Don’t Just Send Flowers: International Justice Mission Mother’s Day 2020 Campaign
There’s no better way to honor your mom than donating to this great cause which tirelessly works against the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). We talk to some of the Filipina influencers behind this deeply moving campaign.
The internet has a dark side, a place where slavery and abuse run rampant, where freedom does not exist. Cybersex trafficking is a true modern-day form of slavery, with a vast majority of its victims underage girls and boys who taken away from their homes and their families. These children are forced to perform sexual acts with adults or other children in show that is live-streamed to pedophiles and predators all over the globe, who have the power to demand what kind of abuse they want to see, for as little as $100 USD.
For Mother’s Day this year, International Justice Mission (IJM), a global anti-slavery organization, launched the #DontJustSendFlowers campaign in partnership with 22 leading FIlipina influencers. The Philippines is the global epicenter for cybersex trafficking, with thousands of cases being reported every month. “To make matters worse, new research is showing that COVID-19 is feeding the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) because supply demand is increasing with perpetrators at home all day and facilitators with less income streams,” shared IJM Partner Amanda Griffin-Jacob on her Instagram.
We at Metro.Style stand with the International Justice Mission and these mothers in this fight to end OSEC. In this story, we talk to some of the Filipina influencers behind this deeply moving campaign.
“I first learned about OSEC about a year ago when I attended an informational seminar in Singapore. When I was sitting there in the session, I was so horrified to find out that the Philippines was the global epicenter for OSEC,” she said. Amanda wondered why she was finding out about it in Singapore and not in the Philippines, where many of the population are unaware that OSEC is a huge problem. Since that informational session, Griffin felt compelled to do something about OSEC. She got in touch with IJM in Singapore and has been an IJM partner ever since.
On the “Don’t Just Send Flowers” campaign, she said: “This one has been a really exciting one because I was able to recruit 20 influential women and they are using their powerful platforms and voices to help raise awareness of OSEC and get us all to do something about it. And I’m so heartened by the overwhelming response of these women to join and participate in this campaign to really help awareness of OSEC. They were all as horrified as I was… and they were all willing to band together and use their powerful voices to help bring national awareness to OSEC.”
For Griffin, one of the most heartbreaking stories about OSEC is the fact that most facilitators, meaning those who conduct and orchestrate the abuse, are mothers. “I can’t imagine how a mother can do this to her own child or children. One of the biggest reasons I want to increase awareness of OSEC is that I want people to know that it is never okay to abuse your child. And it’s also about educating the people in the Philippines as to why OSEC is so wrong because around 70% of the victims are 12 years old and below, and the youngest of these are babies,” she said.
“My friend, Amanda Griffin, really educated me on the issue. To be honest, I always had some kind of level of awareness of the reality of the dangers of fast working technology but it is very different when you know the numbers and statistics,” Rocio admitted.
For her, the most heartbreaking aspect of this issue is the alarming reality of the data. “Unfortunately, child abuse is on the rise, and I suspect with the lockdown, even more so. It is important to end this and to work as diligently as we can until real impact and change has been made.”
Rocio believes that there truly is no such thing as too little help. “Even something as simple as sharing the campaign video, or even speaking up about it to anyone who will listen. The truth is knowledge is key, and through knowledge and determination we will all band together to bring a stop to child abuse.”
“I have actually heard about this before from my husband’s tito, Anthony Pangilinan, and Called to Rescue. To me, this seems so unreal. I can’t even imagine a human being thinking that this is okay, to run a business like this and to be a customer—it’s just pure evil,” Sam said.
The fact that there is no age of danger of becoming victimized is something that Sam finds very alarming. “Even a 25-day old baby is in danger of this crime. What's so scary is this can happen anywhere without anyone even knowing. These children, at a very young age, are abused or forced to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam so crazy perverts anywhere in the world can watch in the dark at the comforts of their own home. Apparently, the more abusive the show, the more the customer pays and all they have to do is to wire a secure payment to the pimp.”
“This isn’t a movie plot, it’s actually happening,” Sam said. “Sad to say that even if this is happening worldwide, it's spreading widely in countries with weak justice systems where perpetrators feel like they have power over authority.” She shared that one way to help is to give or help raise funds via IJM or Called to Rescue, or any other of the groups who are tirelessly fighting to end this. Another way is to just use your voice, sharing, and joining in the fight.
"I learned about OSEC last year through Amanda; she shared with me a video, with accompanying information, about this horrific ‘industry’ in which the Philippines is the global epicentre of. The stories of these pure and innocent children are soul-crushing and one simply cannot ignore these dark crimes that are being committed in our home country,” Patti said.
While there are quite a few heartbreaking facts about OSEC, one that really struck Patti was that one of the youngest victims was a 2 month old baby. “It really stirred up a range of emotions. I felt like I had to use my voice for those suffering in silence,” she shared.
For Patti, every person who is aware of this issue is one more person who can help end it: “I encourage others to research further and share with your community what you find; all of this in hopes to get more individuals to stand against OSEC and fight as one.”
"Right now, I am focusing on building awareness to Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC)... This is so close to my heart because I have children of my own. I know that ECQ is difficult on everyone but that doesn’t mean that some parents can resort to this. They feel that it’s okay to do this because 'it’s online anyway and no physical harm is done to the child.' It’s our responsibility to protect the innocence of the children and to protect them from online predators. The Philippines is the epicenter of this trade. It’s heartbreaking knowing how many Filipino children are exposed to this kind of slavery," Cristalle said.
“I was so taken aback with the fact that there was a 2 month old baby that they were able to rescue,” shared Rica. “That’s just so heartbreaking for me." As a mother, she shared that she couldn’t imagine the innocence of children being stolen by people like this. “These kids are really trusting kids, they’re at a tender and trusting age, and it takes very little to actually ask them to go with you or to be with you. And if they happen to fall into the hands of evil, that’s just a completely different story. It’s going to mess up their lives and while I do believe that you can redeem them, you can still heal them, they can still recover from the trauma... why would I even want them to get into that position in the first place?”
Raising awareness and raising funds are the focuses of this campaign. “I think our nation really needs to hear more about this kind of evil that's been happening in our communities… and the mere fact that something like this can be happening is an eye opener,” Rica said. “I’m very grateful to IJM because they’ve already saved the lives of 613 kids but there’s more… That's a great number but I believe that’s not enough.”
If you want to help end OSEC together with International Justice Mission, you may donate at the following links: (PHP) http://ijm.org/betterthanflowers, (USD) www.ijm.org/mothersday, (SGD) https://give.asia/campaign/raising-funds-for-ijm-mother-s-day-campaign#/. To find out more about IJM and their mission to #EndOSEC, go to www.ijm.org.