Anna* is just 15 years old, but when the police ask, she says what she’s learned to say to protect herself: “I’m 21.”
Age is complicated for Anna, who has already lived through more horror than many people will endure in a lifetime. She was kidnapped from her home in Paraguay and taken over the border to a tourist area in Brazil. A group of older women brought her to a brothel, where she joined several other women from her home country.
Anna was sold for sex. The traffickers profited. Anna quickly learned a cover story about her age, convinced by her traffickers that police would arrest her if they knew the truth. She didn’t understand that she was actually protecting the traffickers as they exploited her.
That’s why, on the day the police enter the brothel and begin seizing illicit weapons and drugs, Anna assures them that she is 21. When they ask for identification, she starts to cry. Because of course, the truth is that Anna’s not an adult: she’s a traumatized child, and she’s afraid. She’s been given drugs to blur her mind, her ability to resist. When police ask for her birthday, Anna says she can’t remember.
But these law enforcement officers recently completed The Exodus Road’s TraffickWatch Academy Brazil, so they know how to identify and act on the red flags of human trafficking.
An officer contacts Paraguayan officials, who confirm that Anna is only 15, and that she’s been reported missing by her family.
As four women who trafficked Anna are taken into police custody, Anna is freed. The traffickers face up to 8 years in prison and a significant fine. Anna is receiving government aftercare in order to restore her to the kind of life a 15-year-old should have.
In cases like this, it can be difficult to discern truth from a trafficker’s lies — especially when identifying documents are missing, as in Anna’s case. This is what has made the powerful digital investigative tools offered by Cellebrite essential for pursuing justice. Because of the Cellebrite unit that The Exodus Road was able to give to law enforcement in the state where Anna was being held, officers were able to locate the brothel and identify that it was trafficking minors. The training through The Exodus Road’s TraffickWatch Brazil was part of what equipped them to know how to handle the situation. Anna is home because police had the resources they needed to work on her case.
Empowering on-the-ground support in the anti-trafficking fight is the mission that you become a part of when you support The Exodus Road. Thank you for being an essential part of operations like these!