IJM first saw 7-year-old Maarko when his photo was uncovered by investigators on a computer located halfway around the world. While searching through evidence seized during the arrest of a 73-year-old man, they found multiple images of Maarko amongst a total of 4000.
Maarko had a little sister, Gabi*, who was 2 years old. They were not allowed to have contact and play with the other children in the neighbourhood.
Instead, they were forced to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam.
Home was not safe and Maarko envisioned being Superman so that he could protect his sister from the baddies. The baddies on the webcam who were demanding and paying for their sexual abuse.
These baddies were, in fact, western paedophiles, purchasing the abuse for their own sexual gratification. All for as little as $20AUD.
Maarko and Gabi desperately wanted to be birds so they could fly away.
Finally, on a rainy morning, six months after finding the abuse images, IJM and local law enforcement rescued Maarko and his sister, along with others. They entered three homes simultaneously, making arrests, collecting evidence and removing the children identified from those original grainy images found on the other side of the world. Maarko was not only told that he was now safe, but that he was a superhero for being so brave.
The truth is that what happened to Maarko – and continues to happen to thousands of children – isn’t a problem ‘on the other side of the world’.
In fact, Australia is among the major offending countries.
This just brings slavery right onto our shores. It is Australian perpetrators committing the crime of cybersex trafficking. They don’t even have to leave the comfort of their homes to be able to exploit children like Maarko.