Did you know that nearly all (97%) victims of police-reported human trafficking in Canada are women and girls? Almost three in ten victims are reported to be under the age of 18, with the average age being between 12 and 14 years old.
Many victims are exploited by trusted people such as boyfriends and they are often manipulated into thinking they are not being trafficked. Statistics show that 92% of victims know the person accused of trafficking them.
A survivor named "Kaye" who shared her story in the "Shoppable Girls" campaign held by Covenant House Toronto back in February said she had been convinced by her boyfriend to go into sex trafficking so they could buy a house. “Kaye” was trafficked for months and never received any money.
Her testimony read, “My road to recovery might have started sooner if I had known how supportive my family and friends would have been; If I truly understood the situation I was in -- if I’d only realized what was happening to me earlier.”
Although usually men, recruiters can also be women, or even girls who have been pimped out themselves.
They seek suitable candidates anywhere -- whether it be at a mall, a bus stop, a party, at a school or through friends. Social media sites have increasingly become more common for recruiters to use such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok or the dating site Tinder.
These men often lure girls in by becoming their "boyfriend" and promise them a better life. They will often buy gifts, such as clothes or a new cell phone. Then coercion steps in, such as introducing victims to drugs, taking compromising photos and threatening to expose them publicly, threatening violence, taking over their social-media accounts and identification, and even at times branding them with tattoos. This leads to them taking complete control of the victim's life. Those who become addicts are told they have to work to pay off their "drug debts", while others become terrified to leave for fear of what might happen to them or to their families.
This is why increased awareness and education is paramount to fighting human trafficking in our country. We need to continue to train each other to recognize the signs that a young person might be being trafficked.
Signs of sex trafficking according to the Joy Smith Foundation include:
• Sudden interest in a boy or man who is several years older • New clothing, jewelry or gifts without having the money to purchase these items • Frequent sleepovers at a friend's house • Change in style of dress or makeup • New circle of friends and isolation from old group of friends • Change in attitude toward school, regular activities, friends and family • Grades are dropping • Unexplained cuts and bruises • Using two cell phones
If you suspect a young person is being trafficked, please call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline @ 1-833-900-1010. If you want to report a potential victim or crime, call your local police or remain anonymous by calling Canadian Crime Stoppers Association @ 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submitting a secure web tip at www.cstip.ca.
- Information obtained from CTV News and other online sources