Junior League of Toronto members who attended the Annual General Meeting in September were able to hear firsthand about human sex trafficking (“HST”) in our community from our keynote speaker, Karly Church. Karly is a Crisis Intervention Counselor, Social Service Worker, and advocate for survivors of domestic sex trafficking. She works at Victim Services of Durham region, where she provides specialized services to survivors of human trafficking. As a survivor of human sex trafficking, she harnesses her lived experience, extensive knowledge, along with her passion to engage and work with survivors of human trafficking. Karly has trained and presented to thousands of social service providers and she is dedicated to providing preventative education as well as bringing awareness to the broader community in order to turn her experience into something positive by educating others.
Karly noted that most of her clients are school age. Often, they attend school Monday to Friday then their pimp picks them up on Friday night and drops them at home on Sunday night. Karly noted she felt alone and had very low self-esteem before and while she was being trafficked. She noted that 93% of HST cases in Canada are domestic (not international, contrary to commonly-held beliefs). She emphasized that prevention is important.
The different stages of human trafficking include:
Luring: The trafficker is looking for someone vulnerable. They make her feel special, ask about her past, what she wants, and they listen to her and use this information against her later.
Grooming: The trafficker ensures basic needs are met and boosts victim’s self-esteem (provides her with new clothes, phone, place to stay, etc.) and 85% of victims call their trafficker their boyfriend.
Coercion and Manipulation: Traffickers give you what you want and then they take it away slowly. They alternate between coercion and manipulation in this stage. This is when victims are really being groomed for sex trafficking. They may start paying victims for sex by giving her things after a sexual act which helps desensitize them.
Exploitation: Traffickers are direct with their victims (you owe me now, so you need too…) Traffickers use information gathered during the luring stage. Karly’s trafficker would tell her “I’m so proud of you” after she’d do something “for” him. This had been what she wanted to hear from her parents for so long, that it was effective in manipulating her.
What can we do about this issue?
- We can talk about it and become educated about the issue
- Karly expressed that had she been educated on HST in school maybe she wouldn’t have become a victim.We need to educate our youth on this issue.
- We can advocate for victims
- Helping to provide a voice for victims can be powerful.
- We can fundraise for victims
- The JLT is holding our next Got Your Back event where we will fill 175 backpacks with toiletries and other basic items for victims. We are taking donations for this event and for a similar event which will take place in the spring. Be on the lookout for upcoming e-blasts for more details on how you can get involved!
Our League members continue to learn about the impact of Human Sex Trafficking, strengthening our commitment to increase awareness and make an impact to abolish this issue. Our Pilot Community Human sex trafficking Team has kicked off to a fast start to set the foundation for this year. Please stay tuned for more updates from the committee.