Destiny Rescue Reaches 14,000 Milestone - Salt 106.5

Destiny Rescue Reaches 14,000 Milestone

Destiny Rescue have changed 14,000 lives since 2001 and with improving technology, they're seeing more and more rescues.

Listen: Paul Mergard, CEO Destiny Rescue, shares it means the world to him, each and every time a child is rescued.

By Joni BoydThursday 15 Feb 2024The Long Lunch with SteveNewsReading Time: 4 minutes

Warning: The following article contains mentions of child sexual abuse. If you need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. If you have been impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. 

Destiny Rescue was founded in 2001 on the Sunshine Coast and this month, they’re celebrating rescuing 14,000 souls from the cruel clutches of child sex trafficking in 12 different countries.

Paul Mergard, CEO Destiny Rescue recently chatted with Salt 106.5’s Steve D, who shares it means the world to him, each and every time a child is rescued.

“I’ve met a whole heap people that we’ve rescued, and you get a sense of what their life was like before, when they were in conditions that none of us can probably even imagine to be in. And then you see what happens to their lives post rescue and the freedom, that they get the opportunity to start life afresh. It’s just incredibly inspiring and it means the world to us.”

Close to home

It’s hard to hear the stories of these rescued children, without thinking about the children in our own lives. “Nobody ever has a child and dreams of the day that their child is working in a bar or a brothel or in a place that we wouldn’t want for our own kids. We want the best things for our own kids.” Mergard says. “Every kid deserves an opportunity and we’re in the business of giving kids as many opportunities as we can give them.”

The Australian recently reported on one particular rescue story involving a three-year-old girl.

“Over two years ago we had someone in Thailand tip us off about a three-year-old girl that was being exploited online and was being made available to people to use on the internet and to offend against on the internet.

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After nearly two years of painstaking investigation, with one detective spending over 1,000 hours walking the streets of Manilla on Google Street View, looking for her location using some identifying factors from a photo, she was found.

“We went and rescued this girl last year, we were able to get her out to freedom,” Mergard says. “Her perpetrator was arrested as well as her mum because her mum was also involved in her exploitation.

“But what’s also come out of that particular case is that we were able to give the Australian federal police 395 potential Australian perpetrators that were involved in exploiting this little girl online.

“This was probably one of the biggest cases that we’ve ever been part of as Destiny Rescue, particularly where it relates to people in Australia that are offending against children.

This isn’t an ‘overseas issue’

“We’ve known since COVID that the rate of offending online by Aussies men predominantly has been escalating, and to have 395 people that are now being investigated by the Australian federal police is a huge win for us because we know that there’s a big problem in Australia. It’s about time that the law caught up with some of these people. 

It’s confronting to face the fact that the issue of sex trafficking is a problem in Australia.

“We tend to compartmentalise that this issue of sex trafficking is happening in places far flung overseas. There is a core that happens here in our own country.”

Help is on the way

The good news is that while offending numbers are on the increase, so is the ability of organisations like Destiny Rescue, to conduct rescues and see perpetrators arrested.

“We’re doing more of these types of cases,” Mergard says. “We’ve got new technology now that enables us to do more online investigations and identify where perpetrators are, particularly here in Australia.

“We just keep trying to go our hardest to rescue as many kids as we can, right across the world. We are pretty relentless in that.”

While conducting rescues, Destiny Rescue also aims to raise awareness of the issue, as well as lobby the Federal Government to make improvements to laws in Australia, to equip police to catch perpetrators quickly and easily.

We can all do something

“We’ve got to get people talking about what people are doing overseas and what people are doing online, because it’s something that happens,” Mergard says.

“In probably every single one of our streets there would be people that are on websites that they probably shouldn’t be on, and we know that kids get caught up in that, so we want it to be part of the national conversation and start changing the way that we treat kids right around the world.”

For more information or to get involved in the work of Destiny Rescue, visit destinyrescue.org.au

If you need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au. If you have been impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. Or if you need someone to listen, care and pray with you, the SALT 106.5 Careline is available 7 days a week, 9am-11pm, including public holidays. 07 5400 2754 (free to call).

Listen to the full conversation on the listener above.


Feature image: Photo by CanvaPro