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Crystal: a shining example of hope after trafficking and abuse

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Crystal: a shining example of hope after trafficking and abuse

Hope is infectious. Four years ago, Crystal* found hope when she was brought to safety from online sexual exploitation, alongside 10 other children. Today, with support from IJM and people like you, Crystal is advocating to stop this crime and giving hope to more children trapped in abuse.

Crystal is the eldest of three siblings, living in the Philippines.

Growing up, her mother, a high school graduate, operated a little store off their house. Her father worked on construction jobs.

The family was comfortable – Crystal and her little brothers had enough to eat and were able to study in a decent school.

That’s why what happened next came as such a shock. Crystal never imagined what her mother was prepared to do for money.

Influenced by other traffickers in their community, Crystal’s mother took a photo from her 17-year-old daughter’s social media account.

Using the photo to entice men online, she abused Crystal for sex offenders around the world to direct and livestream.

After months of online sexual exploitation, authorities received a tip-off about Crystal’s mother.

In back-to-back operations, Crystal’s mother and four other local women were arrested.

Eleven children were brought to safety that day, including Crystal.

“At that time, instead of being able to manage my own feelings, I needed to comfort the other children who were rescued with me – my cousins and neighbours who were younger than me,” Crystal recalled.

The Philippine National Police, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, brought Crystal to a shelter, where she was able to begin processing what her mother had done.

“I began to wonder what if my rescue had come later.

"We know of human greed, especially when they see that you can earn money in this scheme. And if her greed grew and grew, she might be doing something worse and more harmful – if not with me, maybe with others.”

Crystal received vital aftercare services from IJM and partners. She stayed in shelters where, with the support of social workers and house parents, she felt able to move forward and continue her education.

Crystal also found friends – some of whom were members of the Philippine Survivor Network, a group of survivors who support one another while advocating for better protection for children.

Crystal decided to join the group:

“As a part of the Philippine Survivor Network, I hope that I will be able to influence and advise more fellow survivors.”

With IJM’s legal support, Crystal’s mother was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

Crystal has since grown into a confident young woman who dreams of finishing college:

“The Crystal from the past was quiet and very dependent on her parents. She would not come out of her shell.

"Now, I’m able to speak in public and have acquired new skills. I’m more confident to face others. I think that the changes in my life are huge,” Crystal described.

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