Hello Empathizers,

Thank you for visiting iEmpathize.org. I hope the resources on this website and the efforts of this organization are helpful and inspiring.

My work with exploited woman and children began in the early 90’s. I was newly married and had begun a career in the music industry. That path quickly changed after meeting a young woman in the inner city named Alice. She had been sexually exploited in multiple ways. Our relationship with Alice and experiencing the reality of her life had a profound impact. It wasn’t long before we were living and working in the inner city running various support outreaches to meet community needs. We were especially drawn to child protection efforts and helping teens exit gang life. Additionally, we became  familiar with the problem of urban pimping which exploits teen girls and women domestically. We were introduced to the concepts of human trafficking and modern slavery in the mid 90’s through a group that rescues women and children in Calcutta out of forced prostitution.

In the mid 2000’s, I had the opportunity to help fund some anti-trafficking projects in SE Asia. I went to visit those projects and my encounters with the child victims and survivors changed everything. I witnessed first hand the atrocities of the commercial sex trade and it’s exploitation of women and children. I met the children who are affected by this issue. I met children at risk in big cities and small villages. I visited with families and friends of families whose children had been abducted and sold into forced labor or child sex slavery. I met with survivors and heard their stories first hand. I also met with fellow advocates and modern day heroes who fight for justice in the most innovative and impacting ways. 

Imagine being 12 years old. Imagine, if you can, being taken from your family and never seeing them again. Imagine being taken to a strange land and an even stranger underworld of gruesome reality. Imagine having all the fight that is in you being beaten out of you. Imagine being forced to spend every night, all night, having all forms of sex with stranger after stranger. Imagine being a boy and having everything honorable about growing into a man being ripped from your core. Imagine being a girl that has no idea that one day a husband could virtuously love you, respect you, and grow a family with you. Imagine your childhood and future being raped and pillaged away. This is the nightmare that is a reality for countless children.

In a red-light district of Bangkok, my heart was broken as a young teenage boy propositioned me for oral sex. Soon after I gently turned him away, I watched him lead a westerner to the entrance of a brothel. I placed my hands on the exterior walls of these brothels knowing that children are being held captive and raped inches away from me and I felt utterly helpless. I had never known this kind of shame, leaving those walls and the children within them behind. I thought to myself, “A fireman would never walk away from a burning building.”  That trip has tortured me emotionally, physically and spiritually ever since. I now embrace a personal nightmare of never forgetting the plight of these children. That nightmare is blended with a dream. My dream is a movement of people who don’t look away. A dream of people and cultures doing what it takes to stop these types of injustices. An unrelenting force that empathizes and engages.

In 2009, we mustered up all the faith and non-profit experience we had to launch iEmpathize. An amazing group of friends, and sometimes strangers, became everyday advocates donating time, skills, artistry, ideas, and hard earned cash to impact kids who are vulnerable and victimized in unbelievable ways. From the beginning, these kids have been the CEO’s of iEmpathize and their lives and futures lead the way.

~Brad Riley