While the road to recovery is long after a child has been trafficked, International Justice Mission says there is great hope in ending human trafficking in our lifetime. 

Anu George Canjanathoppil, the Executive Director of IJM Canada. "I'm a survivor of violence. A decade ago I was pursuing education because I thought that was the solution to addressing and ending poverty," says Anu George Canjanathoppil, the Executive Director of IJM Canada. 

After her violent attack which took Canjanathoppil over a year to recover from, she realized her approach wasn't correct. 

"There are many organizations out there building wells, educating children, doing all sorts of things but if violence comes between intention and the people receiving the service, then none of this is going to hold water."

That is when Canjanathoppil came across International Justice Mission (IJM) and started working for them. 

Complexities to Helping Trafficked Victims

"Joy was just eight. Her parents were separated and she was passed on to staying with relatives and neighbours. At that time she had one prayer, to reunite her family and be able to go to school."

Joy's story continues on to when a woman whom Joy trusted brought her into her home, alongside 15 other girls, and exploited them for money through the internet. All of this happened in Cebu, Philippines. 

This went on for seven years before IJM identified this house, worked with local police, and intervened, setting each of the girls free.

"It was one of the first cybersex trafficking operations that IJM was able to support."

Although not the case for Joy, many children that are brought into the world of sex trafficking is done through an adult they trust. 

"For a child, it is not easy for him or her to believe that somebody's she loves and cares for is a bad person. What has been stripped off of them is their childhood," she says. 

The way they think and everything surrounding helping children and teens out of human trafficking has to be addressed with nuanced and careful attention. 

Initially, when traffickers bring a child into a situation in which they want to exploit them, it starts with a breaking process, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

"We have to be extremely careful when we work with these young children. When you bring them out of this situation, you've only physically shifted them from that place of abuse. Mentally they're still trapped."

IJM has a 96 per cent success rate of victims staying out of being trafficked after they have gone through the restoration process. 

Joy, having worked through the process with IJM, says, "I believe children are the future and I want every 'boss' to stop abusing children. I believe it can stop but I cannot do it alone."

Cybersex Trafficking.Cybersex Trafficking. (Supplied by IJM)

Why a Focus on the Philippines

The fundraising event happening on November 20 across Canada has a focus on the Philippines. The reason for this is because 

"When IJM first stepped into the Philippines two decades ago, the focus on sex trafficking, we were extremely successful. We were able to bring down the horrific ratio of minors being available for prostitution. There was a partnership with the local government and things were going well."

A new trend emerged after this when perpetrators started exploiting children over the internet, making them do sexual acts, called cybersex trafficking. A lot of this type of trafficking comes out of the Philippines and IJM already has a great relationship with the government.

"This trend is so much harder to track down because it's anybody sitting in any part of the world that can continue to abuse and exploit children."

The age of children being trafficked ranges from children in diapers up to 12-years-old. Twenty per cent of the children trafficked are boys.

"One of the criticisms I received after moving to Canada was that I was returning to work almost as soon as I had my babies."

Canjanathoppil is the mother of twin girls that are 18-months-old right now. 

"My daughters would hate it if I used them as an excuse not to show up for the many children who need a protective mother who aches and cares for them from afar."

While the work is dirty, hard, and takes a lot of time, money, and effort, Canjanathoppil says there is great hope in helping victims be set free.

"There is a vaccine that exists. All we need is enough resources to come between the perpetrator and the victim to make sure we can make a survivor of them. Even better, make sure they don't even become a victim in the first place."

Partnering with IJM to Stop Trafficking

For people who are interested in helping stop cybersex trafficking, Canjanathoppil says there are a few things they can do.

"The first step is to learn more about this issue. An invitation to that is to participate in the Cherished event."

The Canada-wide online event, called Cherished, is taking place on November 20, 2020, at 7:30 pm CST.

"People can partner with us in several ways. To protect one human life costs $3.30. You can be a freedom partner for $31/month. That's almost 10 individuals month after month that will be protected from this heinous crime."

She says people can also be a prayer partner with IJM. 

"Truly one of the reasons that I moved from the field and came here is because I have had to make the difficult decision of deciding one rescue over the other. I don't want my colleagues to have to deal with that."

The online event will highlight the good that is being done because of the work IJM is doing and has done for years, with their focus on aftercare.