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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 9, 2017 12:37am-1:08am PST

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tonight, a special edition of "nightline." "girls sold: breaking the cycle." a young girl with a bright smile. but beneath it a hellish past. sold into sex slavery and held for years. >> i'd cry every day. i'm scared every moment. >> reporter: finally rescued, taken in by one crusading couple. >> they assume you can go in there and buy a little girl any time you want. >> now returning to the country where her childhood was stolen. bob woodruff inside cambodia where desperation turns children into currency. we are inside a raid to rescue young girls. and with one brave survivor confronting the woman who she says sold her. >> did she ever apologize?
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>> this special edition of "nightline." "girls sold: breaking the cycle" will be right back. this is a snack. this is another snack. ohhhh, is that hershey's chocolate? they're all snack brothers from the same snack mother. it's hershey's snack mix filled with pretzels, almonds, and, hershey's chocolate. boom-snackalaka. hershey's and reese's snack mix: snacks on snacks on snacks. boom-snackalaka. it's okay to cry, right? no more! we don't want anymore!
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[crying] ahhhhhhhhhh! everyday price and no extra monthly fees, unlike cable. speeds up to 45 megs, for $30 a month. this is a special edition of "nightline." "girls sold: breaking the cycle." >> good evening. thanks for joining us. tonight an extraordinary encounter. we're with a young girl sold into sexual slavery confronting the woman who she says was
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responsible. and the american couple who takes us on a mission to rescue underage girls trapped in a cycle of poverty and exploitation. abc's bob woodruff traveled to cambodia. >> reporter: at first glance, 22-year-old soka chan might look like your average, everyday california girl. she has a lap dog named chica. and her own car that she bought herself. behind all this, soka hides a dark past from her childhood that still haunts her to this day. >> i'm going to go pack. >> reporter: she decides to travel 8,000 miles. >> thank you so much for soka and for this opportunity to go see the family -- >> reporter: to confront that past back to where her life started. cambodia. it's a bittersweet return. cambodia's often called the
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kingdom of wonder. but turn down certain side streets and you will find a sordid world. where sex is the hot commodity. >> how are you? >> reporter: and children are a currency. >> this pimp came up to me and asked me if i wanted young girls. and not only that, he took me to a house where there were 60, at least 60, young girls to choose from. >> reporter: it's a reality soka lived through. at 7 years old, she was sold for sex to this man, michael joseph pepe, an american former marine living as an expat in phnom penh. >> what did michael have to do with you? >> he wanted my virginity. he's the first guy. >> when you were 7 years old? >> yes. >> an american? >> an american man. >> why did he do that? >> i don't know. good question.
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>> where can i find sex with young girls? >> reporter: you're looking at hidden camera footage. western men soliciting sex with underaged girls. >> how old do you want? >> 10. >> 10 years old? okay. >> 8, 9, 10, 11. >> these were shot over the last two years. >> how old do you want? >> you know. under 10, all of them. 10. >> reporter: the video was shot by agape organization, an organization dedicated to stopping child sex trafficking in cambodia. >> this makes me want to throw up. this is your people asking what age they want. someone wanted a 10-year-old. >> would have taken an 8-year-old. 8, 9, 10-year-old. >> reporter: former pastor don brewster and his wife bridget
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founded aim to protect cambodian children from men like these. >> why is it pedophiles often come to cambodia? >> because they can get away with it. they may not physically take a life but they are killing a child in the sense that childhood is gone, that will never be regained. soka will never have a childhood like other children have had. >> tell us what happened when soka was 7 years old. >> yeah. she was sold. she was sold to pepe. >> the virgin sale. >> yeah. >> reporter: for soka, that was just the beginning. she would spend about five years shuttled to different illegal brothels. always locked in a dark room. all before her 12th birthday. >> in that house, if you see that room, you will know that i'm going to die in there. because in that room is so dark. and doesn't have anything. doesn't have the light, doesn't have the restroom, doesn't have nothing.
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>> so all that till you're 12 years old? >> and i cry every day. and i scared every moment. and now i still scared when i sleep at night. i don't close my eyes. when i close it, i'm so scared. i feel like someone going to come to call me, to call me out of the room. >> reporter: but then when she was 12, seemingly out of nowhere, a miracle. >> the gate opened. and all the police came in. that's how they rescued. >> reporter: soka had been rescued by an ngo working with don and bridget. >> what was she like?
