Today, Thrive Community Youth Network St. John’s launched a poster blitz with the aim of educating and raising awareness about sexual exploitation in our city and province.
“We a created a poster that depicts the downtown core of St. John’s, we wanted to make sure it looked local. It’s meant to raise awareness that sexual exploitation is not only here in our city but here in our province as well. We also want to provide people with some contact information,” explained Angela Crockwell, Thrive’s Executive Director.
Thrive’s phone number is listed on the poster as a place where people experiencing sexual exploitation can get information and support. In addition to working to prevent sexual exploitation, Thrive also offers outreach services that link people to counselling, addiction, housing services.
“We have the capacity to provide long-term intensive supports to people experiencing trafficking to help them exit from that situation,” Crockwell said.
The poster also highlights a toll-free number for a national hotline that serves people who have experienced exploitation, trafficking or identify as working the sex trade.
“We want to give people experiencing sexual exploitation the message; we know you’re out there, we know that you probably need support and help, and that support exists,” Crockwell said.
The organization hopes the posters will dispel the myth that sex trafficking doesn’t happen to Canadian citizens living in our province. According to Thrive, 93% of trafficking victims in Canada are Canadian.
“There’s a misconception that people have to be moved across provincial or national borders to be considered trafficked, and that it’s not happening to our own local citizens. That’s not the case, most people who are trafficked in Newfoundland and Labrador are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” Crockwell said.
Crockwell explained that anyone can experience sexual exploitation, however there are factors that put people at a much higher risk.
”The biggest risk factor is being female, we know most victims are female, although we are aware that it also happens to our young men,” Crockwell said.
A large majority of people experiencing exploitation have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and leaving home at an early age also puts young people at a higher risk of experiencing sexual exploitation.
“When you compound the trauma of early childhood sexual abuse and a lack of adult role models in your life, if you’re living in shelters or group homes and you don’t have a consistent supportive role model in your life, traffickers identify that vulnerability and target that population,” Crockwell said.
Crockwell said that because people aren’t aware that sex trafficking happens in St. John’s and throughout the province, adults often miss the warning signals that a young person is being exploited.
Thrive hopes the posters will not only reach people experiencing sexual exploitation but also help parents, teachers, service providers, nurses, and doctors recognize the red flags of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
For more information about resources for people experiencing sexual exploitation in Newfoundland and Labrador visit: http://www.thrivecyn.ca/