A Note From The Editor: In Darling Issue No. 10 we announced a new partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), specifically partnering with their work to eradicate sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. We’re excited to introduce the first in a series of update posts, taking you along and behind-the-scenes for a deeper look at how exactly that is being accomplished.
A quick glance at today’s headlines shows a world plagued by bad news. The good stories — the tales of hope and renewal — rarely make the front page. But the front page only gives a sliver of insight into the realities of the injustice in our world today, and things aren’t always as they seem. There is beauty in broken moments, to be sure, but likewise also brokenness in the most beautiful of places.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. The Caribbean vacation destination is dotted with pristine white beaches, lavish resorts and a vibrant culture. It is also home to a rampant sex tourism industry. A recent study by International Justice Mission (IJM) found from the total of women and girls observed in prostitution and other situations of sexual exploitation, the prevalence of girls and children being sexually exploited to be 10%.
Where there is injustice, however, there is also hope. Hope for rescue and restoration. Hope for the return of dignity. Hope for a future not plagued by fear. How is IJM bringing such a hope?
In 2013, IJM opened a field office in the Dominican Republic and, to date, has helped rescue 35 girls from sexual exploitation. All of the girls have received or are currently receiving restoration services. Rescue, however, is just the first step on the long road to justice. The cycle of violence won’t break if the justice system is broken.
In 2013, IJM opened a field office in the Dominican Republic and, to date, has helped rescue 35 girls from sexual exploitation.
The trafficking of children and girls for sex may conjure up visions of brothels and back rooms of dark bars, but in the Dominican Republic much of this exploitation is street-based, meaning it happens right out in the open. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 young women being bought by customers in plain sight — on street corners, parks and beaches — are under 18 years old.
So how is it that perpetrators of this type of exploitation are free to operate in public places? Quite simply, they don’t get caught. There are no consequences for their actions.
Therefore, one of the most important elements to seeking justice and restoring the dignity of the girls and children who have been exploited is ensuring that their perpetrators are held accountable – this also acts as a strong deterrent to other perpetrators in the community.
It’s time for the narrative in the Dominican Republic to change.
The story of girls and children falling victim to sex trafficking needs to be rewritten with an ending that sees dignity restored to their young lives in the form of their oppressor receiving a conviction and a sentencing to match their crime.
IJM Vice President of Regional Operations for Latin America, Pablo Villeda, said, “We know from our work in 17 other communities around the world that when governments partner meaningfully with civil society and make the necessary investments in law enforcement, courts, and services for victims, criminals are brought to justice and violent crime against the poor goes down.”
Justice is possible for these girls. There is promise for a new ending in the Dominican Republic.
In cooperation with the Dominican anti-trafficking unit, IJM is prosecuting the suspects who have been arrested in the rescue operations that have been conducted so far. Justice is possible for these girls. There is promise for a new ending in the Dominican Republic. The brokenness can be made beautiful, and we can have hope that the hot Dominican sun will someday rise on a new story for the many young girls who are living lives stripped of dignity and freedom.
Darling is excited to continuing sharing updates about IJM’s anti-trafficking work in the Dominican Republic. Find out more about our partnership with IJM here, as well as follow their work via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Images provided by IJM