On June 25, the Dominican National Police’s Anti-Trafficking Department, in coordination with the Anti-Trafficking Specialized Prosecutor Office, rescued a 14-year-old Dominican girl from sexual exploitation. This rescue was possible thanks to a local church, which IJM previously trained to recognize this crime within their community, that put its training into action.
A teacher visited the minor’s home to follow up on schoolwork in the midst of the quarantine but was told by the minor’s mother that she was no longer in the house because she was now married. The teacher reached out to the principal, who happened to be a pastor of a local church IJM has trained and partners with. The church leader knew something was wrong and called IJM for help as they suspected the 14-year old was in danger. IJM immediately filed a complaint with the National Police and they went to the rescue. The teenager was living under the control of a 58-year-old man. She had been forced into enslavement in a situation of marital union, in the south of the Caribbean island.
Officials entered the house at 11:15 p.m. and confirmed a flagrant crime of sexual aggression. They rescued the teenager and arrested the 58-year old man, who tried to escape when he realized the presence of law enforcement authorities, but was restrained in time.
‘‘Immediately after receiving the complaint; we went in search of the suspect” said Francia Hernández, Commander of the National Police’s Anti-Trafficking Department. “The work that IJM does is very useful for us” added Hernández as she highlighted the importance of collaborating with IJM to identify cases of sex trafficking across the country.
In Latin America, millions of girls under 18 years old are forced into child marriage. According to the latest State of The World Population Report from UNFPA, “Globally, one in every five girls is married, or in union, before reaching age 18." Often, this is the beginning of a life of exploitation.
IJM is grateful for local partners like this congregation that decided to speak up to bring freedom to this young teenager by reporting her case. IJM also applauds the swift response of local authorities who arrested the alleged aggressor and rescued the 14-year old - who has been placed in a government-run temporary safe home to ensure her safety. IJM will continue to support local authorities to bring an end to sex trafficking of minors in the country and is advocating for the Dominican National Court to declare child marriage unconstitutional.