“I learned about Denisse Pichardo, winner of the 2011 Humanitarian Award by World of Children (WorldOfChildren.org) from The World Of Children Awards event last year, and had the opportunity to interview her (through translation!) about her work in more detail. She’s fascinating!!! Denise is a true crusader in helping children affected by the unspeakable and horrific act of human trafficking. Learn more about it, her, and how to help below!
Joanna Pantages: You have now saved and protected at least 17,000 children from sexual slavery; the sale of children by extremely poor families; and commercial sexual exploitation. What was your first experience in rescuing a child from sex trafficking or exploitation?
Denisse Pichardo: When I first began this work, I had several experiences that left strong impressions on me. One of the first was when a group of 4 children living on the streets were all victimized by the same man, a 65 year-old North American. Our organization started the process to prosecute the man for his crimes and he eventually spent six months in prison. He was then released. We were never given an explanation of why he was released. The experience was difficult for us because it showed us the power of money in a corrupt Justice System.
We tried to turn this into a positive for our movement. The case was an example of the complete failure of our Child Protection System. By denouncing the way this case ended, we drew attention to this issue and began to train prosecutors to prosecute with the aim of getting better outcomes for child victims.
After this case, three of the boys returned to their families in other towns. But the fourth boy, whom the North American man had been closest to, did not have as happy an outcome. He is now in prison for committing several crimes, including armed robbery.
In another early case, we worked jointly with prosecutors, the United States Immigration police, and the Board of the National Protection for the Rights of Children to conduct an operation that rescued two girls from a brothel. The outcome was better this time – the brothel owners were sentenced to prison for fifteen years.”