Category Archives: Sex Traffickers

Tortured Sex Slave Rescued by Truck Driver

Tortured Sex Slave Saved By Trucker From This Iowa Couple

Tortured Sex Slave Saved By Trucker From This Iowa Couple

A tortured sex slave, later revealed as a 20-year-old female victim, was saved by trucker Kevin Kimmel, according to WTVR. Kimmel saw the suspicious activity at a New Kent Pilot gas station and truck lot in January, and reported it to Richmond, VA, police because, “It was a no brainer what was going on.”

Kimmel, a veteran truck driver speaking about the incident for the first time, didn’t know what happened until he saw “the gruesome details through the news.” According to WTVR, what was allegedly going on was abuse, fraud, forced prostitution, and torture, among other crimes.

Kimmel said he became suspicious when he saw the victim peeking out from behind dark curtains in an RV and, in what may have been an awkward moment, thought that the black curtains didn’t appear to be, “a families RV [sic], you know.”

A guy come up and knock on the door then go inside the Pilot–then quickly came back and knocked again, all of the sudden the thing was rocking and rolling.”

That was when he called the local sheriff’s department in Virginia, who, according to Daily Mail, eventually found Aldair Hodza and Laura Sorenson inside the RV, allegedly holding the victim hostage, who appeared malnourished and tortured.

She reportedly suffered from various wounds including burns on her abdomen, groin, and her back consistent with, “being struck and stamped with a hot metal key.” She also suffered wounds on her feet that were, “consistent with nails hammered into her flesh,” according to News & Advance.

Police charged the Iowa couple with various federal crimes ranging from coercion to sex trafficking by force after they uncovered that the two had turned the alleged victim into a tortured sex slave and forced her to service “clients” as part of an online prostitution ring. According to the Daily Mail, police found photos of the alleged victim being tortured. Some photos depicted the alleged victim bound and gagged while nude and others depicted her getting bleach sprayed into open and bleeding wounds.

The couple, Sorensen, 36 and Hodza, 31, are accused of taking the victim hostage on Christmas Eve in 2014 and forcing her into prostitution. They allegedly threatened to kill the victim and her family, according to the News & Advance.

The accused couple likely used these threats to scare the alleged victim, forcing her to comply with their demands.

A common tactic used by abusers, one example would be the case of Officer Stephen Maiorino from Boynton Beach, who threatened to kill a 20-year-old rape victim after allegedly victimizing her at gunpoint on the hood of his police car in October, 2014, according to the Palm Beach Post.

According to News & Advance, the victim also accuses the Iowa couple of denying her food and water during the trip from Iowa to Virginia. Also from Iowa, the alleged victim also states her alleged abusers expected her turn all the money made as a tortured sex slave over to them for their own food and gas for the RV, a 37-foot Sun Voyager.

According to WVTR, Kimmel said, “I’m just happy I helped her.”

The couple is expected to appear in a federal court in Virginia, according to News & Advance, as federal courts prosecute sex trafficking cases much more harshly than state level courts do in Virginia.

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Mysterious Man Buys ISIS Sex Slaves, Reunites Them With Family

ISIS Sex Slave Reunited

A Yazidi ISIS captive is reunited with her father after being purchased as a sex slave.

BY SAMUEL SMITH , CP REPORTER

As thousands of women and girls are being raped, abused and victimized as part of the Islamic State’s sex slave operation in Iraq and Syria, one Iraqi man is buying ISIS sex slaves in order to free and reunite them with their families.

In the Islamic State’s sex slave market, captured religious minority women, girls and even babies are sold to militants and supporters willing to dish out good money for a new jihadi bride or woman they just want to abuse and hand off to their buddies when they are finished.

Although many find it unethical to participate in the Islamic State’s human trafficking market that helps fund the terrorist organization that has killed thousands, one unnamed Iraqi man is purchasing ISIS’s sex slaves not for physical pleasure but to give them freedom.

As Walid Shoebat reports, an Iraqi man, who remains nameless, disguises himself as a human trafficking dealer in order to “infiltrate” the Islamic State and get the militants to sell him sex slaves. But in purchasing sex slaves, the man finds a way to reunite them with their fathers, husbands, and the rest of their family.

