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Meet Azalea*: A story of courage, struggle and relentless hope


Meet Azalea*: A story of courage, struggle and relentless hope

Stand alongside survivors like Azalea this Christmas and give hope to children trapped in abuse. Give this Christmas to stop child trafficking and abuse.

Family has always been important to Azalea.

In fact, it was her desire to help her younger sister that trapped her in online sexual exploitation when she was 14 years old.

When Azalea’s younger sister became ill, her neighbour offered to give her money for medicine.

The offer seemed like a godsend – until Azalea realised she’d been tricked and would be forced to do sickening things for sex offenders around the world to watch online.

“I believe this is a crime worse than murder,” Azalea says.

“You will live with the trauma for the rest of your life.”

Western men didn’t just watch Azalea’s abuse online. One American man even travelled to the Philippines to abuse her in person. Azalea remembers her neighbour’s children being forced to watch.

Azalea lost the rest of her teenage years to sexual abuse. She dropped out of school and didn’t feel able to tell her beloved family what was happening to her.

“This is probably one of the [most] challenging cases, with a heartbreaking story...

"Azalea was abused for one of the longest periods and she was also involved in the worst form of sexual abuse and live streaming I’ve heard.” – Jessa, IJM social worker

After six years of abuse, IJM supported a police operation to bring Azalea and four other victims to safety – including the perpetrator’s children.

“I was happy that my abuser was arrested, and that she wouldn’t be able to call me to do those things anymore,” Azalea recalls.

Azalea was brought to the safety of a shelter, and received vital aftercare and legal support from IJM.

But Azalea faced intimidating threats from the accused perpetrator’s friends, who tried to pay her to retract her statement.

“The witness tampering in this case caused Azalea serious anxiety, fear for her life and her family’s safety.” – Kathleen, IJM lawyer

Azalea urgently needed protection. IJM helped relocate her to a different house and get a restraining order.

Courageously, despite threats to her safety, Azalea still wanted to testify against the perpetrator.

“I wanted to tell the judge that this is the person who did shameful things to me. I wanted to tell the judge that I needed justice,” Azalea said.

Although the trial is ongoing and Azalea is still waiting for her neighbour to be convicted, in a victory for justice, the American man who abused her was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In 2021, Azalea also received compensation from the US Department of Justice.

Today, Azalea is bravely choosing to speak out against online sexual exploitation of children because she is determined that other children should not face what she did.

“It is amazing how a once seemingly defeated and frightened girl can now stand before the world and tell her story.” – Kathleen Piccio-Labay, IJM lawyer

Now a mother to two little girls herself, Azalea says: “I do not want them to experience what I experienced.

“I want to tell those from the UK that I hope they’re able to help us. Because it’s really heartbreaking to know that there are children who have not been removed from this type of crime.

“I will continue to speak for the sake of other children and women – for their abuse to stop.”

1 in 100 children like Azalea in the Philippines was abused to create new child sexual exploitation materials in 2022.

Your support to stop child trafficking and abuse this Christmas is more urgent than ever.

We've used photos of actors to depict Azalea's story. But this photo, taken in October 2023 with Azalea’s permission, shows Azalea today.


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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.

“I want to let others know how I endured my past.” - Zoey's story

Zoey* overcame child trafficking and abuse. Today, she's passionate about sharing her story to help protect more children.

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