Sex trafficking often looks like romantic relationships gone wrong
It happens here, too
Bella Alderton, Women’s Resources program director and Mike Perry, a local lawyer and social worker, work on the Women’s Resources Anti-Human Trafficking Program.
“Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be loved. He told me if I did it once, I would never have to do it again,” says a woman who survived being trafficked for sex here in Kawartha Lakes.
Women’s Resources of Kawartha Lakes and Kawartha-Haliburton Victim Services have seen some 60 cases of human trafficking here locally over the past few years with several survivors receiving supports through Women’s Resources in recent months.
It happens here too. This is the key message from the public awareness campaign to prevent sex trafficking currently underway by Women’s Resources, funded by the Ontario government. In the past year, the Women’s Resources Anti-Human Trafficking Team has presented information about trafficking to some 1,000 students, parents, teachers and service providers locally.
But what is human trafficking and what does it look like?
Human trafficking happens when someone sells another person for sex against their will. People of any age and gender can be trafficked. In Ontario, police reports indicate that most often, young women are trafficked by males who are typically under 25 years of age.
Hollywood movies and headline newscasts often dramatically portray the “girl next door” being kidnapped by organized crime and being forced into sex for money. And while this does happen, human trafficking in Ontario is usually more subtle.
Human trafficking occurred when two men were caught selling teen women for sex out of a motel outside Peterborough last summer. But most often, human trafficking can look like a romantic relationship gone wrong: “I want you to have sex with Bill so I can make the rent. I do so much for you. If you love me, you’ll do it. If you don’t, I’ll break up with you.” Often, being sold for sex underage and/or against one’s will is normalized by the person saying it isn’t a big deal and that everyone does it. Not true.
Trafficking also occurs through relationships that are fake from the start: when the trafficker lures the potential victim with “love” and then turns the tables suddenly through threats and violence. Human trafficking is the young Kawartha Lakes woman pimped by her “boyfriend” on weekends and some evenings while living at home with her parents.
Some signs that may indicate that a person is being trafficked include being in a toxic, controlling, manipulative relationship; losing contact with friends and family; being secretive or lying about whereabouts and activities; easily irritable or overly accommodating; falling grades; new, expensive gifts; a new cell phone or changing phones often.
Of course, these things can happen for a variety of reasons, but it could be a sex trafficking situation. There is never a wrong question and there is help.
For immediate help or more information on human trafficking call 705-878-3662, 24/7. It is free and confidential.
Women’s Resources of Kawartha Lakes offers abused and trafficked women a variety of services and referrals to help them access safety planning, housing, counselling, legal services, life skills coaching and job training, all free. Kawartha Haliburton Victim Services can be reacted at: 705-878-5505.