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Survivor of Cybersex Trafficking Celebrates 6th Birthday in Freedom

CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – A little girl celebrated freedom on her 6th birthday just a few weeks ago. One day prior, she and four other children (including two others under age 10) had been rescued from cybersex trafficking. IJM and other authorities had freed them from a horrific home of abuse.

Customers Around the World Could Abuse Children in This Home

Cybersex trafficking happens like this: Customers, in this case Americans, pay to stream live videos and abusive images of children being forced to perform sexual acts. This case typifies the hidden and reprehensible nature of the crime. The abuse wasn’t happening at a bar or business—instead, it took place in a home in a small, tight-knit community, perpetuated by family members.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security traced the abuse to the Philippines, and the anti-trafficking unit of the National Bureau of Investigation asked IJM to assist with the complex operation to rescue the children.

On December 5, a team of IJM and Filipino authorities rescued children from this home. Additionally, authorities noticed one child among bystanders gathering outside the home, from photos they had earlier reviewed as evidence.

Two suspects were arrested and IJM will support public prosecutors with the case of online sexual exploitation.

"There will be no let up in our campaign against human trafficking. This is a very serious offense with harsh penalties. It destroys people and has a long-term effect on children,” National Bureau of Investigations Assistant Director Augusto Isidoro told a local paper, emphasizing his unit’s commitment to stamping out this growing crime of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Special Care Needed for Young Victims

The children screamed and cried from being confused and scared. IJM staff was on hand to provide comfort and clearly explain what was happening. "It was not easy to remove [them] from their families, knowing that the victims and suspects’ family are related,” said IJM social worker Margie Infante.

That weekend, social workers tended to the children at a short-term care facility designed for trafficking survivors. Margie and the aftercare team will assess each child's unique physical and psychosocial needs, then help find a long-term aftercare home where they can start to heal.

The youngest victim turned 6 years old on December 6. She sat around a birthday cake and blew out the candles, knowing that she is now safe to enjoy her childhood. The story of freedom is just beginning for her and the other survivors.

Posted on December 21, 2015

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