The report cites a video from the Iraqi news site Rudaw, which can be viewed through the YouTube channel StreamDZ, that shows one of the yazidi sex slaves the man purchased finally being reunited with her father. In the video, the woman and her father hug and cry tears of happiness as they are finally reunited.

For many yazidi women taken as sex slaves by ISIS, there is no guarantee that they will ever be reunited with their fathers, husbands or brothers.

The woman in the Rudaw video was fortunate that her father was still living, because ISIS killed most of the yazidi men upon capturing them last summer when they seized most the Yazidi territory. Upon seizing a Yazidi town, the militants captured the yazidi people, separated the males from the females, hauled the females away in the back of large trucks as their male family members were typically shot execution style.

While some of the boys were allegedly spared their lives and forced to start training to become militants, many of the women and girls, who were not already taken as spoils of war by ISIS militants involved in seizing the region, were taken away to the Syrian strongholds where they were to be sold as sex slaves.

Upon arriving in the stronghold, the women were held captive in tight, overpopulated rooms, until they were sold to militants.

After being sold off, the fate of the women vary. The woman in the Rudaw video was lucky because she was sold to someone who reunited her with her father. Others, however, are not so fortunate as they are usually forced to convert to Islam, marry a militant and sometimes change their names.

According to a 15-year-old Yazidi taken by ISIS as a sex slave, she was sold to a militant who tried to force her to convert to Islam and change her name to Abeer, according to The Telegraph. But she found a way to escape from her sex slavery and avoid changing her name or converting.

She drugged tea that she served to the ISIS fighter that purchased her and escaped out the door as he was unconscious.

“He told me, ‘I’m going to change your name to Abeer, so your mother doesn’t recognize you,'” the 15-year-old Yazidi girl explained. “You’ll become Muslim, then I will marry you. But I refused to become a Muslim, that’s why I fled.”

Some sex slaves are not fortunate enough to escape. Some ISIS sex slaves have taken up the practice of committing suicide just so they don’t have to endure the daily abuses they suffer.

One unnamed former ISIS captive explained to Amnesty International how one sex slave named Jilan took her own life.

“We were 21 girls in one room, two of them were very young, 10 to 12 years. One day they were given clothes that looked like dance costumes and were told to bathe and wear those clothes. Jilan killed herself in the bathroom,” the woman said. “She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was beautiful. I think she knew that she was going to be taken away to a man and that is why she killed herself.”

Most ISIS sex slaves are Yazidi girls, though there are Muslims and Christians, too. The pricing of the girls seems to favor pedophilia, as the most expensive slaves are only one-year-old. As for the conditions these ISIS sex slaves experience, they are so horrific that one Yazidi girl wanted the West to bomb her brothel with her in it. She couldn’t stand being raped over thirty times all “before lunchtime.”

 

Domestic Partners Accused of Sexual Torture, Holding Child Captive

Charles Dunnavant was charged with sodomy, sexual torture, aggravated child abuse and transmitting/exposing person to an STD for his connection to the Huntsville child sexual abuse and pornography case. (Sarah Cole/scole@al.com)

By Brian Lawson | blawson@al.com 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Two Huntsville men who were domestic partners, according to prosecutors, appear at the center of a child sex abuse and child pornography case that reaches far beyond Huntsville, the Madison County District Attorney’s office said today.

Prosecutors are seeking a $1 million cash bond for Charles Dunnavant, who is charged with sexual torture, sodomy, aggravated child abuse and transmitting or exposing a person to a STD, in connection with the case against Carl Herold, who faces similar sex charges and child pornography production charges.

Herold, a Wyoming native who has a computer background and worked from home, according to prosecutors, moved to Huntsville about eight months ago. He operated a YouTube page called “Computer Science for Everyone.”

He was arrested last month by the Huntsville Police Department.

Dunnavant, who is from North Alabama-southern Tennessee, worked as a loan officer for Redstone Federal Credit Union until the investigation began in early November, said Madison County Assistant District Attorney Gabrielle Helix.

Dunnavant lived with Herold and Herold’s son in Huntsville. Court records list Herold’s address on the 3000 block of Lakewood Drive Northwest.

