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Moldova, Republic of

Real lives

Rebuilding a life: A young girl struggles to overcome the trauma of trafficking

© UNICEF Moldova

The 2005 edition of UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children launched on December 9. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the report, we featured a series of stories illustrating how poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS affect children in their daily lives.

Dorina was born in a small village in the Republic of Moldova. Abandoned by both her parents at a young age, she grew up poor in her grandparent’s house. As soon as she graduated from secondary school, she went to the capital, Chişinău, to find work. There she met Valera, an acquaintance from her village who promised her a better job as a waitress in Moscow. “The salary and the tips are very good,” he promised. “And if you don’t like it you could come back at any time.”

The next day, 16-year-old Dorina was on a train headed for Moscow. But her hopes of a better future were soon dashed by the harsh reality that awaited her there. Ion, a 55-year-old Moldovan man, picked her up at the train station and then took her to an apartment filled with other girls her age and confiscated her passport. At that point, Dorina understood that she was now in the hands of traffickers.

These days, Dorina can be found back in the Republic of Moldova, at the Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Trafficking that opened three years ago in response to the increasing number of women and children affected by trafficking. A special mother and child-friendly wing was inaugurated a year ago, with UNICEF support, to provide specialized services for victims of trafficking. Since its opening, the wing has provided free assistance and support to 106 children and mothers. It provides rehabilitation and reintegration services, including accommodation, gynaecological examinations, HIV/AIDS testing, psychological and social counselling and support, legal assistance and vocational orientation. 

High levels of unemployment, extreme poverty and increasing violence against women have made the Republic of Moldova a major point of origin and transit for trafficking in women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation – to the Balkans, other European countries and the Middle East. From January 2000 to June 2004, 1,302 victims of trafficking from the Republic of Moldova have been officially identified and assisted by different organizations; 30 per cent were below the age of 18 at the time they were trafficked.

© UNICEF Moldova
According to Kirsten Di Martino, a UNICEF Child Protection Officer, trafficking of children usually involves adolescent girls who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, but there is increasing evidence of younger children being trafficked for forced labour and begging. Some groups of children are particularly vulnerable, including orphans and children from poor, disadvantaged and dysfunctional families. Children growing up in institutions are 10 times more vulnerable to trafficking than other children.

After being trafficked, Dorina found herself living in a two-room apartment in Moscow with another 15 girls, most of them 13 to 17-year-old Moldovans, their every move watched by two bodyguards.

The day after her arrival, Dorina was told to get dressed and was taken to ‘work’ with the other girls. “It was a meat market,” she says. “Clients could chose the girls they liked and the pimp threatened us that if we screamed or resisted he would beat us to death.”

Dorina was sexually abused by a man who ‘bought her’ for one night. During the following four months, night after night she and the other girls were taken out to the streets, regardless of their physical state, and forced to prostitute. “Sometimes we did not sleep for four days, other times we were starved,” she says. “During the winter they forced me to drink alcohol so that I wouldn’t freeze.”

Though eager to escape, Dorina had no papers, no money and did not speak Russian. “I did not know where to go for help,” she says, “and I was scared of the pimp’s threats and of the bodyguards who did not lose sight of us for a minute.” A few months later, she and another girl saw an opportunity to escape and seized it. “We took advantage of the fact that the guards were asleep when we returned from the clients in the morning,” says Dorina. “We took the money we had gathered from the tips the clients gave us and ran away.” They knew that the pimps could wait for them in an ambush at the railway station, so they took the train to Odessa, and from there to Chişinău.

© UNICEF Moldova
Although the Moldovan Government declared trafficking in human beings to be a priority issue back in 2001, there is still no clear government policy on trafficking due to a lack of resources and widespread corruption. In addition, there is little awareness regarding victims of trafficking, and many regard those who manage to return home like Dorina as prostitutes. As a result, upon her return Dorina cut her long blonde hair and dyed it black so as not to be recognized.

The Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Trafficking has not made its existence and address public for security reasons: many girls have received threatening phone calls at home from former pimps. “At the beginning of their rehabilitation they feel the need for a quiet place,” says psychologist Ana Chirsanov, who helps girls to overcome this difficult period. “They rely on just a few trustworthy and friendly people to start rebuilding their trust in people.”

These days Dorina is coming to terms with her seven-month ordeal and hoping to receive vocational training, become a hairdresser and start her life anew. In the meantime, many other young Moldovan girls are going through the same nightmare as she did. They are being trafficked and forced into a life of prostitution and abuse from which many will never return.



The State of the World’s Children 2005

Learn more about the content of this year’s report and read stories illustrating how poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS affect children in their daily live
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