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Indiana Tech professor, Destiny Rescue save children from sex-trafficking in Thailand

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Millions of children worldwide become victims of human trafficking. The majority of those victims are overseas.  Statistics show seven out of ten victims of sexual exploitation worldwide are in the Asian Pacific region.

Since 2011, the group Destiny Rescue has helped more than 3,000 children escape sex trafficking around the world.

At least 400 victims have been rescued so far this year and just two weeks ago a professor at Indiana Tech helped the group bring another 16 girls to safety.

Dominic Lombardo, who heads the Criminal Justice Department, traveled with Destiny Rescue to save more than a dozen children from the sex trade in Thailand and Cambodia.

Everyday children across the globe become targets of hidden predators. They are sold in the sex trade and victimized over and over again.

"They deserve to have the life that my daughters have, " said Lombardo. "They need a voice. They need someone to help them get out of this. That's what Destiny Rescue is all about."

His passion for putting an end to sex trafficking goes back to his days in the Los Angeles Police Department. Lombardo is a former officer for the LAPD and during his time there, he worked undercover in the prostitution and pornography industry.

"Prostitution, the porno industry is a form of sex trafficking," he said. "Those girls... they don't want to be there."

He was one of 17 people who traveled to Thailand from the U.S. from June 15-28. He hoped this trip would help draw parallels between sex trafficking there and in the U.S. 

The group was stationed mainly in the red light district where Destiny Rescue finds many of its targets for rescue.

"It was something I've never seen," Lombardo said. "Even in my years on the LAPD. It was basically a supermarket of sex trade."

For the last seven years Destiny Rescue has made it their mission to put an end to sex slavery.

"It's tragic that this issue even exists," said Cory Nickols, a Spokesman for Destiny Rescue. "The issue of human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal industry in our world today. And it won't stop unless ordinary people like you and me are willing to stand up and say, 'what part can I play?'  and are willing to take action and actually do something."

Lombardo and other members of Destiny Rescue went undercover and posed as customers in order to identify kids trapped in the sex trade. The group works closely with police to do raids but sometimes they execute rescues independently. A rescue could take a couple of days or a couple of weeks.

"The average age that we rescue is 14 years of age," said Nickols. "But we rescue girls from 17 years of age down to four years old."

The group was able to rescue about 16 girls during Lombardo's trip. After being rescued, victims are taken to safe houses where they receive counseling, education, and eventually find jobs. Nickols said roughly 80 percent of the children they rescue stay out of sex industry.

"As you would start watching these girls or interacting with them you could see the little girl start to come out into their face again," said Lombardo. "The way they're suppose to be. Laughing with one another. Telling each other secrets."

While Lombardo realizes there's so much work to be done  he said we should not overlook the small victories.

"If one girl can be saved, one girl can be rescued... that's a success," he said. "And it has to be built upon."   

Lombardo detailed his experiences on an Indiana Tech blog.

For more on ways that you can help, click here.

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