Karla* celebrated her 13th birthday on March 10 with a cake and candles, beginning her teenage years in freedom.
Just a day earlier, IJM and the Public Ministry had helped place Karla and two other girls under 18 years old in protective care at a government shelter, to begin their journey of restoration after being sold for sexual exploitation.
Karla was rescued with her older sister, along with 11-year-old Alania*, the youngest of the three. Alania was visibly nervous and tense during an interview with a psychologist, revealing details of a broken family that has not been able to support her. Extreme poverty can be a driver for sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic, and it makes enforcing the law all the more important. Criminals will brazenly exploit vulnerable girls and women until they start to fear real, legal consequences.
On March 8, IJM helped Dominican police arrest the suspect, who will be charged with human trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. IJM had assisted law enforcement in the undercover investigation that confirmed he was indeed selling girls to customers for sexual exploitation. IJM will help to ensure that the case moves forward and ultimately reaches trial.
IJM’s Director of Aftercare Daisy Nunez noted that the local prosecutors were mindful of the young ages of the victims and assured the girls that they were not in trouble. Karla and her sister’s mother and Alania’s aunt came to the government office where they were being interviewed, and the local prosecutors included them in the process, building rapport that made it easier for the families to send the girls to a shelter where they can receive crisis care.
“We are grateful to work with our government partners to place sex trafficking survivors in a safe place where they can receive the services they need to heal and recover from trauma,” affirmed Daisy, “and we appreciate in this case the support of family members who will form part of the girls’ restoration.”