By: REBECCA JUN
Tyler Dunman joins the Institute as the Special Counsel in Uganda. In this role, he will work in Uganda’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) providing expertise and supporting prosecutors who are working on trafficking cases. His position is one of the Institute’s three strategic components of our model to get to the root of the problem:
(1) Create specialized units
(2) Train the specialized units through an in-depth academy where they learn to identify cases, use trauma-informed interviewing techniques, and develop successful trial strategies
(3) Hire anti-trafficking experts to office with and work alongside the specialized units
Tyler is fulfilling the prosecutor anti-trafficking expert component of the Institute’s model in Uganda, where he will co-office with the country’s specialized anti-trafficking prosecutors who were trained at the Institute’s Global Human Trafficking Academy last year.
“Tyler’s presence in the ODPP will serve as a consistent and long-standing resource for prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals seeking to prosecute human trafficking in Uganda,” said Lindsay Roberson, Institute Senior Legal Counsel. “Living in Uganda, and more specifically being stationed within the ODPP itself, will allow Tyler the opportunity to learn first-hand the challenges faced by prosecutors in Kampala, and the surrounding districts, so as to provide the most meaningful and in-context support possible.”
Prior to joining the Institute in October, Tyler served as a state criminal prosecutor in Montgomery County, Texas, for 12 years. Since 2014, he worked in the Special Crimes Bureau as the Chief Executive, where he was responsible for leading multiple special investigative divisions, including the Domestic Violence Division, Crimes Against Children Division (physical and sexual abuse crimes), Child Exploitation (cyber-crimes against children), and the Human Trafficking Division.
Tyler founded the Montgomery County Coalition Against Human Trafficking in 2015, where he was instrumental in developing anti-trafficking protocols and collaboration throughout Texas. Tyler also developed Project AVERT (Assisting Victims Escape & Resist Trafficking), a prosecutor-led diversion program specifically designed to assist trafficking survivors. Tyler served on the Office of the Texas Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team and was recognized by Governor Greg Abbott for his commitment to curbing demand for human trafficking and prosecuting exploiters.
“I could not be more pleased to have Tyler join the team in this mission-critical role,” said Victor Boutros, Institute CEO. “I believe in five years, we will look to see his presence on the ground in Uganda as a game-changer. In addition to world-class expertise as a long-time human trafficking prosecutor, Tyler has the confidence, humility, and tenacity to equip and empower Ugandan prosecutors to decimate trafficking on a large-scale.”
As Special Counsel in Uganda, Tyler will office with the Ugandan prosecutors tasked with prosecuting the most sensitive trafficking cases in Uganda. His day-to-day work will include advising and training prosecutors and law enforcement officials on best practices and specialized skills for combating trafficking. He will also help facilitate coordination between investigators and prosecutors.
Tyler, his wife Kimberly, and their three daughters will relocate from Texas to Uganda at the end of November.
Meet Tyler! Tyler recently spoke with Rebecca Jun to share about his work in the anti-trafficking space and what led him to move his family to Uganda with the Institute:
First of all, how is your family feeling about this move and how are you preparing your three girls for the transition?
Our family is excited and probably a little anxious too. We understand the gravity of this move and the changes that are coming. But, we also know that this will be an extraordinary experience for our family. I think for my wife Kimberly and my daughters, they are excited about experiencing a new culture and learning about and seeing more of the world. We plan to take full advantage of our time in Uganda, and we all know this experience will bring us even closer together as a family.
I am not sure there is a perfect way to prepare them, but we are having good, honest conversations with them about this transition and what our new normal might look like in Uganda. Anticipating a future opportunity to move abroad full time, we have tried to be very intentional with sharing stories and information about our trips and what life is like in developing countries. We are also working out the details for connecting with family back home in Texas and making sure they know they will have plenty of time to talk with and see family and friends even after our move.
What will your family miss most about Texas?
Ha – we will miss everything about Texas! For the last several years, our family has gone camping somewhere in Texas about once a month. We had a little travel trailer and we would plan weekend trips to a new state park as often as we could. We all loved it and we will miss that time dearly. We also have so many traditions here with family and friends and we will surely miss those times as well. We will miss our church home here in Montgomery and serving with so many great people. Oh, and we will miss the food – primarily great Tex-Mex and Whataburger! And Blue Bell ice cream!
Have you found a new school for your daughters and how are they feeling about learning alongside new friends in a new country?
