An “immersive” podcast series that aims to fight online sexual exploitation of children, which is now considered one of the world’s fastest-growing crimes, has been launched in the Philippines this week.
The six-part podcast series dubbed “The Fight of My Life: Finding Ruby,” features the travails of 16-year-old Ruby (not her real name) from her village to enslavement in an online sex trafficking den.
“We wanted to use the stories of those around Ruby — the rescuers, the lawyers, the carers, the advocates — to demonstrate just how profound her story is,” said Evelyn Pingul of the International Justice Mission (IJM) Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.
From behind a veil of acronyms, statistics and niche terminology, “Finding Ruby” highlights the human side of “a hidden crime” from the perspective of Ruby, her rescuers and those who walked with her toward justice and healing.
Rich Thompson, podcast host and creative director of Australian agency Cadence, said it was important for them “to create an almost cinematic listening experience, to pull listeners alongside Ruby and on the journey through the highs and lows.”
“Online sexual exploitation of children is a confronting topic and people are quick to turn away, but Ruby’s story reminds us that there is great triumph and hope to be celebrated, too,” said Thompson.
In a statement, IJM said there are no reliable estimates on how many children are trapped in the industry, where predators from around the world pay to watch and direct the sexual abuse of children via livestreams, with the median age of victims being 11 years old.
The United Nations estimates that at least 750,000 sexual predators are online at any given time.
When IJM began to focus on online sexual exploitation of children in 2016, almost a thousand were rescued in the Philippines alone.
An IJM-led study also looked into global law enforcement data from 2010 to 2017 and showed that the Philippines had eight times more reported cases than any other country, making it a global hotspot for the crime.
“Cheap internet access, high levels of English-language proficiency, and financial disparity between foreign remote offenders and local traffickers are believed to be key factors driving the proliferation of the crime,” read an IJM statement.
“In 40 percent of online child sexual exploitation cases recorded from 2010 to 2017, biological parents perpetrated the crime, while other relatives, family friends or neighbors accounted for 42 percent,” it added.
The group said Philippine authorities have conducted at least 269 operations since 2011, resulting in the rescue of 990 victims and at-risk children, the arrest of 311 suspects arrested, and the conviction of 146 perpetrators.