, to fill the seat vacated by Mitt Romney.