Dunnavant was arrested at a family home in Lincoln County, Tenn., Friday investigators said. During a hearing this afternoon seeking to raise Dunnavant’s bond from $276,000 cash-only to $1 million cash-only, Huntsville Police Department investigator Chad Smith testified he was contacted by the FBI in early November about the possibility of a child sex victim in Huntsville.

Smith said investigators came across numerous photos depicting sexual torture involving a child. Smith said investigators had an interview with the child, now 9, and he led investigators to his father. Herold spoke to investigators for several hours, Smith said, and implicated Dunnavant.

CARL PHILIP HEROLD.jpg

Carl Philip Herold (Huntsville Police Department)

Smith also testified the child did not attend school in Huntsville and investigators could find no medical records for the child.

Dunnavant’s attorney Brian White, asked the investigator if the child they interviewed was depicted in the photos. Smith said investigators found more than 100 photos, but he didn’t want to look too closely at the child depicted.

In arguing for the $1 million bond, Helix said bond is about securing the defendant’s presence in court and community safety.

“He has the means of travel, family out of state and some of the allegations are there was much travel in the lives of Dunnavant and Herold,” she said. “They held the child captive for eight months and there are no standards, taboos or lines this defendant and his co-defendant hesitated to cross.”

Herold has a bond hearing set for Tuesday on the same $1 million cash-only bond request from Assistant DA Jason Scully-Clemmons, who is working on the cases with Helix.

Austin said she’d take the bond request under advisement and did not immediately rule.

The cases are expected to be consolidated for prosecution in Madison County.

“There are other potential jurisdictions with defendants, not anywhere near Alabama,” Helix said.

Sex Slaves in Cages: Mumbai’s 20,000 Prostitutes

Taken

Taken by Hazel Thompson (takenebook.com)

Guddi was only 11 years old when a neighbour persuaded her father to send her to Mumbai, with the promise of a well-paid job as a housemaid to help feed her family in her poor village in West Bengal in eastern India.

That promise was nothing but a pretext. The neighbour trafficked her to Mumbai’s red light district, and Guddi became one of the estimated 20,000 girls and women plying the streets of Kamathipura.

British photographer Hazel Thompson has spent the last decade investigating the sex trade in India after hearing that women in Mumbai were being held in cages “to break them” before making them work as prostitutes.

She described how prostitutes are indeed sometimes held in cages, without seeing daylight, for up to five years.

The only time they are let out is to service men, she told delegates at the second annual Trust Women conference, organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International New York Times.

“Over the years girls described the box cages to me, saying they couldn’t move in the space,” Thompson said. “These horrors really exist. Slavery is a reality.”

Guddi, a prostitute working in Mumbai’s red light district. Guddi is featured in “Taken” an ebook by British photographer Hazel Thompson, who spent the last decade documenting the lives of prostitutes in Kamathipura, India’s biggest red light district. Photo: HAZEL THOMPSON

The very smallest of these cages, which she described as box cages, are too small for the girls to move in.

“My question is:  ‘Would the men come to these brothels if they knew they were not paying for sex, but paying to rape a slave?’” Thompson said.

Guddi was not put in a cage but when when she arrived at the brothel, she was raped by a client and sustained injuries so severe that she spent three months in hospital.

Her story and that of other child prostitutes is documented in “Taken”, Thompson’s ebook published in October.

The book contains text, images and videos to convey a sense of what life is like in Kamathipura,  established more than 150 years ago during colonial rule as a “comfort zone” for British soldiers.

Thompson first went to Kamathipura in 2002. With the help of Bombay Teen Challenge, a local charity, she went under cover, disguised as an aid worker.

Her fixer was a former street criminal himself and his mother a former prostitute, so he was able to help Thompson “unlock the secrets” of the district.

Thompson found out that the cages were originally built to protect the girls, who were recruited as prostitutes by the British during the colonial period.

The police not only do nothing to stop the trafficking but regularly accept bribes from the brothel owners and give them warnings of raids, Thompson said.

“It is completely a lawless place,” she said, “which the police continue to allow to thrive.”

Thompson last saw Guddi in April. Thompson begged her to leave, telling her  that otherwise she would die there.

“But my life was taken when they brought me here,” Guddi told her.

Thompson’s ebook, Taken, is available on the iTunes store.

