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 second in a series of update posts, taking you along and behind-the-scenes for a deeper look at how exactly that is being accomplished.
From IJM: Clarisa* was rescued from sexual exploitation in one of our first-ever cases in the Dominican Republic. We first met her in October 2014, and she shared with our team how she had been assaulted by a man who then trafficked her to another man. Both suspects threatened to hurt her if she ever dared to tell anyone.
Like many of the girls we’ve seen here, Clarisa is sweet and friendly, with big dreams but few opportunities to follow them. One of nine siblings raised in a poor and very dangerous neighborhood in Santo Domingo, the capital city, Clarisa is even more vulnerable to abuse than most. Though she is 14, she experiences the world much like a 6-year-old due to a developmental disability.
Her mother, Alma,* watched in pain and confusion as Clarisa would disappear for days at a time out of fear. When she discovered the horrifying reason for her daughter’s strange behavior, Alma ran to authorities, desperate for help.
IJM partnered with local anti-trafficking police to arrest the abusers just days later and had only 48 hectic hours to collect all the evidence needed to keep them in jail and protect Clarisa from repeated abuse. These alleged traffickers are still in prison today, and we’re fighting relentlessly to see them convicted. It’s the only way Clarisa and other girls will be safe. Their conviction would show the community that abusing children is not allowed. For the first time in her life, Clarisa is going to school and getting the medical care she needs.
The following is an update from Jessica Ortiz, IJM Dominican Republic Director of Casework. She shared this reflection after a recent visit with Clarisa at the aftercare home where she is now receiving the care she needs:
When we first met Clarisa, we saw an innocent girl with a great need for attention and love. When anyone mentioned the abuse, we could see the pain and shame in her face. It was obvious she was not receiving proper care, with her basic needs unmet and in bad physical condition. When we visited Clarisa this week, she still tells us spontaneous stories, but now these stories are about how she is doing in school. She showed us her notebook and the homework she has done, all with a beautiful smile on her face.
… we’re fighting relentlessly to see them convicted. It’s the only way Clarisa and other girls will be safe. Their conviction would show the community that abusing children is not allowed.
In her appearance and in her expressions, we can see that now she has a different quality of life. She has many friends in the aftercare home and in church (actually, she calls them her “brothers and sisters”). It’s a blessing that this aftercare home was open to receiving her.
Not only was Clarisa rescued, but her mother is now at peace. Though it is painful for her to say goodbye at the center, she encourages her daughter that it is in her best interest that she is there healing. When Clarisa shared with us what she is learning and doing, her mother was smiling proudly.
Our team feels so thankful to God for the opportunity that we have to support Clarisa. Seeing her now gives us hope that other girls can experience restoration like she has. We know our efforts are worthwhile now that we can see with our own eyes the difference it makes.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
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