15 November 2017
One little girl was hidden behind a door. Another was riding her bike in the neighbourhood. Another was at a Girl Scouts meeting. But IJM and Philippine authorities found them all, bringing nine children total to safety. Ranging from 2 to 9 years old, the girls and boys had been victims of cybersex trafficking.
The investigation began with a tip from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They had uncovered a case of cybersex trafficking, involving a Canadian man who would apparently pay a woman in the Philippines to direct and view live-streamed sexual abuse of young children.
Thanks to a new grant from the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office that expands IJM’s project area to include remote cybersex trafficking hotspots, the team was able to support the Visayas Unit of the Philippine Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC). They built a case using online techniques, then travelled by car and ferry a few hundred kilometres to rescue the children.
On Friday 10 November, police caught the suspect in a sting operation as she offered to exploit her 8-year-old daughter. She had also described other forms of sexual abuse that foreign customers could pay to watch, saying she could get children of “any age.”
“This was a family business. The suspect deserves to go to jail for what she did,” said Colonel Romeo Perigo, of the WCPC Visayas Field Unit.
IJM and government social workers were on site to escort the children safely to vans, offering them brightly-coloured scarves to shield them from neighbours and onlookers. Survivors of cybersex trafficking need targeted therapy and a safe place to recover and rebuild trust, particularly in cases like this one where the criminal was mother or aunt to most of the victims.
The suspect was arrested and will face trafficking charges that could carry a lifetime prison sentence.
Australian politicians are taking action to protect children from cybersex trafficking and violence around the world, with tough new laws being considered by federal parliament. Tell them this issue matters to you and that you're grateful for their initiative by signing IJM's giant THANK YOU card.
International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.Find out more