On Tuesday, the Associated Press released an in-depth report on the horrifying proliferation of child cybersex trafficking in countries around the globe. The piece begins by detailing a recent bust in the Philippines involving Illinois native David Timothy Deakin, a suspected pedophile who is currently facing charges of cybercrime, child pornography, child abuse, and child trafficking.
The majority of these cases take place in the Philippines, “where good English speakers, increased internet connections and widespread international cash transfer systems combine with widespread poverty and easy access to vulnerable kids,” the report states, adding that victims’ ages range from 2 months to 12 years.
Cyber trafficking and online sex tourism are relatively new crimes, the AP notes. Because of this, authorities often struggle with how to prosecute perpetrators.
International Justice Mission, a D.C.-based Christian nonprofit, is helping lead the effort to end child cybersex trafficking in the country by supplying local law enforcement with investigators and attorneys.
— Gary Haugen (@garyhaugen) May 9, 2017
“It’s not just a virtual crime. It is an actual crime,” human rights attorney Sam Inocencio, who heads IJM’s Philippines office, told the AP. “Online sexual exploitation is possibly the most evil thing that I’ve seen.”
In the Philippines, cybersex trafficking falls into the same criminal category as non-virtual human trafficking. In 2015, five people in the Philippines were convicted of online child sex trafficking, the report notes.
Dolores Rubia, who runs aftercare programs for rescued girls through IJM, told the AP that parents and relatives often look to online exploitation for additional income. She explained that even though it is abuse, some consider it harmless because “they think children don’t mind taking off their clothes.”
“It’s a myth for some of them, that nothing is wrong,” Rubia said. “That anyway, these children are not physically touched and the perpetrators are actually overseas.”
Organizations like IJM caution against the evil of such harmful abstractions.
The AP report claims that the rapid spike in online trafficking can be attributed to the widespread accessibility of new digital technology, such as smartphones, live streaming, and anonymous online money transfer services. The United Nations says this has led to an “alarming growth of new forms of child sexual exploitation online.”
According to the FBI, 750,000 child predators are online at any given moment.
The attorneys, researchers, and field workers at IJM are committed to reducing these numbers. According to the organization’s website, this passion to fight injustice stems from the eternal truth that God cares for the abused and marginalized:
Inspired by God’s call to love all people and to seek justice for the oppressed, we protect the poor from violence without regard to religion, race, or any other factor. We seek to partner with all people of goodwill.
Learn more about the work IJM is doing to help victims of injustice around the world by clicking here.