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Two operations rescue six girls from Dominican bars

In December 2020, Dominican police spearheaded two rescue operations with IJM’s support. Public justice officials proactively and successfully rescued six girls who are now safe and free and arrested three suspects.

Just before sunset on 13 and 19 December, Dominican officials, supported by IJM, rescued six young girls, ages ranging from 12 to 17 years old. Two men and a woman were arrested for sexually exploiting these children in the northern region of the country.

The survivors were removed from two bars and were found in terrible sanitary conditions: overcrowded and unclean spaces, without essentials to protect them from the current pandemic or other health threats. Immediately after the rescue operation, the six survivors were taken to a safe home run by the Dominican Child Welfare (CONANI) to provide immediate crisis care and evaluate the next steps for their safety.

The three suspects were denied bail. They remain under government custody until the trial ends and will be prosecuted for the crimes of commercial sexual exploitation.

In the Dominican Republic, commercial sexual exploitation is a crime in which an adult uses physical force, lies, or emotional incentives to sexually abuse a child, and payment—in cash or in-kind—is given to a third party or to the child.

“Commercial sexual exploitation is not only a crime; it is a harmful act that has severe consequences on the survivors’ lives,” said Luz del Alba Antonio, IJM Network Development Coordinator and aftercare specialist who was present at one of the rescue locations.

She explained, “If survivors do not receive the care they need to heal, it could lead to low self-esteem, loss of identity, feelings of shame and guilt, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, vulnerability to addiction to drugs and prohibited substances, vulnerability to other forms of violence.”

IJM will represent the survivors in court and is working alongside them to develop a personalised therapy plan to support their restoration process and help them heal from trauma.

IJM applauds the proactive and coordinated response of the Dominican officials, led by the Department of Human Trafficking, the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office against the Smuggling of Migrants and Human Trafficking, and CONANI (Dominican Child Welfare Agency), who continue working to bring rescue and protection to children.

Read about the January 2020 legislative reform in the Dominican Republic, banning child marriage.

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