DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – To many, the Dominican Republic (DR) is a Caribbean island paradise; however, in spite of ongoing efforts by Dominican authorities, to others, it remains a place of slavery and abuse.
Sex trafficking and sex tourism still run rampant here even though the DR enacted its first anti-trafficking laws in 2003. But the rules are rarely enforced. Even though the laws have been on the books for over a decade, there have been only six convictions for sex trafficking nationwide. Operation Blessing, in partnership with the International Justice Mission (IJM), is working to change that.
Miranda* was one of these victims—held captive by a man who sexually assaulted her and trafficked her to other men for money. Eventually, Miranda was rescued by local law enforcement and, thanks to Operation Blessing and IJM, placed within a safe and secure aftercare home. Though while recovering from the abuse, Miranda learned she was pregnant.
Miranda’s abuser was arrested and brought to trial, which is highly unusual in the Dominican Republic. IJM, with Operation Blessing’s support, supplied a lawyer to represent Miranda in court. The man who assaulted Miranda and pimped her on the streets was convicted — IJM’s first sex trafficking conviction in the DR!
Now Miranda and her little one are safe, receiving support from a team of social workers. These caring individuals are part of a comprehensive aftercare system established by IJM, and supported by OBI, for girls and women coming out of sexual slavery. Like Miranda, each victim is placed in a safe location and evaluated on an individual basis. A comprehensive treatment plan is then established and holistic care is provided to help each individual heal from the scars and trauma of their exploitation.
Miranda is walking down the path toward healing and restoration as she and her baby now have hope for a brighter future. The conviction of her abuser is a step toward once again establishing justice for the victims of this horrific crime in the Dominican Republic and around the world.
Thanks to the compassion and support of Operation Blessing partners and IJM, last year 42 women and girls just like Miranda were rescued from sex trafficking in the DR. One victim at a time, justice and freedom are gaining ground in the Dominican Republic.
*Name changed to protect identity.