Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Kiwi woman kept as sex slave in Philippines

Mary Jones was severely beaten when she tried to escape. Photo / Natalie Slade
Mary Jones was severely beaten when she tried to escape. Photo / Natalie Slade

A New Zealand woman has told how she was kidnapped, beaten and forced into prostitution after being duped by a Facebook invitation to join a martial arts school.

Mary Elizabeth Jones, 39, was held captive in a tiny, filthy room for five and a half months and forced to have sex with up to nine men a day, after being kidnapped in the Philippines.

The martial arts enthusiast's ordeal began when she answered a message from a top martial arts group, inviting her to a month's intense training in the country in October.

"They were meant to be world class and I thought this was a chance for me to learn from the best," said Ms Jones.

But after being picked up from Iloilo City's airport by the purported leader of the group, Ms Jones was robbed of her belongings and thrown into the bug-infested room.

She was visited by up to nine men a day and forced to have sex with them. Each paid 5000 pesos ($140).

"I felt utterly disgusted, and I was treated like a piece of meat," she said. "It was meant to be a trip of a lifetime but it has destroyed my whole life instead."

Ms Jones said her attempts to escape and fight back resulted in severe beatings, which caused her to lose several teeth.

And after months of torment and starvation, which left her too weak to stand, she was dragged from the room and dumped on the streets of Manila.

"I hate myself immensely and feel so dirty. I wish I could have just died in the Philippines rather than go on living like this," said Ms Jones, who is now recovering at a boarding house in Mangere.

Five months after being rescued, she wants to share her story to serve as a warning for others who "may be tempted" by similar invitations.

Ms Jones said the room where she was kept was full of bugs and insects and the food - which came once every two days - often contained "creepy crawlies".

"It was so bad, I doubt even dogs would have eaten it," she said.

"Even now, I still wake up shivering and can still smell the stench of the enclosed room I was kept in ..."

In the five months, she lost around 30kg, dropping from 90kg.

"I don't know whether it was because I grew too weak to continue servicing the men or they had found a replacement, but they just came, dragged me away, and I was dumped on the streets in the city," she said.

Ms Jones was taken in by a women's refuge centre and stayed at the Haven National Centre for Women before receiving help from the US Embassy to return to New Zealand.

The embassy confirmed that it had helped Ms Jones in the Philippines.

Immigration New Zealand's general manager (fraud and compliance), Peter Elms said Ms Jones was holding a British passport and the department helped with her re-entry into the country.

Ms Jones was born in the UK but moved to Auckland as a child and attended Avondale Intermediate and Avondale College.

She moved to the United States and worked in business management and computer technology in Alaska before her trip to the Philippines.

"Our role was to endorse her status as a New Zealand citizen in her British passport which entitles her to remain here indefinitely," Mr Elms said.

The latest Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State lists the Philippines as a source country for human trafficking and a destination and transit destination for men, women and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.

"Hundreds of victims are subjected to forced prostitution each day in well-known and highly visible business establishments that cater to both domestic and foreign demand for commercial sex acts," the report said.

"Child sex tourism remained a serious problem ... with sex tourists coming from Northeast Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and New Zealand to engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children."

Philippines consul-general Emilie Shi said the sex trafficking problem in her country involved mainly "domestic people", and cases involving foreign nationals were "extremely rare".

"As with any society, there will always be a few scumbags who run illegal rings and try to make a profit at the expense of other human beings," Ms Shi said. "To be safe, it is advisable to check with the embassy here before going there for holiday or for business, if there are any doubts at all."

- NZ Herald

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