MANILA, PHILIPPINES –A 24-year-old Filipino survivor of online child sexual exploitation was among the Women of the Future Award winners in Southeast Asia, announced last October 7.
Ruby*, a survivor leader and advocate, received the prestigious award for the Community Spirit and Public Service category for using her voice to help fuel a global movement to end the online sexual exploitation of children.
As a survivor leader, Ruby has contributed to advocacy and awareness efforts by speaking to local and global media and joining influencers’ social media campaigns.
During her acceptance speech, Ruby said:
I will use every ounce of passion and strength that I have
to continue being an advocate against online sexual
exploitation of children, to the ends of the world
until the day that all captives are free. Ruby, Survivor
Ruby’s story of rescue and restoration is highlighted (page 61) in the recently released Global Threat Assessment (GTA) Report 2021 by the WeProtect Global Alliance, an organization that brings together experts from government, the private sector and civil society to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online.
Noting the increasing scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse online, the GTA Report recommends greater regulation to make online environments safer for children, deployment of online safety tools by tech companies, and increased investment in law enforcement, among others.
“The Global Threat Assessment reveals that livestreamed child sexual abuse for payment is increasing, with demand-side offenders unable to travel turning to livestreamed abuse,” said John Tanagho, Executive Director of IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children. “This is a reminder that greater global and national collaboration is needed to protect children through sustained whole-of-society approaches, including more effective and resourced justice systems. The inspiring story of Filipino survivor leader, Ruby, provides hope that effective justice system responses and international collaboration lead to victim rescue, survivor restoration, and ultimately prevention of new abuse.”
Global law enforcement has reported that livestreamed child sexual abuse, already rising in recent years, “intensified” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it comes to the “demand-side,” the GTA reports that data indicates the “individuals who ‘consume’ livestreamed abuse are predominantly from Europe, North America and Australia.” This is a reminder of the critical role those governments can play in combating this crime at home through accountability and prevention, and abroad through greater collaboration and resourcing developing justice systems.
IJM provided case studies, consultation, and other data that helped inform the GTA, drawing from our extensive experience working alongside the Philippine Government and other organizations to combat trafficking of children to create child sexual exploitation material, especially via livestreaming.
IJM has assisted Philippine authorities in more than 250 operations since 2011, leading to the rescue of 858 victims and the arrest of 301 suspects of online sexual exploitation of children.
In addition, IJM and Philippine Government partners pioneered child-protective prosecutions strategies that secure justice without retraumatizing survivors, along with trauma-informed aftercare practices and systems.
While most of the survivors are undergoing therapy and other trauma-informed interventions, 199 have already completed rehabilitation programs and reintegrated back to the community, including Ruby.
Less than two weeks before her Women of the Future Award win, Ruby had an opinion piece published in the Thomson Reuters Foundation News, calling for greater online safety legislation and improved detection and reporting by tech companies.