Women accusing OUR founder Tim Ballard of abuse ‘wanted their voice heard,’ says lawyer
Women employed or contracted by Operation Underground Railroad are speaking out against former CEO and founder Tim Ballard, claiming he abused them in various ways.
Standing on the steps outside of the Utah State Capitol Thursday, Suzette Rasmussen, a lawyer representing the women, read a statement on their behalf. Rasmussen said the women, who chose to remain anonymous, joined the Utah-based anti-human trafficking organization because they believed in the mission.
“But while engaging in that noble cause, we were subjected to sexual harassment, spiritual manipulation, grooming and sexual misconduct,” Rasmussen said, reading from the statement. “Though we value our privacy as we work to rebuild our lives, we also feel a responsibility to speak out and state unequivocally that these allegations are true. We acknowledge the risks involved in challenging someone as prominent as Tim Ballard.”
Rasmussen declined to provide details about the abuse allegations brought forth by her clients or say if a lawsuit against Ballard is in the works, but added: “more details may be coming forward.”
VICE News originally broke the story about Ballard’s sexual misconduct allegations involving seven women. Rasmussen said she couldn’t disclose how many women she was representing but stated it was “several women” who “wanted their voice heard and they wanted to affirm the truth of these allegations.”
The VICE story outlines accusations that Ballard coerced women who traveled abroad with him under the impression they were rescuing sex trafficking victims to share a bed or shower with him because “it was necessary to fool traffickers.” Rasmussen said she could not reveal the nature of the abuse or if her client's experience aligned with VICE’s reporting.
“At this point, I can just state that the women feel very strongly that the fight against human trafficking is a noble endeavor and one that these women were eager to engage in. But the behavior of Tim Ballard crossed the line, and these women cannot remain silent,” she said.
Rasmussen noted the women filed a complaint about Ballard to the organization. Responding to the victims’ press conference, O.U.R. released a statement that acknowledged there was an “independent, external investigation of the allegation.”
According to Rasmussen, the singular “allegation” about Ballard’s behavior O.U.R. is referring to includes multiple women.
O.U.R. said it immediately placed Ballard on leave during the course of the investigation. Ballard later resigned as CEO.
“Mr. Ballard’s alleged misconduct does not represent O.U.R.’s values or others within the organization,” the statement read. “O.U.R. is dedicated to combatting sexual abuse and stands with anyone who has been victimized.”
Ballard, along with the organization he founded, has come under other scrutiny in recent weeks, too. A federal criminal investigation found O.U.R. may have misused donor funds and falsified the success of its mission.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also condemned Ballard, who is a member of the faith. The religious institution accused Ballard of claiming his activist efforts were backed and financially supported by President Russell M. Ballard – a high-ranking member of the church. There is no family relation between Tim Ballard and the religious leader.
In a statement to VICE, the church said it never endorsed or supported the cause and that President Ballard never authorized the use of his name.
They called Tim Ballard’s actions “morally unacceptable.”
The church did not respond to KUER’s request for an interview.