Chat for cybersex
Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation -- cyber-sex trafficking.
After arriving at the two-story house in Negros Oriental -- located in the central Visayas region of the Philippines -- Andrea found that her new home would become both workplace and prison. For the next few months, Andrea said she was one of seven girls, between age 13 and 18, who spent day and night satisfying the sexual fantasies of men around the world.
According to Andrey Sawchenko, National Director at the International Justice Mission Philippines, the private nature of the technology allows the crime to take place in a venue that law enforcement can't easily access -- and that makes it harder to gather evidence against perpetrators.
Although no official statistics exist, Ruby Ramores, a former Executive at the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), believes tens of thousands of women are involved in the industry and that most of the girls are recruited by friends, family -- sometimes even by their parents.
"It gives a strong message to the traffickers: 'We know you are out there now and we are going to get you,'" said Ramores.
Ramores says it's essential for the public to have a new context in which to interpret any suspicious behavior: "Unless there will be whistle-blowers, we won't be able to catch them.
We need people to be aware and to cooperate with us in order for us to track these kinds of crimes."Andrea was rescued after being held for three months, when one of the other girls escaped and told the authorities.
She is now a star witness in a case against her abusers, but she said she has received death threats and that has prevented the case from progressing.
Andrea dreamed of returning home but her employer, an uncle, slept downstairs and kept the front door locked. Andrea's story is only one of many playing out every day in a nation where the conditions -- widespread poverty, an established sex trade, a predominantly English-speaking, technically-literate population and widespread Internet access -- have made it easy for crimes like this to flourish.
"I was told if I tried to escape, the police would put me in jail. I was very innocent -- I grew up without TV and had never left my village before," she explained. Jo Alforque, Advocacy Officer with End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT Philippines), an NGO working to combat child sexual exploitation, explained that because cyber-sex dens can be located anywhere -- from Internet cafes to private homes and offices -- they are extremely difficult to identify.
They fear they will be the ones punished, and in the cases when family members are being accused, the girls often want to protect them.