Sex trafficking – are Christian youth at risk?
by Jack Taylor
Casandra Diamond didn’t wake up one day and decide she wanted to be trafficked for sex through a decade of her life. Neither do other girls trapped in the lucrative trade.
Sex-trafficking, world-wide, nets $99 billion a year according to the International Labor Organization. It is part of what the UN defines as “the recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control for another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
Sex slavery is flourishing in Canada
In Canada, Toronto and Vancouver wrestle for top destination status. A Vancouver sex worker named Haley says that, with high rental rates in the city, sex workers can make $200-$500 an hour using air BnB suites to supplement their income. The illusion of quick and easy money is tantalizing for some.
Church born and raised believers won’t likely sniff out the hot spots for sex trafficking like they would when sensing the aroma of their favorite coffee shop. They may not equate seeing the closed curtains on a massage parlor or the listed names of available masseuses as signs to be aware of. They may not hear the code words offered up in popular social centers as advertising but the reality exists.
The high-profile sex trafficking charges against 66-year-old Jeffrey Epstein claim that he exploited dozens of young girls in New York and Florida. At least one of the victims was 14 years of age and statistics say that this is the average age at which girls begin ‘being trafficked.’ What is the reality in Canada? Some stats say girls as young as 12 are popular.
BridgeNorth founder, Casandra Diamond, a woman formerly trapped in the Canadian sex trade, now assists girls out of the lifestyle. She says that 93% of trafficked persons in this country are actually Canadian citizens. She sees human trafficking “as modern-day slavery.” Drugs are often used as a way to cope with the physical and emotional pain of the abuse and this becomes another hook into the dark world of violence and even organized crime.
Cathy Peters, former high school teacher and advocate against sex trafficking, points to the high number of nail salons and massage parlors as fronts and access points for girls who are being trafficked from Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Now, girls from African, Latin American and Eastern Europe are also pulled into the system of exploitation.
The RCMP report that approximately 600 women and children are trafficked in this country for sexual exploitation. A walk down some of the major commercial arteries in a Canadian city would seem to put this number much higher. The Government of Canada’s Department of Justice 2006 report on Victims of Trafficking in Persons sees “Canada as a source, transit and destination country” when it comes to sexual exploitation of persons.
Diamond says “85% of women in the sex industry have disclosed childhood sexual abuse.” She herself was raped at 5 by a stranger followed by more sexual exploitation by neighborhood boys. Her grandfather, a pedophile groomed her from a young age for his own purposes. At 17, a female friend coaxed her to work in a strip club as a way to get back at the men who wanted her. Attempting to exit on her own, she was offered a job at a SMUT magazine to get out of the strip club and then met a trafficker who promised her security.
There are so many on ramps to the sex trade and few off. On-line phishing has become a key way to lure young unsuspecting vulnerable teens away from their protective adults. Charges in London, Ontario recently claim that two adults lured a woman into the sex trade with an on-line ad promoting a great opportunity for students. Other ads offer opportunities in modeling.
Peters says that “buying and selling children for sex is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada, and it is happening in communities across BC” [and Alberta]… Globalization, unregulated technology, lack of law enforcement and inadequate prevention education is allowing this crime to grow globally.
Trafficking girls at 12, and even younger
“Child sex trafficking is a lucrative crime. It has low costs and huge profits; a trafficker can make $280,000 per victim, per year. The average age of entry into prostitution in Canada is 12-14 years of age, although traffickers are known to target younger children. Traffickers seek young victims both to service the demand for sex with those who look young, and because these victims are easier to manipulate and control.
“The biggest problem in Canada is that people do not know there is a problem; therefore, child sex trafficking is expanding in the dark. Every child can be a target and a potential victim, but learning about this issue is the first step.”
“Trafficking victims are kept in bondage through a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse, and psychological controls. Trafficking victims live a life marked by abuse, betrayal of their basic human rights, and control under their trafficker. The following indicators in and of themselves may not be enough to meet the legal standard for trafficking, but they indicate that a victim is controlled by someone else and, accordingly, the situation should be further investigated.”
Spotting a trafficked person
For those unaware of how to spot a trafficked person, attention should be given to their mental and physical health. Signs like malnutrition, dehydration, poor personal hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, signs of sexual abuse, bruising, untreated medical problems, critical illnesses and even post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Proctecting our children
Peters suggests that parents keep five things in mind for their children’s safety. “1. Set a high standard of love within your home… 2. Talk to your children about sexual abuse … 3. Talk to your children about sex trafficking … 4. Talk to your children about the dangers of social media … 5. Pay attention to your children – especially their social media accounts.
Paul Boge, author of the 2019 award winning book, The True Story of Canadian Human Trafficking, says to Christians, “Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Your sons and daughters are being targeted. It’s not if they will be targeted, it’s that they already have been. Traffickers are evil but they are not stupid. They hunt for the precious life. The question is: what are we prepared to do about it? The government is overloaded. They can’t cope with the amount of work required to stop trafficking. So, the church has to step up. We need to “loose the chains of injustice and break every yoke.”
The issue has the appearance of a tidal wave sweeping over our country but Diamond believes that we can work to see an end to human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Canada.
Next month: part 2 – Sex trafficking: What’s gone wrong?