Operation Frees Six Venezuelan Women from Sex Trafficking in the DR

Author: International Justice Mission

Category: News

Operation Frees Six Venezuelan Women from Sex Trafficking in the DR

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 25 June 2018

In an expertly executed rescue operation last Friday, anti-trafficking officials in the Dominican Republic have freed six young Venezuelan women from sex trafficking and arrested two suspects who allegedly abused and exploited them.

Now free from oppressive control and sexual abuse, one survivor shared simply, “I’m relieved I don’t have to be with those men again.”

This case was led by a trained anti-trafficking unit of the Attorney General’s office, after receiving tips from a customer and four additional victims who had escaped the brothel. IJM attorneys were on hand during the rescue on 22 June to provide legal advice, and our social workers came to support the women in their first moments of freedom.

The six survivors shared that they had been recruited by the alleged trafficker while they were still in Venezuela. He promised them good jobs and paid for their flights to the Dominican Republic, but then confiscated their passports and told each woman she would have to pay off a $1,400 debt by doing sex work.

The women were then forced to live and work in a small, second-floor apartment above a busy convenience store and bar. Customers would pay to abuse them in the apartment or take them to nearby hotels for sex.

Every time a woman was sent with a customer, half of the profits went to repay their false debts and half went to support “the business.” If the women didn’t serve enough clients or in any way misbehaved, the trafficker would add penalties to their debt and threaten them with violence. Some women even allege they were forced to have abortions by the brothel manager.

“The testimonies of the victims were very strong,” says IJM lawyer Raysi Marte. “Each of them talked about the impact, how painful it was to be in that place where they were mistreated. It was a joy for us to be part of rescuing those lives that were being oppressed.”

Going forward, IJM will support public prosecutors in the legal case against the alleged trafficker and the brothel manager. IJM has also helped the survivors move to a temporary safe house as we work with the government on their long-term aftercare plan.