 

 

 

Child Sex Shame of Brazil: Prostitute, 14, Used by Workers at England World Cup Venue

Yards from a new £200m stadium, Poliana sells her body to dozens of construction workers in their lunch break for just £2.60 a time

Exploited: Poliana, 14, is one of the oldest

Sitting on a bed covered in cuddly toys, her long hair tied with a pink scrunchie, 14-year-old Poliana looks like any innocent young teenager.

But instead she is part of a sickening child prostitution scandal that heaps shame on World Cup hosts Brazil.

In this bedroom, only yards from a new £200 million stadium where England will play in next summer’s finals, Poliana sells her body to dozens of construction workers in their lunch break every day for just £2.60 a time.

And she is not alone.

A Sunday Mirror investigation reveals how hundreds of poverty stricken children, some aged just ELEVEN, are being sold to workers building Sao Paulo’s showcase World Cup ground.

Yet they are feared to be just the start of a tidal wave of child prostitutes run by organised crime from drugs gangs and child sex traffickers to the Russian mafia. And they will swamp here and other stadiums in Brazil, luring lucrative foreign fans, when the tournament kicks off in June.

Already there are sinister reports of buses full of children like Poliana arriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city with 11.3 million people, from poor parts of the country after being snatched by traffickers.

The city’s worried justice secretary, Eloisa de Sousa Arruda, told us of cases of underage girls arriving through its international airport from the Congo and Somalia, supposedly financed by the Russian mafia.

And a Sao Paulo council inquiry into child prostitution, seen by the Sunday Mirror before publication, shows the crime-ridden city is powerless to stop them – because there is “no political will” to do so.

Every day, the grotesque trade goes on in broad daylight in roads near the stadium in the poor district of Itaquera – in full view of security guards and regular police patrols.

_MG_7208.JPG

The girls sometimes take clients back to local run-down sex hotels, or work from their own bedrooms in shacks in a local squalid ‘favela’ or shanty town.

Residents of Favela da Paz, a slum in the shadow of the stadium, claim many of the girls are forced into prostitution by gangs.

We found Poliana after being led to her bedroom by other girls plying their trade close to the stadium’s perimeter fence.

She said she normally arranges to meet clients in a local sex motel, the pink-painted Hotel Palace, even though Brazilian law bans minors from entering such vice dens. “The owners know me, they always let me in,” she said.

Poliana said most of her trade comes from the 300 workers building Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians. Two weeks ago she discovered she is pregnant.

The youngster told us how she fell headlong into the world of prostitution only three months ago. She said: “It was the night my mother died. I’d been tempted to do prostitution before – some of my friends were doing it and there were people wanting me to do it.

“But when she died I just lost it. I went out on the streets that night. I didn’t know how I would find money to eat or pay the rent. It didn’t take long to find people wanting to pay. There were lots of men from the stadium turning up looking for sex.”

Poliana said she knows many other underage girls from poor communities around the stadium who sell their bodies to stadium workers employed by Odebrecht Infrastructure.

She said: “There are many who are younger than me, 11, 12. I’m often the oldest girl on the road. When the World Cup begins there will be many more girls my age and younger. Everyone thinks they can make a lot of money from the foreigners coming here.”

FIFA World Cup - Sao Paulo Stadium/City Views

Thousands of England fans will be in Sao Paulo for the team’s second group game on June 19 against Uruguay. Another girl, 16-year-old Thais, left a man waiting inside a garage where she sometimes takes clients so she could speak to us.

A crack addict, Thais said she charges between 10 and 15 Reals – £2.60 to £4 – and has sex with up to 15 men a day.

“Nearly all my clients are from the works,” she said. “They always pay up, but they don’t always treat me well.

“But what can I do? My parents are dead, I need money. If it were not for the men at the stadium, I don’t know what I’d do. Tomorrow one of them has booked a whole day in the hotel – it will be a good day’s work for me.”

Thais also said she is “looking forward” to earning more during the World Cup. She said: “I’m going to charge the foreigners 50 Reals (£13) a time. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of work from the football fans.”

The city council’s inquiry into rocketing child prostitution paints a disturbing picture. A public hotline to report cases has “not stopped ringing” since it was set up nine months ago, said councillor Laercio Benko, the inquiry’s president. Reports include allegations children are being forcibly recruited into the sex trade by drugs gangsters.

