Survivors of sex trafficking are sharing their stories, demanding action and tougher laws to get them the justice they deserve.
One such woman is Ruby, a Filipina teenager who was forced to perform sex acts in front of a camera by a husband and wife. After luring Ruby away from her family, the couple deprived her of food and threatened her for weeks.
Yet when the judge rose to his feet to sentence her traffickers to jail, Ruby did not cry or shout.
Instead, she walked to the back of the courtroom and sat next to the couple, took out her bible, and began reading a passage about tolerance. Her traffickers were then taken away to serve 15 year prison sentences.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke Ruby to understand how she has come to forgive those who abused her:
Ruby believed their family deserved a second chance just as her rescue from sex slavery had enabled her to start life anew.
“I looked into their eyes and saw how eager they were to receive forgiveness – the husband even asked if I might come and visit them in prison,” said 21-year-old Ruby, who did not give her real name as she is involved in ongoing court proceedings.
“I didn’t see them as enemies or as perpetrators anymore … just as a part of my past,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a church in Tagaytay city in the Philippines, as she patiently recalled the sentencing of her abusers last year.
The act of compassion came at the end of a year-long wait to testify against her abusers about the pain she endured for two months as a victim of cybersex trafficking, a rising crime where people are abused over livestreams and sold for sex online.
At the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference last year other survivors of trafficking shared their stories and demands for change. And one thing was clear.
They want support to get justice, money to start afresh, and help educating their children.
For Ruby, it was the half a dozen other girls who were abused in the same cybersex den that motivated her to come forward. They had been abused for even longer than Ruby and were told by their traffickers that they would be thrown in jail if they escaped.
“But I had the desire to send them (the couple) to jail, I fought for justice, for me and the other girls. So I let my anger speak for me, for us, and I was not afraid,” Ruby said.