CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – 14-year-old Raina* was hiding in the bathroom, begging the school staff to let her stay. Her mother and step-father were there to pick her up, but she didn't want to go.
She said she was afraid to go home because she didn't want to be sold to men for sex – like her older sister.
The school called for help, and soon local anti-trafficking police and government social workers were on their way. IJM Cebu got a call from the police with the heart-breaking case. The authorities worked together to find Raina's sisters and take the girls to HerSpace, a temporary shelter for trafficking victims where they can answer questions in a safe and comfortable environment, while receiving crisis care to meet their physical and emotional needs. IJM social workers made sure that Raina and her sisters, 4 and 15 years old, had food and toiletries, plus books and someone to talk to while they waited.
The sisters said that their family has been living on the streets, and added that their parents are drug addicts. The 15-year-old said she recently dropped out of school and started trying drugs too because "everything is so hard."
The girls called their grandmother, with whom Raina had been living on and off. Her grandmother came to HerSpace and told the police that she too was suspicious of Raina's parents. She left the sisters in the care of the social workers, believing it to be the safest and best option for now.
"A mother trafficking her own children by offering them to customers for sex in exchange for money is one of the most painful and depressing cases I've ever encountered," said one of IJM's lawyers. IJM has offered legal services to support the sisters and make sure justice is secured.
For now, the girls are safe in a shelter, and in the coming days IJM will work with the government to help the sisters find a permanent home where they can grow up free from fear.
*Pseudonyms have been used for the proection of these IJM clients.