The inquiry, due to publish its findings next month, also heard how pimps had been approaching men working at the stadium, offering them “very young girls” for sale. Cllr Benko said he fears the city could become a “child prostitution hub” before the big kick-off.

He said: “Sao Paulo is not organised to prevent this type of child sexual exploitation, not right now and much less during big events like the 2014 World Cup. What we are hearing are very serious ­allegations which demand responses, but I’m afraid there’s a lack of political will to bring it to an end.”

The nightmare is repeated across Brazil. In a recent survey of 300 workers on World Cup projects, 57 per cent said they knew of underage prostitution close to the sites. Astonishingly, a quarter of the men interviewed admitted they had paid for sex with children on one or more occasions.

An anti-trafficking expert told us: “For trafficking gangs the World Cup represents an unprecedented opportunity to make money. Foreign fans need to be aware of this – and that sex with a minor in Brazil carries up to 10 years’ jail.”

Back in the Favela da Paz, as building workers follow children into squalid shanty homes, dad-of-four Anderson Fonseca, 34, told us: “Since the work on the stadium started, it’s got out of control. Every day you see more girls, and much younger girls.”

Two weeks ago the Arena Corinthians raised fears of Brazil’s readiness to host the World Cup after a huge crane collapsed onto the structure, killing two workers.

But Sao Paulo’s chilling child prostitution ­explosion reveals even deeper worries about the country’s suitability to run the tournament.

A statement from construction firm Odebrecht Infrastructure said on Friday it “has not been ­notified” of child abuse allegations and is “unaware of any information about them.”

Child Sex Shame of Brazil: Prostitute, 14, Used by Workers at England World Cup Venue

Mothers as Sex Traffickers

Ngao, Ann and Neoung live amid poverty in the Cambodian fishing village of Svay Pak. When faced with a financial crisis, each made the extraordinary decision to sell their adolescent daughter to sex traffickers.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN)

When a poor family in Cambodia fell afoul of loan sharks, the mother asked her youngest daughter to take a job. But not just any job.

The girl, Kieu, was taken to a hospital and examined by a doctor, who issued her a “certificate of virginity.” She was then delivered to a hotel, where a man raped her for two days.

Kieu was 12 years old.

“I did not know what the job was,” says Kieu, now 14 and living in a safehouse. She says she returned home from the experience “very heartbroken.” But her ordeal was not over.

After the sale of her virginity, her mother had Kieu taken to a brothel where, she says, “they held me like I was in prison.”

She was kept there for three days, raped by three to six men a day. When she returned home, her mother sent her away for stints in two other brothels, including one 400 kilometers away on the Thai border. When she learned her mother was planned to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, she realized she needed to flee her home.

“Selling my daughter was heartbreaking, but what can I say?” says Kieu’s mother, Neoung, in an interview with a CNN crew that traveled to Phnom Penh to hear her story.

Like other local mothers CNN spoke to, she blames poverty for her decision to sell her daughter, saying a financial crisis drove her into the clutches of the traffickers who make their livelihoods preying on Cambodian children.

“It was because of the debt, that’s why I had to sell her,” she says. “I don’t know what to do now, because we cannot move back to the past.”

It is this aspect of Cambodia’s appalling child sex trade that Don Brewster, a 59-year-old American resident of the neighborhood, finds most difficult to countenance.

“I can’t imagine what it feels like to have your mother sell you, to have your mother waiting in the car while she gets money for you to be raped,” he says. “It’s not that she was stolen from her mother — her mother gave the keys to the people to rape her.”

Sephak's mother Ann (left), and Kieu's mother Neoung, are cousins and live nearby each other. Like many mothers in Svay Pak, when times were tough for their families financially, they saw selling their daughters' virginity as a way to make money. Both say they now regret the decision.

Sephak’s mother Ann (left), and Kieu’s mother Neoung, are cousins and live nearby each other. Like many mothers in Svay Pak, when times were tough for their families financially, they saw selling their daughters’ virginity as a way to make money. Both say they now regret the decision.

Brewster, a former pastor, moved from California to Cambodia with wife Bridget in 2009, after a harrowing investigative mission trip to the neighborhood where Kieu grew up — Svay Pak, the epicenter of child trafficking in the Southeast Asian nation.