Yes, we have found an international school in Kampala that our girls will attend. We are very excited about the school and the girls are too. Obviously, they will be anxious about starting a new school and making new friends, but they understand they will get to make connections with kids from all over the world. Kimberly spent some time in an international school in Thailand growing up, and she has shared so many great experiences and connections she made during her time there. We know this will be a very rich experience for the girls and their perspectives on cultures and life outside of American will be forever changes and impacted.
We are very excited about the opportunities our daughters will have during this adventure. Fortunately, over the last several years, we have been very intentional in talking with them about the great needs of those throughout the world. We have been very open with them about the possibility that our family could move there and serve full time. So, when we broke the news, they actually weren’t too surprised. Since then, we have been sharing information with them and being totally honest about what is to come – the good and the not so good. Our hope is that through this experience, they will develop a deeper world view and understanding that there is so much more to life than chasing the American dream. We hope they grow up to be world changers of their own.
It’s obvious you and your wife have a passion for justice and to serve others as well as to instill a similar passion in your daughters. What led you to anti-trafficking work in the beginning?
As a state prosecutor in Texas, I have always had a deep desire to bring justice for the most vulnerable of victims. In the last five years or so, my work in child abuse and exploitation exposed me to the darkness that is human trafficking and the extreme trauma that these victims experience. I realized that trafficking survivors need a zealous advocate on their side – someone who is willing to fight hard and remain aggressive against the traffickers. I find the fight and the relentless pursuit of justice for these victims to be a higher calling and exceptional honor.
What surprised you most about this type of work?
Having worked with all types of victims of crime, I was and remain surprised at just how traumatic being trafficked and exploited is for the survivor. I had to readjust my approach to working with this victim population and find ways to be more effective from a prosecution perspective. I learned that after experiencing trafficking, survivors need a wide range for services to begin to heal and start the long journey of recovery. Consequently, prosecutors and law enforcement investigators must work with service providers and non-governmental groups to get the help that victims need. It truly takes a multi-disciplinary team approach in these human trafficking cases. I also was surprised at how brazen and committed the traffickers themselves are to their work. If police and prosecutors are not aggressively pursuing them, they will just keep going, replacing one victim with another.
What gives you hope to continue working in this field?
I am hopeful because I have seen firsthand the positive results of effective trafficking investigations and prosecutions. When law enforcement is engaged in this fight and prosecutors are aggressive in going after traffickers, they are getting to the root of the problem. But without effective enforcement of existing laws, traffickers will continue to prey on the most vulnerable. Our hope comes from knowing how to be successful and pursuing those ends at all cost.
What led you to apply for and accept this position with the Human Trafficking Institute?
In 2018, I was on a mission trip in Uganda with an organization called Rescue Hope. While in Uganda, I was introduced to a young lady who worked in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I mentioned I was a prosecutor, and we began talking about the ongoing anti-trafficking work the ODPP was engaged in throughout Uganda, including their partnership with the Institute. Upon my return to the United States, she connected me with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Justice Mike Chibita, who suggested I pursue future opportunities with the Institute. When the Special Counsel in Uganda position came open several months later, I knew it was an exceptional opportunity to fight trafficking on a global scale. The Institute team has already laid such an amazing foundation in Uganda, it was an easy decision to join them in their mission there.
Why is it important for you to work within the country of Uganda rather than from the U.S.?
To be successful day to day in the big and small things, you have to be on the ground and co-located with those doing the work. It would be very hard to build relationships and identify the barriers to successful prosecution of human trafficking cases while working from the United States. I will be most effective and the most help to Ugandan prosecutors and law enforcement officers by being available in person consistently so that we can successfully work together. To fully understand the Ugandan criminal justice system or any system for that matter, I think it is essential to immerse yourself in the country – to fully appreciate the culture, relationships, laws, and procedures. The idea here is to develop the Ugandan personnel with effective skills so the best practices can continue long after the Institute team has a presence in Uganda.
What excites you most about working in Uganda?
From a work perspective, I think I am most excited about the many opportunities for success in Uganda. It is always exciting to be a part of something from the ground up. While there are still many barriers and obstacles in Uganda, there is also a great deal of momentum and collaboration occurring. I think the opportunities for the prosecutors and law enforcement officials to see the success of their hard work will really start to push the ball forward. Of course, just getting to do the work I love to do in another country is really exciting.
Personally, Kimberly and I are excited about living and getting to know life outside of America. Uganda is a beautiful country and there is so much to see and do. We are excited to see this part of the world and potentially travel to other nearby areas. We know there will be many non-work related opportunities to serve others and simply enjoy a new way of life and therefore, my wife and I have found great peace and joy in going.