THE girls didn’t know.”
Three teenage girls did not know they were being sold for sex before their rescue in an anti-sex trafficking operation on Dec. 11, reported Rebelander S. Basilan in Sun.Star Cebu’s Dec. 13 report.
Two of the girls are aged 17; they came from the towns of Compostela and Consolacion in the north. The 14-year-old is from Mandaue City.
According to an official of the Women and Child Protection Desk, the 17-year-olds were picked up by a man from a club in Mandaue City. The same man picked up the 14-year-old from the Mandaue plaza.
The girls thought the man, who would later pimp them to three police decoys in a bar in Lapu-Lapu City, was bringing them to a dance party.
Changes in mores and lifestyles increase the risks of falling victim to not just the modern-day slavery of sex trafficking but also rape and other forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.
For instance, from newspaper reports of recent rapes emerge a pattern of the victim encountering the perpetrator while drinking alone, with friends or with strangers in a park, mall or other public establishments in the city.
The dangers lurking on the streets are nothing compared to those in the Internet.
Prior to the Dec. 11 anti-sex trafficking operation, the suspect was under police surveillance for one to two months, reported Sun.Star Cebu. During the entrapment operation, the suspect received a text message around 7 p.m. The “buyer” expressed interest in procuring three girls for the night.
Between 7 p.m., when the text message was read by the suspect, to shortly before 10 p.m., when the suspect was arrested by operatives, it took only three hours for the suspect to cruise around and pick up the three teenagers he attempted to traffic.
The parents of the minors showed up a day after the entrapment operation. Despite their best intentions, parents may not be around to shield their children. In the cybersex dens of Cordova, parents, grandparents and guardians were involved in exploiting the minors.
Using the social media, a group conducted an experiment to show how vulnerable teens were to online predators. Posing as an attractive young man, the group befriended female students, who later consented to meet up. Each student boarded a private car she thought would be driven by the friend, only to meet inside her parents.
According to a mother of a 12-year-old, hearing about the social media experiment anecdotes traumatized her but also convinced her to discuss with her daughter about the risks lurking on the Internet.
A budding digital artist who shares her works on Facebook and gets validated by the likes and shares from friends, the 12-year-old used her presence of mind and digital literacy to contact her mother online when a gang rang her at home and instructed her to bring money and valuables to a specific place as her mother met an accident.
Through Facebook chatting, the young girl verified that her mother was safe and that she had to cut the call with the strangers that were trying to dupe her.
Awareness and education
Looking back at that incident and the social media experiment, the mother of the 12-year-old said that it was important to equip one’s children with the maturity to discern how to fend for themselves, especially in the absence of parents and other responsible adults.
“Anyone can become a victim,” she said, pointing out that in the two cases she cited, the youths were still vulnerable despite being educated and grounded in traditional values by families, school and church.
“It is crucial (to) work towards increasing education and knowledge,” said Dr. Saisuree Chutikul of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking.
According to the www.unodc.org, Chutikul emphasized the special stake of citizens in the campaign against human trafficking and related social ills, such as gender-based violence.
While he recognizes the “ultimate responsibility” of governments to protect the public, he said that citizens should focus on raising awareness and distributing information to enable the vulnerable to resist and fight trafficking and other forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination from day-to-day.
Through these two crucial means—education and practices—victimization and re-victimization may be put to end.