By Jenn Watt
Published Oct. 10 2017
Kawartha Haliburton Victim Services helped 21 local victims of human sex trafficking since December a number first released through local MPP Laurie Scott’s office.
The information came in a press release that coincided with the Fashion with a Voice fundraiser in Lindsay which supports survivors of sex trafficking.
“That is a shocking statistic and we need to raise awareness of this crisis in our community” Scott said.
KHVS has been able to better serve this group with funding through the Ministry of the Attorney General which has allocated $18000 to the organization’s anti-human trafficking program for this fiscal year.
“We’ve ended up getting a lot more clients than we forecasted” said KHVS executive director Laura Proctor.
Previously survivors of human trafficking had been counted with sexual assault or domestic violence statistics for the area.
With the funding the organization has hired a part-time victim advocate who focuses solely on human trafficking. Services to victims include counselling residential treatment and basic items like food and personal hygiene products.
“Some of the victims we work with when they come to our doorstep don’t have anything” Proctor said. “They may just have a purse and some lingerie in it.”
Often the women will ask for fresh food.
“As we move along the process the ministry will cover the cost of tattoo removal” Proctor said. “Most of the girls we work with have been branded with a branding tattoo at the hands of their pimps.”
Some of the victims grew up in the region while others have been trafficked here. Proctor said the range of economic and social backgrounds is wide.
According to Scott more than 93 per cent of victims of sex trafficking in Canada were born here with the average age of 14.
The Progressive Conservative MPP is also the critic for women’s issues and has been an advocate on this topic for years.
Scott tabled a private member’s bill called Saving the Girl Next Door Act in 2016 which advocated giving victims the ability to sue their traffickers. Although the bill received second reading it was never called to committee.
However in 2017 the Liberal government introduced the Anti-Human Trafficking Act which included many of the provisions from Scott’s bill.
The MPP also spearheaded the creation of an all-party standing committee on sexual violence and harassment.
More education and awareness is needed in order to address this issue Scott said.
“It’s one of the most horrific crimes you’ll find. You don’t want to know it’s happening in our communities. Who would want to?” she said in an interview.
“You think ‘not in our small communities. It’s a big city problem’” she said.
Since she began doing work on this topic Scott said she’s become increasingly vigilant trying to watch out for young people predominantly girls who could be taken.
“We need to be educating our children how they can be lured so easily. They can be gone in 24 hours. This is fast” she said.
“The community has to know it’s occurring even in Haliburton County” she said.
Scott said the province needs to support groups like Victims Services which is a not-for-profit in order to ensure victims are given the support they need.
Donations are also needed in order to fund front-line services said Proctor. To donate to Victim Services go to www.victim-services.org and click “donate” or call 1-800-574-4401.
With files from Chad Ingram