When Ophelia* responded to an online ad for a job at a spa, she expected that she’d be spending her days providing standard services: massages, maybe facials, or other skin treatments.
Instead, she found herself forced to do terrible things she never could have imagined.
The spa owner was a predatory man who demanded that his employees provide customers with sexual services. If the women refused, the owner withheld their salary.
Even when customers weren’t present, Ophelia and the other women working at the spa weren’t safe. The owner was exploiting and abusing these women himself.
Excessively long working hours kept the employees exhausted and emotionally fragile.
With every day that passed, terror was compounded through abuse and manipulation, making it harder to see a way out. The owner kept the employees compliant through threats and fear. Jobs can be difficult to find, and these women may have believed there was nowhere for them to go.
But Ophelia chose to believe that she and the women she worked with deserved better. Rallying her courage, she contacted the police: “He’s harming us. This isn’t right.”
Law enforcement brought the tip to The Exodus Road’s team in the Philippines, who mobilized immediately. Investigators gathered evidence that gave police everything they needed in order to raid the spa.
On the day when law enforcement stormed the spa in Operation Momentum, Ophelia and seven other women working with her were freed. The spa owner was arrested, along with an accomplice and a customer who had come to the spa for illicit services. Because of the exceptional case-building work of The Exodus Road investigators, a conviction and prison time for the traffickers is likely. All of this was thanks to Ophelia’s strength in choosing to risk retribution from the trafficker in order to advocate for herself and the women around her.
This case is part of the growing momentum of The Exodus Road’s team in the Philippines, who celebrated their first successful operation just weeks earlier.
Operation Momentum capped off three other cases in which investigators provided police with the necessary information to act decisively. Each of those three operations included underage girls.
Between Operation Momentum and the three raids, The Exodus Road supported immediately before it, 17 adult women and 7 teenage girls were freed. A total of 9 traffickers were arrested.
Freedom is advancing in the Philippines. Every case further builds the trust and collaboration between The Exodus Road, law enforcement, and other nonprofits and advocates on the ground. This movement towards justice will only grow stronger through the support of The Exodus Road’s community!
*Name and imagery representative