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>> she was shy, really shy and quiet. >> yeah, and she had like a tic. really, really pretty significant at the time when she first came. >> reporter: that shy little girl once played on streets much like these, not knowing sexual predators were lurking nearby. those history risk undercover videos were filmed right here. just steps from don and bridget's home. >> there's no shame. can you imagine coming into a little community like this, stopping in front of the school back there, and asking the first person you see, i want to have sex with a young girl. right around the corner there's both drug and sex traffickers. that's a dangerous part of town to go into. >> reporter: every building of their compound here was once a brothel that sold children. >> this was the worst brothel in a village that was brothel after
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brothel after brothel. this is where the young kids were. the 8, 9, 10, 11-year-old kids were housed in this building. >> reporter: for children as young as 8 years old, concrete walls, colored pink, shut them off from the world. >> this is what the kids stayed in. >> really, this is where they were forced to have sex. >> yeah, i mean there was no light down here. now it's all lit and up stuff. you know. go out to a backyard and such. this was completely dark back here. the back door was cemented closed so they couldn't escape out the back way. >> do you have any nightmares about what you lived through? >> yes. is really scary when i have nightmare. make me want to be with someone. >> reporter: for don and bridget, they know many more girls like soka are out there alone, trapped. they needed to do more.
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when we come back, we take you inside the private war to rescue girls just like soka and -- soka confronts the person she says first sold her into the sex trade when she was a 7-year-old child. >> does she deny that she sold you? >> yes. >> did she ever apologize? does psoriasis ever get in the way of a touching moment? if you have moderate to severe psoriasis, you can embrace the chance of completely clear skin with taltz. taltz is proven to give you a chance at completely clear skin. with taltz, up to 90% of patients had a significant improvement of their psoriasis plaques. in fact, 4 out of 10 even achieved completely clear skin. do not use if you are allergic to taltz. before starting you should be checked for tuberculosis. taltz may increase your risk of infections
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♪ ♪ > on a night like this, filled with prayer and light --
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>> we're having a blast tonight. >> it's easy to forget cambodia's dark past. a civilization almost destroyed by civil war and genocide. experts say it was out of that brutal and lawless period that prostitution and child trafficking began to flourish. officials say the problem is getting better. prostitution is now illegal. but don brewster says it's still rampant. operating out of massage parlors, bars, karaoke lounges. >> the front is that you go in, and you're going to sing songs, right? they'll bring in 20 to 30 girls. if you like them, then you negotiate sex. >> reporter: just out of sight, in certain back rooms, there are still underaged girls being sold and abused, just as soka was. >> i got beat a lot and hit a lot. not allowed to talk to another people. >> so what about the police? it's so obvious what it is.
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>> there's police that aren't fully equipped. then there's a segment of the police, this is how they make their money, protecting these places. >> reporter: so two years ago, don and bridget took matters into their own hands. creating their own brothel raiding s.w.a.t. team. working alongside the cambodian national police for what they say is a higher cause. >> if you look at what christ said, right, he told us to go into the worst possible places. i think he wants christians to be kick-ass. >> this is the investigations office -- >> reporter: leading the s.w.a.t. effort is eric milder. >> we anticipate there will be sex victims in there. >> reporter: a former uk police officer. >> my job is to get the intelligence. >> reporter: ten years ago, undercovers like these went into the brothel where soka was held captive, posing as johns. >> i heard my friends say that one guy come in and just play
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with the girls. just play pool. >> reporter: that's when police stormed in to rescue her. today "nightline" is going inside a raid to rescue other underage girls and take down an alleged sex trafficker known as the mama-san. >> mama-san is the main person in charge, the main trafficker, the woman who's running the brothel. >> reporter: in their crosshairs, this massage parlor which they say is actually a front for a brothel. >> there's at least one minor there. when they give the signal they'll call us. >> reporter: after weeks of planning, the raid is a go. >> this is the van that they will be going into to do the raid. >> nice to meet you. >> reporter: in the command center, all eyes are on this man. he's on the phone with an undercover inside the brothel. >> they're just waiting on the mama-san. >> reporter: but there's a problem. the underaged girls are no longer there.
