A young girl in the Philippines is celebrating more than her latest birthday this past week. On December 5, the day before her 6th birthday, she and four other children had been living in abusive conditions at their home in Cebu when they were rescued from cybersex trafficking. IJM staff collaborated with officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Filipino authorities to help find and free children from the abusive home.
Customers Around the World Could Abuse Children in This Home
Cybersex trafficking occurs when someone online—in this case, an American—pays to stream live videos and abusive images of children being forced to perform sexual acts. This latest case typifies the hidden and reprehensible nature of the crime. The abuse wasn’t happening at a bar or business—instead, it took place at home in a small, tightknit community, perpetuated by family members.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security traced the abuse to the Philippines, and authorities asked IJM to assist with the complex operation to rescue the children.
As authorities emerged from the house, they noticed one child among bystanders gathering outside the home, from photos they had earlier reviewed as evidence.
Two suspects have been arrested, and IJM will support public prosecutors with the case of online sexual exploitation.
“There will be no let up in our campaign against human trafficking. This is a very serious offense with harsh penalties. It destroys people and has a long-term effect on children,” National Bureau of Investigations Assistant Director Augusto Isidoro told a local paper, emphasizing his unit’s commitment to stamping out this growing crime of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Special Care Needed for Young Victims
The children cried from being confused and scared. IJM staff was on hand to provide comfort and clearly explain what was happening.
“It was not easy to remove [them] from their families, knowing that the victims and suspects’ family are related,” said IJM social worker Margie Infante.
That weekend, social workers tended to the children at a short-term children's home designed for trafficking survivors. Margie and the aftercare team will assess each child's unique physical and psychosocial needs, then help find a long-term aftercare home where they can start to heal.
The youngest victim turned 6 years old on December 6. She sat around a birthday cake and blew out the candles, knowing that she is now safe to enjoy her childhood. The story of freedom is just beginning for her and the other survivors.