MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – When Marisol* first made the long drive from Manila to the provincial town nearly 80 miles from her home, she thought she was on her way to a better life. The 17-year-old girl was going to be a domestic helper, a chance to make a living and gain independence from the poverty that defined her young life.
But when Marisol arrived at the new house, the woman who had offered her the job as a maid turned on her. Almost immediately, the woman's live-in boyfriend sexually assaulted Marisol, and the couple threatened her life if she ever told anyone. Worse, they told Marisol that she now had to recruit a friend, who would be subjected to the same abuse.
Marisol was distraught, but she was also determined to get help. The same woman took her back to her hometown, where Marisol told a local NGO what had happened to her. The NGO called IJM for advice on how to proceed. Right away, IJM contacted the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, and the anti-trafficking police unit initiated a plan to rescue Marisol – and stop the traffickers from hurting girls like her.
An undercover police officer posed as Marisol's friend, and soon the pair was on their way back to the abusive house, escorted by the unsuspecting trafficker. A second police vehicle with IJM staff and social workers from the other NGO trailed closely behind. Heavy rains delayed the journey, but after five hours they arrived back at the house. The man who intended to harm Marisol's friend in the same way he had abused her was waiting. But soon, NBI police agents arrested both him and his girlfriend who had escorted the young women. Both suspects are now facing charges of trafficking and rape.
Marisol was escorted to another home, this time a safe and loving shelter for trafficking survivors. She will receive crisis care and vocational opportunities that will allow her to lead the independent life she desires.
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.