Through our partnership with IJM, we are sharing stories of their work for justice in the world. We hope these stories serve to practically undergird the truths we’ve uncovered together in days 1 through 4.
“Joy” (a pseudonym) is a survivor of online sexual exploitation. Her story is one of rescue, restoration, and redemption.
Joy has a kind face and friendly demeanor, but when she speaks, there is determination in her voice. Several years ago, she was rescued from cybersex trafficking in one of the first IJM-supported operations in the Philippines.
Joy’s abuser—someone she trusted—was notorious for exploiting children in her community by producing live-streamed sex shows in exchange for money from foreign pedophiles. Joy was forced to join these “shows” for customers online when she was only ten years old. For seven years she suffered this abuse, until finally she was rescued.
After being rescued, she quickly adopted the hope of seeking an education. This was a new opportunity afforded to her by her aftercare home. In spite of her trauma, Joy is strong and resilient. She found the love and support she needed to move forward, grow in confidence, and pursue her goals in the home. She attended school, and the aftercare home even offered her a scholarship to attend college. Joy remembers her time there fondly, saying, “In my shelter, God was really good because I was able to study. It never crossed my mind to go home because in my mind, this was God’s plan for me . . . I was so happy because due to [my shelter], I was able to study.”
Joy’s community of social workers and fellow survivors supported her in the midst of her deep pain and helped her find her voice. Soon, her passion for her studies and the strength she found through her communities developed into the dream of becoming a social worker. Through the years, this dream gave her hope in tough times and motivated her to keep going. Now, Joy is living out her goals and studying social work at a university near her home.
As Joy continued to grow, she became inspired to become a change agent. Today, she supports fellow survivors and has taken it upon herself to educate her friends and relatives to ensure they stay safe from enduring the same type of abuse. Joy’s heart for her loved ones shines through when she speaks of protecting them, saying, “I have a niece; I can also make her aware of what happened. I became closer to my family, making sure it would not also happen to them. Especially if she’s a woman, I’ll make sure she is being taken care of.”
Joy is also a mentor for younger survivors and serves as a volunteer in a community network of sexually abused survivors, who all support and encourage one another. Joy shares her experience with the other girls and encourages them not to be ashamed as they heal and find their confidence. “As for what happened to me,” she says, “I am still thankful that I was rescued. Because of that, I changed. What I can share to other girls is that you should not give up.” This personal motto is evident in every facet of Joy’s life.
From her persistence and dedication in pursuing a social work career to the relentless care and compassion she gives to others, Joy has turned her painful story into a redemptive one—full of courage and hope for others.
Take what you’ve learned about yourself and through the stories you’ve heard and share with your friends. Though awareness alone won’t end slavery, we can’t end slavery until people are aware. Visit IJM.org/Arise to learn how you can host a viewing and show IJM’s film of Joy’s story.