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>> do you have any idea how old the victims are? >> the youngest one we believe is 15. >> this is the worst part. >> waiting? >> yeah. >> reporter: hours later, the raid is back on. >> our video person. they'll undoubtedly have knifes. >> mama-san is there? >> yeah. there on your left. >> reporter: the woman in red. that's the mama-san. they go room by room. evidence of sex throughout. a red mattress on the floor. condoms. watching them collect all this evidence, it seems to become too much for the mama-san. >> she's having a heart attack? >> reporter: but she revives quickly. >> you're hope to see this big, mean guy come out. normally it's a woman. >> reporter: then the moment they all hoped for. the young girls appear.
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saved from a life of terror and darkness. the rescued girls are taken by van to the police station. flanked by aim social workers. soka knows what they're feeling, having gone through it once herself. >> me and my friends in the car together, we cry about it. because we thought that we going to go to the jail. we didn't do anything wrong. >> reporter: just three days after being taken out of the brothel, don and the agape team welcome the girls to their new home, aim's long-running after-care program where rescued trauma victims are brought to heal. all children that you're seeing are survivors of sex trade. the new girls are given a hero's welcome, trading in the striped shirts and face masks they wore just days ago for teddy bear sweaters and tiaras. an aim ritual.
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every rescued girl crowned a princess. just as soka was ten years ago on her first day of freedom. freedom that she says has meant everything to her. >> i want the world to know that that has happened. i want ending of the trafficking. >> you want to destroy this kind of sex traffic? >> yes. and to help another girl. >> reporter: on this trip, soka has confronted many of her personal demons. but there is one left. she's on her way to see the person who she says sold her to a pedophile when she was just 7 years old. remember when soka first got off the plane? that person hugging her is soka's mom. the person who aim says sold her to an american pedophile 15 years ago. when you saw her for the first time in the airport, when you landed, to embrace her, to hug her. i think a lot of people
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wondering how could you do that? how angry were you? >> i get angry at her and i did cry about it and i did tell her that, please don't sell me. >> reporter: soka told us the airport was not the place to confront her mother. she wanted to do it here in the slums where she grew up. to demand an answer from her mother about what happened to her all those years ago. >> did she ever apologize? >> no. >> she never apologized? ready to go in? >> uh-huh. >> do i need to take shoes off? >> no, you're fine. >> reporter: we step inside the tiny house where soka grew up. >> that's you in california? >> yes. >> reporter: photos of her life in america litter the wall. >> this is a pretty emotional time for you? to see your daughter?
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can you explain to me exactly what happened when she was just 7 years old and she left this house? she tells us she was extremely poor. so when a woman said a cafe needed a waitress and offered her $100 a month for her daughter, she jumped at the chance. she denies she knew the cafe was a front for a brothel. but all that came later. after what soka says was the most unforgivable thing her mother did, selling her virginity to a pedophile. >> reporter: and then, for the first time, soka tells her mother about the awful moments she faced as a little girl.
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the beatings. forced into sex with strangers. it's a story that might bring any mother to tears. but soka's mom seems stoic. >> do you want forgiveness? >> reporter: the moment goes by so quickly, i almost miss it. did you just tell her that you will forgive her? >> reporter: those are real tears at last. it is hard to fathom that a mother could sell a daughter, that a daughter could ever forgive. but soka has nerves that defy all the cruelty, all the neglect. perhaps it took the kindness of complete strangers and years of care to begin reversing the horrors of her youth. but somehow, after years of fear and darkness, she has forged a
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new life. when you were a little girl, did you feel you had any love? >> no. >> no one loved you? >> no. i feel like i'm the ugly one in the world. >> and now? >> now i am a princess. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm bob woodruff in phnom penh, cambodia. >> dark reality. our thanks to bob woodruff for that stunning report. we'll be right back. healthy e. strong muscles, all in one. highly digestible, and a taste he loves, all in one. purina one smartblend is expertly blended... with 100% nutrition, 0% fillers, always real meat #1. lifelong smart nutrition. it's all in one. purina one. this this this is my body of proof.
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