Human Trafficking Sex Trade in Children and Youth
"There is research in Canada and elsewhere that says a high number of children who have been trafficked have been in care. But there's never been any research that I've ever seen ... about why that is."
"But is it really the care system or is it that those kids are already really vulnerable and offenders know that?"
"If a child has an attachment issue, it's really easy for an offender to make that child believe that they are going to love them, care for them, always be there for them, because that's what they spend 100 percent of their time doing at the front end."
"I don't think it's that there are guys hanging around outside group homes, because they don't have to. Within the trade, the social norm becomes if you recruit, you bring your status up so you get beaten up less, you work less. The more girls you recruit, the higher your status, so a lot of kids get recruited by other kids."
"When I was recruited, they had to meet me in a mall and try to get me to come to their apartment. They don't need to do that anymore. They can be doing it 24 hours a day because kids are online 24 hours a day."
"We never focus on who these guys are. They're not psychopaths. Walk through the mall. Every fifth guy you walk by, that's someone who could be purchasing sex from a child."
Jennifer Richardson, head, new Ontario strategy to combat human trafficking
|CTV Windsor: Human Trafficking Prevention|
"I didn't feel loved. I didn't feel OK with myself. I just felt like I wasn't right inside."
"We were 14 years old pulling tricks in hotel rooms. It was her [another girl living on the street] that got me into it. She would take a piece of my money. I still thought that it was good. I was 14 and I just made $100."
Nathalie, no longer in the sex trade, handled by human traffickers
|Ontario has been called a "hub" for human trafficking. Now the province is trying to fight it with a new multilayered strategy. (Dominic Chan/CP)|
A new effort by the Government of Ontario to focus on interrupting human trafficking in the sex trade is preparing to launch, under the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The individual chosen to head up this new section was herself once in the trade, now a survivor, and considered a leading expert in how the problem should be tackled. The program is set to be launched; all six workers have been hired and the goal is to reduce the number of children being abused, their lives turned inside out. The purpose is to help them find themselves and turn their lives toward a positive direction.
A 2013 American study reached the conclusion that between 50 percent and 90 percent of children and youth victims of sex trafficking had at some time in their lives been associated with child welfare services. The average recruitment age into the sex trade is 13. Ms. Richardson, from her years of experience, points out that it takes about two years just to be able to identify a child who is in the trafficking web. The Greater Toronto area, the Golden Horseshoe, Ottawa, Windsor, London and Thunder Bay are the communities that will be beneficiaries of this new initiative.
The initial recognition connecting children at risk, leading them into provincial care to begin with, are the very same risk factors involved in making children vulnerable to trafficking in the sex trade; children are abandoned for one reason or another by their families, leaving them to fend for themselves, emotionally frail, with feelings of worthlessness because no one cares about them. Into the picture comes someone who claims to care deeply for them. The emotional attachment is made and the children then become vulnerable to the kind of manipulation that sees them doing whatever their handler demands of them. And they obey because they feel cared for.
One such child described what had happened to estrange her from her family: "My mom loaded me up in the car, dropped me off at school and told the guidance counsellor, 'I don't want this kid any more'." The situation leads to a search for something that will dull the pain of rejection and loneliness. And often that solution becomes drugs. And since drugs are expensive and kids don't have the wherewithal to acquire them, they turn to working on the street to be able to afford the drugs that dull their pain.
Because young people in provincial care often live in close proximity in a provincially operated institution, traffickers turn their initial focus on the recruitment of one among them living in a home or a shelter. Once that first person has been caught in the web, they are instructed to fulfill an obligation to recruit other children. The existence of the Internet makes the work of recruiting isolated and vulnerable children that much easier, they can be identified when they post details of their lives.
If those children are later identified as youth in need of help to escape the sex trade and are then referred for rehabilitation to outreach programs, they are often able to break themselves away from a desolate way of life. They discover helpful resources and people eager to help them, that they had no idea even existed. They're given welfare assistance, encouraged to return to school, given access to peer counselling.
Canada has much to learn from government involvement in the United States in trying to cope with the epidemic of forlorn children vulnerable to human trafficking. In the U.S., each state is required through law to enact a working response to domestic trafficking. In contrast, only Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba in Canada have instituted a formal strategy. "The current federal action plan ended last year, so we still don't have a national action plan", explained Ms. Richardson.
Who also pointed out that work must be done on recognizing who fuels the demand of child sex workers.