The Center for Violence Prevention’s Board President, Ron Crew, has served as a board member since 2016. However, his acts of service started long before then. Crew devoted various trips overseas to help build a foundation for self-defense training and support services in Thailand amongst groups exposed to human trafficking.
In 2012, he was invited to visit Thailand with a friend named Johnathan Epsy. Together they began their efforts to facilitate self-defense classes while empowering adults and children. Crew has been doing martial arts since he was 17 years old. His experience that he received from his time served in the military and as a law enforcement professional brought real world knowledge to his self-defense classes. Although Crew taught self-defense classes before his first visit to Thailand, teaching it in a different country brought additional challenges. One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier. It took twice as long to teach anything with interpreters. However, Crew was able to tailor his teaching methods to each group allowing for better understanding for the students. One of his first encounters and a memory he will never forget is when the women shared with him that nobody ever told them that they had a voice and that they could say “No.” Soon after Crew’s visit, there was an answer to a prayer. His missionary friend and all those invested in the vision were finally able to witness the formation of a new organization, SWAT Ministries International (SWAT), a non-profit organization that fights trafficking world-wide.
Self-Defense Tactics and Rescue
Several photos are captured here from some of his self-defense training and memories from his trips that would follow. During his time there he also partnered with Zoe International and Destiny Rescue. “There were three main types of rescues. First, Prevention Rescue where intelligence notifies an organization that someone is considering to sell their child. The organization will gather assets and go to the village to settle the situation with government representation prior to the sale of the child. The second is a Voluntary Rescue where agents have made contact with an underage victim and developed a rapport. If/when they are ready to come out coordination is done and they’re brought out. Third, is an Undercover Rescue where agents go in with technology for evidence and a raid is conducted, arrests are made,” a description he shared that exhibits the deep layers of response, rescue, and recovery.
In each case, the juveniles are transported to a safe house for a period long enough to establish safety, do assessments, treatments and planning. Then, they go to a short-term location where they begin the healing process and begin orienting toward their needs. Lastly, they are connected with long-term foster families who are dedicated to the processes. At some point, some parents also begin training and healing. Others stay with foster families at the facility until college or transitioning into life as an adult. Many of the kids go into social work or teaching and come back to work at the facilities.
When Covid hit, most everything came to a halt. Crew is happy to see things are picking back up slowly and thinks highly of the progress in Thailand, “Currently the situation there has improved. Better funded, better staffed, more oversight of NGO’s, orphanages and police, multiple-agency coordination, and laws that have been tweaked. Yes, it’s light years better but still a ways to go.”
Bringing the Work Back Home
Human Trafficking is an ugly business above and below the surface. Crew explained how the psychological scars can take years and years to overcome even WITH the right therapies. Advocating for victims and supporting the healing process is a critical mission around the world as well as our own state. “While some of our laws are better, some interfere with getting children the aid they need in a timely manner. Our social services system is understaffed, underpaid, and overworked. The foster system here is broken. Kids are falling through the cracks, and they run away. Homelessness and runaways are extremely vulnerable. Support your reputable non-profits monetarily. Treating the kids is a long-term thing and costs a lot of money. The government is helping, but it’s a drop in the bucket to what’s needed. Homeland has it right when they say ‘if you see something say something’. No matter how trivial.”
One major question that Crew asked when he returned from his first trip was “Why aren't we doing something like this at home?” The Center for Violence Prevention provided him with a solution to that question. Crew brought forth his experiences from Thailand and participated in the early stages of The Center for Violence Prevention’s human trafficking program and the legislation needed to MS in the right direction for victim services. He has spoken for numerous awareness events on behalf of CVP and helped the staff begin domestic violence training at local academies for patrol officers, supervisors, field training officers, and investigators. “I had been doing an introduction to human trafficking with those classes, but CVP took that over because of their "on the ground' experiences here and was more relevant,” said Crew.
The Board of Directors for the Center for Violence Prevention have a long-lasting effect on the programs and services provided. Some would say that the testimonies of those who have survived “the life” also leaves a long-lasting effect of joy and hope. “When I hear about a domestic victim having success in starting over, overcoming the hurdles, it's very satisfying. When I hear of, or see evidence of a trafficking victim having success in turning themselves around… that's gold. Hearing the stories of where they came from, the horrors endured, and having a small hand in the CVP catalyst that enabled them to escape and succeed is hugely rewarding. There are superstars at CVP that do the hard stuff day in and day out at all hours, and being called out to who knows where for days at a time. Those are heroes in my book, selfless, sacrificial. The Lord commands us to love one another as ourselves. Scripture also says we are known by the fruits that flow from our faith. I see that at CVP, every day.”