“Svay Pak is known around the world as a place where pedophiles come to get little girls,” says Brewster, whose organization, Agape International Missions (AIM), has girls as young as four in its care, rescued from traffickers and undergoing rehabilitation in its safehouses.

In recent decades, he says, this impoverished fishing village – where a daughter’s virginity is too often seen as a valuable asset for the family – has become a notorious child sex hotspot

“When we came here three years ago and began to live here, 100% of the kids between 8 and 12 were being trafficked,” says Brewster. The local sex industry sweeps up both children from the neighborhood — sold, like Kieu, by their parents – as well as children trafficked in from the countryside, or across the border from Vietnam. “We didn’t believe it until we saw vanload after vanload of kids.”

Global center for pedophiles

Weak law enforcement, corruption, grinding poverty and the fractured social institutions left by the country’s turbulent recent history have helped earn Cambodia an unwelcome reputation for child trafficking, say experts.

UNICEF estimates that children account for a third of the 40,000-100,000 people in the country’s sex industry.

Svay Pak, a dusty shantytown on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, is at the heart of this exploitative trade.

As one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in one of Asia’s poorest countries – nearly half the population lives on less than $2 per day — the poverty in the settlement is overwhelming. The residents are mostly undocumented Vietnamese migrants, many of whom live in ramshackle houseboats on the murky Tonle Sap River, eking out a living farming fish in nets tethered to their homes.

Svay Pak, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, is the epicenter of Cambodia's child sex trade. Many of its residents are undocumented Vietnamese migrants, living in a community of ramshackle houseboats connected by rickety walkways.

Svay Pak, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, is the epicenter of Cambodia’s child sex trade. Many of its residents are undocumented Vietnamese migrants, living in a community of ramshackle houseboats connected by rickety walkways.

Most residents here are fish farmers. Beneath the platform on which the ducks are resting is a net teeming with fish, which will be fattened up to maturity over the course of months to provide what is often the family's sole source of income.

Most residents here are fish farmers. Beneath the platform on which the ducks are resting is a net teeming with fish, which will be fattened up to maturity over the course of months to provide what is often the family’s sole source of income.

It’s a precarious existence. The river is fickle, the tarp-covered houseboats fragile. Most families here scrape by on less than a dollar a day, leaving no safety net for when things go wrong – such as when Kieu’s father fell seriously ill with tuberculosis, too sick to maintain the nets that contained their livelihood. The family fell behind on repayments of a debt.

In desperation, Kieu’s mother, Neoung, sold her virginity to a Cambodian man of “maybe more than 50,” who had three children of his own, Kieu says. The transaction netted the family only $500, more than the $200 they had initially borrowed but a lot less than the thousands of dollars they now owed a loan shark.

So Neoung sent her daughter to a brothel to earn more.

“They told me when the client is there, I have to wear short shorts and a skimpy top,” says Kieu. “But I didn’t want to wear them and then I got blamed.” Her clients were Thai and Cambodian men, who, she says, knew she was very young.

Don Brewster, a former pastor from California, is the founder and director of Agape International Missions, an organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating the victims of child trafficking in Cambodia and smashing the networks that exploit them. He moved to Cambodia with his wife in 2009 after a harrowing investigative mission trip to the neighborhood.

“When they sleep with me, they feel very happy,” she says. “But for me, I feel very bad.”

The men who abuse the children of Svay Pak fit a number of profiles. They include pedophile sex tourists, who actively seek out sex with prepubescent children, and more opportunistic “situational” offenders, who take advantage of opportunities in brothels to have sex with adolescents.

Sex tourists tend to hail from affluent countries, including the West, South Korea, Japan and China, but research suggests Cambodian men remain the main exploiters of child prostitutes in their country.

Mark Capaldi is a senior researcher for Ecpat International, an organization committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children.

“In most cases when we talk about child sexual exploitation, it’s taking place within the adult sex industry,” says Capaldi. “We tend to often hear reports in the media about pedophilia, exploitation of very young children. But the majority of sexual exploitation of children is of adolescents, and that’s taking place in commercial sex venues.”

The abusers would often be local, situational offenders, he says. Research suggests some of the Asian perpetrators are “virginity seekers,” for whom health-related beliefs around the supposedly restorative or protective qualities of virgins factor into their interest in child sex.

