Durham Regional Police Service (“Durham Police”) have launched a human trafficking awareness website to alert parents and teens in Durham to the dangers of human trafficking occurring in their own city.
In 2017, Durham Police dealt with 27 cases of human trafficking. In 2018, the Durham Police human trafficking unit has conducted 80 investigations and laid more than 130 charges. In the last six months, 41 girls have been lured into human trafficking in Durham.
According to Statistics Canada, since 2010 human trafficking cases have increased approximately 580% in Canada (from less than 50 to nearly 350 cases). In fact, two thirds of human trafficking offences that were reported to the police in Canada were found to take place in Ontario.
Durham is considered a breeding ground for human traffickers as it is a common stop along the Highway 401 corridor. Victims are quickly and easily moved around from city to city in hotel rooms up and down the highway.
Traffickers, male or female, lure their victims, then coerce them into sex work, using psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence, and isolation to control the young girls.
The website stopht.com, developed by the Durham Region Human Trafficking Coalition, outlines warning signs, myths about human trafficking, targeted individuals, and where to get help.
In the case of preventing human trafficking, knowledge is power. Durham Police urge all parents to become educated about human trafficking. They recommend that parents look for “red flags” and keep an open dialogue with their teens. Unexplained gifts or money, long absences, change in mental health, multiple cell phones, and new friends or boyfriends are signs that someone you know has become a victim of human trafficking.
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
Human trafficking is often described as a modern day form of slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, ordinarily through sexual manipulation or forced labour.
Victims are deprived of their normal lives and forced to provide labour or sexual services, through terrorizing practices, for the direct benefit of their perpetrators.
EDUCATION IS KEY
According to experts in the field of human trafficking, early education is the crucial component to combat these heinous crimes. Children, at a young age, need to be taught self-worth, empowerment, and the meaning of consent.
Durham Police are taking their knowledge and expertise to local schools to educate students regarding the dangers of sex trafficking. Educating girls, who are the most vulnerable, to recognize the warning signs is essential. Girls believe that they are in love with their traffickers, who lure and groom them into this dangerous lifestyle.
The new website stopht.com features a video, signs to look for, common myths, and what the community can do to help victims of sex trafficking.
Both parents, teachers, and students require education to learn the warning signs in order to prevent someone from becoming a victim in a human trafficking trap.
Parents are encouraged to look for “red flags” and note any changes in their teenagers appearance or behaviour.
Who is Most at Risk for Sex Trafficking?
Women and girls are most often the targets of sex traffickers, however, young men and those in the LGBTQ community are also being targeted.
Approximately 75% of female trafficking victims are under the age of 18-years-old, and some are even as young as 12 or 13-years-old.
Police report that marginalized youth, Indigenous youth and youth experiencing homelessness are most often targeted. Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, poverty, abuse, and family issues are also targeted. Risk factors also include addiction, mental health issues, and developmental disabilities.
Traffickers have been found to recruit girls online, at local malls, high schools, libraries, group homes, bus stops, and parties at hotels.
Possible Signs that Someone is Being Groomed for Sex Trafficking
Sex traffickers often recruit young people by becoming their loyal friend or even boyfriend. The following changes may be signs that a young person is being groomed for sex trafficking:
- Withdrawing from family and friends;
- Being secretive about their activities;
- Having a new boyfriend/girlfriend/friend who they will not introduce to friends or family;
- Staying out more often and later;
- Absences from school or a decline in school performance;
- Wearing more sexualized clothing;
- Wearing new clothing or jewelry that they cannot afford to buy; and
- Having a new or second cell phone with a secret number.
How Do You Become a Victim?
Human trafficking may start with a tactic called the “boyfriend trafficker”. This occurs when a young pimp lures a girl with affection, romance, and gifts. The relationship proceeds quickly and the boyfriend begins to make promises, such as marriage or moving in together. The vulnerable young girl begins to feel loved and secure. Then the boyfriend tells her that he has fallen into trouble and needs money. He asks the young girl to help him out. This usually starts by asking her to strip or service a client in order to earn money.
Once the girl has begun performing sexual services, she becomes controlled by her boyfriend through psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence, and isolation. The victims are often, but not always, moved from hotel to hotel and city to city, to isolate them and keep them away from their loved ones.
Visit the website stopHT.com to learn more about human trafficking in Durham.
If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have an questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone serve for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.