Filipino girls as young as 7 years old are victims of the cybersex industry. They're lined up and picked in a den for perverts to choose one of them to rape on camera. Pedophiles watch the rape via webcam, and they tell the perverts what to do with the girl. Some of the pedophiles, who are based in the States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Korea, end up traveling to the Philippines to pay and sexually abuse the girl.
Online child abuse is the leading cyber-related crime in the Philippines. It's a billion-dollar industry owing to poverty and cheap internet access, and it's corrupting and abusing thousands of girls. The girls are paid around P100, while the predators pay between P400 to P2,000 to abuse these children.
Belgian journalist Peter Bridge—not his real name to protect his identity—has been in the Philippines for two years to investigate suppliers of online child sex abuse and identify their clients. He's currently working on the documentary Children of the Cam, which will be out later this year. He recently released photos of his investigation (he had gone undercover as a pedophile to be in the loop) to Daily Mail, and shared some very terrifying things he learned:
I found out that some of the older girls were already recruiting younger girls into the industry. Girls as young as 12 work independently recruiting friends. It is contact with the predators that turns them into really educated abusers. They learn how to receive money, how to do these things unnoticed, how to make contacts. So they are really raised to [be] abused by the predators.
Doing this sort of work is traumatizing. But for these girls it's just normal. They have been raised in a sea of abuse. And they don't know [what] abuse is anymore.
Bridge also found out that some of these girls were willingly handed to the suppliers by their very own parents.
He worked with the Philippine National Police's Women and Children Protection Center and the U.S. NGO International Justice Mission to investigate the industry and rescue girls in Iligan. They rescued 11 girls and arrested five recruiters (three men and two women). Police also found illegal drugs in the den.
"But this was just one group [with a client list of around 200 people]," Bridge notes. "There are many, many more."
While a number of raids have been conducted over the past three years—in Taguig, Pateros, Malabon, and Navotas, to name a few—and arrested some suppliers and pedophiles, what's worrisome is that the people running the industry will just find better ways to operate stealthily. The demand is still there; so long as there's demand, someone is going to find ways to profit from it.
Luckily there are many agencies and organizations that are keeping up with the recruiters and suppliers, and they got the brains and the technology to track and catch the exploiters. Bridge and the police is one example. Another is this bait/fictional character/virtual model named Sweetie, who helped the org Terre des Hommes trace a thousand offenders two months after she was created:
We can help by spreading the word that this cruel reality exists, and hopefully educate people so they will not turn a blind eye to child abuse. To #EndViolence against children, visit unicef.org.
We can also sign a petition to the Philippine government to condemn the webcam sex industry for victimizing Filipino children. To do this, visit change.org/sweetie.
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