Meet Nessa. She is a sex trafficking survivor.
Nessa grew up with nine siblings on a tropical island in the Philippines.
After her father died, she dropped out of school and began looking for work.
When two acquaintances offered her a promising job at a restaurant, she jumped at the chance to help support her family.
But Nessa soon discovered she had been lied to.
Instead of earning a living as a waitress, she and several other girls found themselves trapped at a brothel.
At 16 years old, Nessa was trafficked and forced to sell her body to strange men who paid to exploit her.
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"I was treated like a dog, like a puppy who is being trained and manipulated to do as the master says” Nessa remembers "I was a slave. These men, our ‘guests’ could take whatever they wanted from me.”
After four months of fear and constant abuse, the police knocked on the brothel door and changed Nessa’s life forever.
"Finally”, she recalls thinking to herself, "this is the time we will be rescued from this darkness.”
IJM helped Philippine police rescue Nessa and eight other young women from brothel.
Though Nessa was finally free, her world soon grew dark in a different way. A biological condition caused Nessa to lose her sight completely.
She was blind.
IJM’s social workers rallied around her and found a private aftercare home where she could get the care she needed and find hope again.
Eight years after the rescue, Nessa bravely testified in the trial against the brothel owner and managers who kept her captive.
This past spring, the brothel owner pled guilty to two separate charges and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Nessa’s story of change mirrors a beautiful transformation taking place across her country.
The Philippines’ first anti-trafficking law was only passed in 2003, but the country’s justice system has become a hopeful model of change.