Cybersex Trafficking and Covid-19

November 4, 2020

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, cybersex trafficking has spiked in the Philippines.

Between March and May of this year, the Philippines government recorded hundreds of thousands of cases of online sex abuse. Cybersex trafficking tips to the Philippine Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime increased 264% from the same period last year.

Cybersex trafficking, or online sexual exploitation, is a form of modern slavery and victimizes thousands of innocent young women and children in the Philippines. Cybersex traffickers use coercion, force, or fraud to lure, manipulate, and exploit victims using digital media and then stream that footage to predators the world over using the internet.

The Philippines is the “epicentre of the online sexual abuse trade.”

– UNICEF

Before the pandemic struck, the Philippines was already the “epicentre of the online sexual abuse trade” according to UNICEF. 

“Even before COVID-19 hit the Philippines, we were seeing an increase in cybersex trafficking survivors enter our program,” says Jonna Eleccion, Country Director for 10ThousandWindows Philippines.

Now, it’s getting worse as the pandemic escalates the crime

“Right now, the number of cases of cybersex trafficking of children and young women are growing because of lockdowns and quarantines.” – Jonna Eleccion, 10ThousandWindows

This threat and danger to young women and children’s safety and well-being is heightened during the Covid-19 crisis. As families lose jobs and income, they are prime targets for online predators who would exploit them with the promise of quick and ‘easy’ money.

As cybersex trafficking increases, so will the trauma inflicted on victims. Digital media can continue to circulate and recirculate for months and years, accessed again and again by predators. Without closure, it can be very challenging for a victim of traumatic sexual exploitation to overcome their history of abuse and live a safe, free, and hopeful life.

10ThousandWindows’ response to Cybersex Trafficking and Covid-19

To mitigate the COVID-19 crisis’s economic impact on trafficking survivors, 10ThousandWindows initiated an emergency response within weeks of the pandemic rearing its ugly head. This response included counseling trafficking survivors by phone, providing virtual education support, and offering emergency cash transfers for those who lost their jobs due to economic shutdowns.

This urgent care ensured survivors’ basic needs were met and that they didn’t have to turn to risky, dangerous work, or put themselves in harm’s way online, to feed their themselves or their children.

As the economic fallout of the pandemic wears on, so does the continued threat of cybersex trafficking.

How we address cybersex trafficking in the Philippines:

1. Restore and empower survivors.

10ThousandWindows works to restore the lives of cybersex trafficking survivors through counseling and empowerment services so they can live safe, free, and hopeful lives free of exploitation and abuse. Restored, empowered, and resilient survivors are free from slavery and break the cycle of exploitation in their own lives and for generations to come.

2. Educate and Train.

By June of 2020, 10ThousandWindows moved its education program online to provide critical academic support and tutoring for trafficking survivors during the pandemic. Because of this, cybersex trafficking survivors are actively working towards completing their high school diplomas, a prerequisite for minimum wage work in the Philippines. They are also engaging their minds online, avoiding boredom, and working towards their future dreams, instead of mindlessly scrolling the internet and at risk of grooming by predators.

3. Employ and Set Free.

We continue to address the root causes of cybersex trafficking, as one key driving factor for online sexual exploitation is devastating poverty. Victims often come from impoverished families with few opportunities to earn living wages. Broken systems end up causing so much abuse and violence for marginalized and impoverished young women. We actively combat this by giving survivors access to real, sustainable jobs in the local marketplace, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

We expect more victims of cybersex trafficking to come to us desperately needing restoration, hope, and lasting freedom. At 10ThousandWindows, we walk with survivors every step of the way until they are safe, hopeful, and truly free.

“These young women have experienced terrible trauma and exploitation and they need our full support to be restored and live safe, free, and hopeful lives.” 

– Jonna Eleccion, Country Director, 10ThousandWindows Philippines

How can you help?

Partner with us.  When you support cybersex trafficking survivors through 10ThousandWindows, you help victims receive the holistic restoration they need to live lives of safety, freedom, and hope.

Give to our Cybersex Trafficking Cause on or before Giving Tuesday. We are committed to stopping cybersex trafficking and restoring the lives of victims so they might find lasting freedom. By partnering with over 100 local organizations and government agencies in the Philippines, 10ThousandWindows is a critical agent in the counter-trafficking ecosystem as we address modern slavery at its root, and empower freedom that lasts for survivors.

From now until Giving Tuesday (December 1), every donation will be DOUBLED and supports cybersex trafficking survivors on their journey to restoration and lasting freedom.

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