Whatever the profile of the perpetrator, the abuse they inflict on their victims, both girls and boys, is horrific. Trafficked children in Cambodia have been subjected to rape by multiple offenders, filmed performing sex acts and left with physical injuries — not to mention psychological trauma — from their ordeals, according to research.

In recent years, various crackdowns in Svay Pak have dented the trade, but also pushed it underground. Today, Brewster says, there are more than a dozen karaoke bars operating as brothels along the road to the neighborhood, where two years ago there was none. Even today, he estimates a majority of girls in Svay Park are being trafficked.

Virgins for sale

Kieu’s relative, Sephak, who lives nearby, is another survivor. (CNN is naming the victims in this case at the request of the girls themselves, as they want to speak out against the practice of child sex trafficking.)

Sephak was 13 when she was taken to a hospital, issued a certificate confirming her virginity, and delivered to a Chinese man in a Phnom Penh hotel room. She was returned after three nights. Sephak says her mother was paid $800.

“When I had sex with him, I felt empty inside. I hurt and I felt very weak,” she says. “It was very difficult. I thought about why I was doing this and why my mom did this to me.” After her return, her mother began pressuring her daughter to work in a brothel.

Toha listens to her mother explain how she came to sell her to sex traffickers. She no longer lives with her family, opting instead to live in a residence for trafficking survivors run by Brewster’s organization — but still provides her family some financial support from her new job.

Not far away from Sephak’s family home, connected to the shore via a haphazard walkway of planks that dip beneath the water with each footfall, is the houseboat where Toha grew up.

The second of eight children, none of whom attend school, Toha was sold for sex by her mother when she was 14. The transaction followed the same routine: medical certificate, hotel, rape.

About two weeks after she returned to Svay Pak, she says, the man who had bought her virginity began calling, requesting to see her again. Her mother urged her to go. The pressure drove her to despair.

“I went to the bathroom and cut my arms. I cut my wrists because I wanted to kill myself,” Toha says. A friend broke down the door to the bathroom and came to her aid.

Mothers as sex traffickers

CNN met with the mothers of Kieu, Sephak and Toha in Svay Pak to hear their accounts of why they chose to expose their daughters to sexual exploitation.

Kieu’s mother, Neoung, had come to Svay Pak from the south of the country in search of a better life when Kieu was just a baby. But life in Svay Pak, she would learn, wasn’t easy.

When her husband’s tuberculosis rendered him too sick to properly maintain the nets on the family’s fish pond, the family took on a $200 loan at extortionate rates from a loan shark. It has now ballooned to more than $9,000. “The debt that my husband and I have is too big, we can’t pay it off,” she says. “What can you do in a situation like this?”

“Virginity selling” was widespread in the community, and Neoung saw it as a legitimate option to make some income. “They think it is normal,” she says. “I told her, ‘Kieu, your dad is sick and can’t work… Do you agree to do that job to contribute to your parents?'”

“I know that I did wrong so I feel regret about it, but what can I do?” she says. “We cannot move back to the past.”

But she adds she would never do it again.

Sephak’s mother, Ann, has a similar story. Ann moved to Svay Pak when her father came to work as a fish farmer. She and her husband have serious health problems.

“We are very poor, so I must work hard,” she says. “It’s still not enough to live by and we’re sick all the time.”

The family fell on hard times. When a storm roared through the region, their house was badly damaged, their fish got away, and they could no longer afford to eat. In crisis, the family took out a loan that eventually spiraled to about $6000 in debt, she says.

With money-lenders coming to her home and threatening her, Ann made the decision to take up an offer from a woman who approached her promising big money for her daughter’s virginity.

“I saw other people doing it and I didn’t think it through,” she says. “If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t do that to my daughter.”

On her houseboat, as squalls of rain lash the river, Toha’s mother Ngao sits barefoot before the television taking pride of place in the main living area, and expresses similar regrets. On the wall hangs a row of digitally enhanced portraits of her husband and eight children. They are dressed in smart suits and dresses, superimposed before an array of fantasy backdrops: an expensive motorcycle, a tropical beach, an American-style McMansion.

Life with so many children is hard, she says, so she asked her daughter to go with the men.

