A Clemson faculty member and graduate student recently met with Leni Robredo, vice president of the Philippines, to discuss human trafficking and specifically the online sexual exploitation of children in the country.
Mark Small, chair of Clemson’s youth, family and community studies department; and Jason Pope, a graduate student in Clemson’s international family and community studies doctoral program; spent two hours with Robredo to detail efforts to combat trafficking and exploitation and better understand the root causes of the issue.
Through the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), Pope is leading efforts to build capacity of local social workers and shelters to care for these children, helping the children heal, and finding places for them to return to family settings.
“Given the high levels of poverty in the Philippines, dealing with the problem of online sexual exploitation is extremely challenging,” Pope says. “With funding from the U.S. State Department, we have been able to establish rescue shelters and are now working with the National Association of Social Workers and university professors to better understand how to intervene.”
According to the Acta Medica Philippina, the Philippines’ national health science journal, child pornography has become rampant in the country. A new wave of trafficking in the country has come through the use of technology to produce live trafficking events, which involve traffickers—acting on live online requests—posing and instructing children to act out viewers’ sexual fantasies on camera.
In the two-hour meeting, Robredo and her staff learned of the efforts to combat this disturbing trend. She and her staff also detailed additional community development efforts by her office to address the root causes of poverty, which is one of many factors that lead to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
“I was impressed with the sophistication of community development approaches her staff was taking to make an impact,” Small says. “Not only are they engaging the community in meaningful participation, they are measuring results with necessary research. The vice president’s request to meet with us demonstrates real commitment from the highest levels of government.”
SAWSO’s ongoing project to prevent online sexual exploitation of children through prevention and intervention will continue over the next three years. A curriculum for social workers along with a research agenda are being pursued with plans to generalize to other countries.
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