There is a shift in child sex trafficking at the moment due to the Coronavirus. Karaoke bars (KTVs) and massage parlors are closed, and people, fearful of contracting the virus, are abiding by social distancing orders. Many girls have been sent home or away during this time, so it may seem as if trafficking has slowed down or even stopped.
But we know the truth – this is not the case.
As the situation around us continues to change, traffickers and poor families are becoming desperate to earn money again. We are monitoring the situation throughout the country and will continue to investigate with police, taking necessary action to rescue victims and arrest traffickers whenever and wherever children are being exploited for sex. During the shutdown, we are working with our partners on cases concerning child pornography and American sex offenders while our legal team will continue to prosecute the traffickers from our previous cases.
There is also still a large issue of sexual violence against women and girls, especially with trafficking customers not getting their usual “fixes” from brothels. AIM SWAT is currently able to assist police to investigate these cases in order to find justice for victims of rape during the shutdown. During the month of March, we assisted local police units around the country with 6 cases.
In one case, a 47-year-old man had befriended a 15-year-old girl with learning difficulties in Prey Veng province while walking from her home to her Aunt’s house in the same village. When they reached a quiet area of the village, he raped her, gave her 1,000 riel (the equivalent of $0.25 American dollars) and told her not to tell anyone.
The girl went straight to her Aunt’s house where it was clear she was distressed and her clothing was disheveled. The girl told everything to her Aunt and the incident was then reported to the police by the girl’s father resulting in the suspect being located and arrested two days later.
We have assisted in multiple other rape cases with victims ranging from 8 to 31 years old.
As aftercare shelters are no longer allowed to accept anyone new at this time due to the Coronavirus, girls are receiving aftercare services from our social work team at their homes by phone and are given aftercare packs and food. The suspects that have been arrested have been charged and remanded to prison to await trial where our legal team will represent the victims and their families throughout the forthcoming court proceedings.
We have no tolerance for anyone who would commit such violence against a child. That is why now, more than ever, it is important we continue our mission to rescue and protect girls from men like this.
The support of our donors at this time is crucial if we are to continue to serve victims of trafficking and sexual crimes in Cambodia and for us to respond as soon as possible.