She would not do the same again, she says, as she now has access to better support; Agape International Missions offers interest-free loan refinancing to get families out of the debt trap, and factory jobs for rescued daughters and their mothers.

The news of Ngao’s betrayal of her daughter has drawn mixed responses from others in the neighborhood, she says. Some mock her for offering up her daughter, others sympathize with her plight. Some see nothing wrong with she did at all.

“Some people say ‘It’s OK — just bring your daughter (to the traffickers) so you can pay off the debt and feel better,'” says Ngao.

Toha's mother Ngao says she sold her second daughter to sex traffickers to try to make ends meet for the rest of the family. She has eight children.

Toha’s mother Ngao says she sold her second daughter to sex traffickers to try to make ends meet for the rest of the family. She has eight children.

A new future

Not long after her suicide attempt, Toha was sent to a brothel in southern Cambodia. She endured more than 20 days there, before she managed to get access to a phone, and called a friend. She told the friend to contact Brewster’s group, who arranged for a raid on the establishment.

Although children can be found in many brothels across Cambodia — a 2009 survey of 80 Cambodian commercial sex premises found three-quarters offering children for sex – raids to free them are infrequent.

The country’s child protection infrastructure is weak, with government institutions riven with corruption. Cambodia’s anti-trafficking law does not even permit police to conduct undercover surveillance on suspected traffickers. General Pol Phie They, the head of Cambodia’s anti-trafficking taskforce set up in 2007 to address the issue, says this puts his unit at a disadvantage against traffickers.

“We are still limited in prosecuting these violations because first, we lack the expertise and second, we lack the technical equipment,” he says. “Sometimes, we see a violation but we can’t collect the evidence we need to prosecute the offender.”

He admits that police corruption in his country, ranked 160 of 175 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, is hampering efforts to tackle the trade in Svay Pak. “Police in that area probably do have connections with the brothel owners,” he concedes.

Toha’s nightmare is now over. She earns a steady income, weaving bracelets that are sold in American stores, while she studies for her future. Her dream is to become a social worker, helping other girls who have been through the same ordeal.

Brewster believes that corruption was to blame for nearly thwarting Toha’s rescue. In October 2012, after Toha’s call for help, AIM formulated plans with another organization to rescue the teen, and involved police.

“We get a warrant to shut the place down,” recalls Brewster. “Fifteen minutes later, Toha calls and says, ‘I don’t know what happened, the police just came with the owner and took us to a new place. I’m locked inside and don’t know where I am.'”

Fortunately the rescue team were able to establish Toha’s new location, and she and other victims were freed and the brothel managers arrested – although not before the owners fled to Vietnam.

Toha’s testimony against the brothel managers, however, resulted in their prosecutions.

Last month, at the Phnom Penh Municipal Courthouse, husband and wife Heng Vy and Nguyeng Thi Hong were found guilty of procuring prostitution and sentenced to three years in jail. Both were ordered to pay $1,250 to the court, $5,000 to Toha, and smaller sums to three other victims.

Brewster was in court to watch the sentencing; a small victory in the context of Cambodia’s child trafficking problem, but a victory nonetheless.

“Toha’s an amazingly brave girl,” he says on the courthouse steps, shortly after the brothel managers were led down to the cells.

“Getting a telephone when she’s trapped in a brothel to call for help, to saying she would be a witness in front of the police…. She stood up and now people are going to pay the price and girls will be protected. What it will do is bring more Tohas, more girls who are willing to speak, places shut down, bad guys put away.”

Like the other victims, Toha now lives in an AIM safehouse, attending school and supporting herself by weaving bracelets, which are sold in stores in the West as a way of providing a livelihood to formerly trafficked children.

In the eyes of the community, having a job has helped restore to the girls some of the dignity that was stripped from them by having been sold into trafficking, says Brewster.

It has also given them independence from their families — and with that, the opportunity to build for themselves a better reality than the one that was thrust on them. Now Sephak has plans to become a teacher, Kieu a hairdresser.

For her part, Toha still has contact with her mother – even providing financial support to the family through her earnings – but has become self-reliant. She wants to be a social worker, she says, helping girls who have endured the same hell she has.

“(Toha)’s earning a good living and she has a dream beyond that, you know, to become a counselor and to be able to help other girls,” says Brewster. “You see the transformation that’s happened to her.”