Sex trafficking – part 2 What’s gone wrong?
by Jack Taylor
What allows sex-trafficking to proliferate in Canada? Canadian author, Paul Boge, lists several things: “The availability of it; the apparent anonymity of it, by meeting online and then in person; the under-staffed police force; the corruption in the justice system; the apathy towards victims and an unwillingness to jail perpetrators; the incredible money that traffickers make; the unbearable proliferation of sex online, in movies etc., throughout our culture. This creates a demand for illegal sex and the online world allows ‘Johns’ to live a double life.
What do victims of sex trafficking think about their plight? How are girls recruited for such a lifestyle? Who are the men who use these girls? What kind of men fuel this industry, despite the politicians and organizations fighting to stop the industry? Author, Paul H. Boge reveals all in his 2019 book, The True Story of Canadian Human Trafficking.
In Boge’s book, he follows the experience of Ontario high school student, Abby Summers. Through social media, she builds a friendship with a newcomer named Jake. Dating follows, but turns sour when he convinces her to sell herself to men for a night and then more. On a trip across Canada, she finds herself trapped. Meanwhile, Joy Smith, a real-life MP from Ottawa, tries to pass a bill targeting minimum sentencing for human trafficking and Abby’s mother works with police to rescue her daughter.
Casandra Diamond, founder and executive director of BridgeNorth knows this scenario from 10 years of personal experience in the sex industry. She advocates with churches to do all they can to protect their youth. Once a young girl gets caught up in a Romeo relationship, she becomes willing to do anything to keep the relationship. “The rules keep changing and the girl ends up walking on eggshells – always thinking of pleasing her boyfriend.”
Diamond sees the biblical story in 2 Kings 4:1-7 as a template for how vulnerable individuals in desperation are drawn into a life of prostitution. The widow’s pots were empty and her children were facing a life of slavery to pay off her debts. Diamond says “emptiness is the perfect time and place for God to show up and work in your life.”
Even girls who get free from the trade, after being recruited young, find themselves with “no education, no job experience and no future.” They are vulnerable for re-exploitation to the same life. The thing that saved Diamond at that moment was a Christian community where people were willing to take care of things like rent, food and basic needs for friendship. She went to Alpha and with her deep questions on where God was in the middle of it all.
BridgeNorth started as a home cooked meal and a conversation offered to girls like her, and ended up as a mentorship and advocacy service morphed into a non-profit charity. Diamond says it is important to know that “prostitution isn’t their choice. Circumstances have had their way.” Her message from sex-trafficked girls to men who want to take advantage of them – “stop buying sex from us, we don’t want you to feel as empty as we do.” Research from Boge suggests that Johns, the men who promote or buy sex, are generally between 30 and 60 years of age with good paying jobs.What should followers of Jesus do to wake up in their efforts to provide incarnational love to those who are victims of human trafficking? Boge says we need “to see them as victims. They were coerced or deceived into this.We need to see that it is happening all around us and that even men who attend church are paying for sex with underage girls. So, we need to educate our own people – our youth need to see that they are being targeted, and our men need to be made aware that this behaviour is sinful. We also need to educate men that the girls don’t want to be there. Too many Johns think it’s harmless fun.”
Cathy Peters, community advocate against sex trafficking, shares that “While poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, vulnerable and unsafe foster care/group homes have all been cited as factors, the problem has become so prolific that even girls (and some boys) from good families have been lured into the sex industry. It is very lucrative; criminals/pimps can make up to $280,000 per victim per year. Women/girls can be sold over and over and over again, while drugs and weapons can only be sold once. Hence, the sex industry, with little deterrence, is highly motivated to recruit and traffic women/youth/children with impunity.”
Why don’t we notice the reality if it is so prevalent? What aren’t we seeing? Peters says, “In any community I always ask: Are there gangs, prostitution, drugs in your community? If so, then there is trafficking. We do not notice the reality because the sex trade operates online. Youth and children are lured easily online through chat rooms, video gaming, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. It is getting virtually impossible for parents to control what their children do online. Watch the Amanda Todd footage and then parents can see how insidious this crime has become. Children are no longer safe at home in their bedrooms if they have access to the internet there.
“While there is street prostitution in many cities, most of it is now indoors and hidden; massage parlours, escort services, micro-brothels hidden behind AirBnb, VRBO, nail spas, adult entertainment centres, etc. What we are not seeing are the warning signs and red flags. Victims will typically not talk; they have been conditioned to not speak up. It takes a great deal of empathy and sensitivity to see the signs and to respond appropriately. The two main pipelines to human sex trafficking is child abuse and pornography. Pornography, in particular, is fuel for the sex trade. Watch the Dr. Gail Dines TEDtalk on Pornography and adults will quickly learn how powerful and damaging internet pornography is on this young generation.
“The pornography industry is very lucrative and aggressively targets 11 year old boys with the intention to hook them for life. What is also startling is the fact that Canada produces and distributes 90 percent of the pornography in the world out of Montreal, from one company called Mindgeek. This company moved from Europe to Canada. It is shocking to me that Canada would allow such a reprehensible company to exist on our soil. I would like to see families band together and file a civil suit against that company for the harm they have caused…this has been done by parents/children sex trafficking survivors in the USA against Backpage.com for example.”
Boge says, “We can beat this. We can end human trafficking. But it starts on our knees. It is a massive spiritual battle because all slavery involves power, and power involves money.”
Last month: part 1 – https://lightmagazine.ca/2019/08/sex-trafficking-are-christian-youth-at-risk/
Next month: part 3 – What can we do?