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Zoey's Story

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Zoey trusted her sisters. Then, they lured her into online sexual exploitation.

You can help rescue and restore children trapped in online sexual exploitation—and prevent it from happening again in the future.

Zoey grew up in the Philippines surrounded by her parents’ love.

Though they struggled financially, they worked hard to ensure Zoey and her nine siblings had everything they needed. To this day, she’s still thankful for everything they did for their family.

But despite her parents’ unwavering love…

When she was only eight years old, four of her older sisters—sisters she trusted—lured her into online sexual exploitation.

It’s the all-too-common truth: traffickers are often relatives or people known to the victim. The people who are supposed to be loving and protecting children are the ones manipulating and abusing them.

The abuse of Zoey was directed and watched online by a perpetrator in Sweden, all while her sisters carried it out at home. The abuse and exploitation continued over and over again for four more years.

But in 2010, Swedish authorities found and arrested the perpetrator for possession of child sexual exploitation materials, conspiracy to rape children and incitement to commit aggravated rape.

It turned out the man had been working with multiple abusers in the Philippines including Zoey’s sisters.

The perpetrator’s conviction set Zoey’s rescue and healing in motion.

“My being rescued is really unexpected,” reflects Zoey. “It was the turning point of my life. When that happened, everything had a huge change. I wasn’t expecting this to be a part of my life.”

Ijmca zoey

She was brought to an aftercare shelter to keep her safe while moving forward in the legal process. This also meant she could receive professional aftercare services.

Like many children and young people like her, healing wasn’t easy for Zoey. It wasn’t second nature.

But Zoey worked hard with IJM staff, legal professionals and psychologists to gain confidence.

“Little by little, as I spent longer time at the shelter, I started to see signs that I had more potential in me, that other people were seeing and pointing out to me. That boosted my confidence.”

After a year and two months, Zoey was able to return home to her parents and her friends.

“After leaving the shelter to return to my home, what helped me were those people who were not ashamed of me, of what happened to me. That circle of friends who still treated me as a friend. They did not judge me based on what I went through.”

Now, Zoey uses her story to fight for other children and young people like her. She recently joined the Philippine Survivor Network, and on May 25, 2022, Zoey stood up in front of local legislators in the Philippines. She shared her story and why it pushes her to fight for children like her. She said:

“We need the help of lawmakers like you to ensure the safety, protection and welfare of every Filipino child.

I hope that we continue to move this forward—for their sake, for our sake.

I, they, are the reasons why you—we—are here… We are here so that no child will ever have to ask themselves ‘Why? Why does such a thing exist?’”

Can you join Zoey in this fight?

She bravely stood up before local legislators to fight for children’s protection and safety. Will you bravely join her today with a gift to rescue and restore even more children like her?

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