By Jenn Watt
Published Oct. 24, 2017
Human trafficking happens in our community. It’s hard to imagine, perhaps because representations in the media typically show images of young women brought from another country, smuggled across the ocean, ending up in an urban area like New York or Toronto.
But the reality is much different.
Thanks to research and awareness raising, notably by our MPP Laurie Scott over the last several years, we now know that the vast majority victims of human trafficking in Canada are from Canada.
Their average age is 14. And they are transported to all areas – not just cities – including City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough.
There have also been victims of human trafficking living in Haliburton County.
Since they started counting in December, Kawartha Haliburton Victim Services has documented 21 cases. The organization has received a small sum to hire a part-time worker to concentrate on helping this group of women who have been exploited.
We as a society don’t pay enough attention to this issue, perhaps because the details of the victims are not in clear enough focus. The term “human trafficking” doesn’t tell the whole story.
Missed in discussing issues in abstract terms is the real people behind the statistics.
When victims come for assistance, they often have nothing. No cellphone to call for help. No wallet with credit cards, bank cards or cash to buy food.
In fact, executive director of KHVS Laura Proctor said in an interview earlier this month that one of the things these women will ask for is fresh food.
They are frequently addicted to drugs, which is an easy way to control someone who might at some point attempt to escape.
Victim services provides those it helps with thousands of dollars’ worth of counselling to work through issues related to sexual, physical and emotional abuse, drug addiction and the host of other damage done to a person who is exploited in this way.
There is also a fund available for tattoo removal for those who have been branded by their pimps.
Laurie Scott points out that victims of human trafficking fit no one mould. Some come from backgrounds considered higher risk (living in poverty, part of a marginalized group, LGBTQ youth, for example), while others don’t fall into those categories. They are sometimes tricked into believing their abuser is actually a boyfriend, at first there to care for and protect them, while eventually controlling and abusing them. Sometimes they are coerced and blackmailed.
Scott says that since she started working on this issue, she has become hyper vigilant, always watching out for the young people around her, particularly women and girls. It can take very little time for someone to be taken, she said.
There are real people behind these stats and they’re looking for help in our region and in our communities. The more we know about this issue and its victims, the more we can do.