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Resources for Parents

Addressing the needs of trafficked, sexually exploited and prostituted women and girls.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime and human rights abuse that’s sometimes called “modern day slavery.”

There are different types of human trafficking that take place in Ontario, including  sex trafficking and labour trafficking. Forced marriage is also considered a form of human trafficking.

Traffickers control people in many ways, including psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, lies, addiction, threats, violence, isolation, and taking control of ID/documents and money.

Because this treatment can cause severe trauma, survivors often need intensive, specialized services and supports to rebuild their lives.

Sometimes human trafficking is confused with human smuggling (across borders). In reality, most of the people trafficked in Ontario are girls and women who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

While human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime, Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, with about two-thirds of reported cases arising in Ontario.

What is Sex Trafficking?

Sex Trafficking is the recruiting, transportation, harbouring and/or exchange of a person by another, with the use of force, coercion or threat, for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

What is Sexual Exploitation?

Sexual Exploitation is when an adult abuses the vulnerability of a child/youth and uses them for sexual purposes.  This is child sexual abuse and includes the exchange of any sexual services for money/drugs, etc.

Knowing The Signs

Organizations that work to end human trafficking have identified a number of signs that may point to human trafficking:

  • The person is not allowed to speak for themselves and their activities are controlled by someone else.
  • The person is under 18 and involved in prostitution or sex work.
  • The person is unpaid or paid very little to work, and seems to be treated poorly (long or unusual hours, not allowed breaks, forced to live in poor conditions, etc.).
  • The person is repaying a large debt through labour or sex.
  • The person seems fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid. They may avoid eye contact, seem fearful around police, etc.
  • The person shows signs of abuse, such as bruising, cigarette burns, fractures, etc.
  • The person has tattooing or branding symbols, particularly names.
  • The person doesn’t have their own things or money, and doesn’t control their own passport or other documents.
  • The person seems malnourished or lacks medical care.
  • The person is moved frequently and may not know their surroundings well.
  • The person has been reported missing.

Who is at Risk of Sex Trafficking?

  • Most people who are trafficked for sex are women and girls, but boys, men and people who are LGBTQI2S are also targeted.
  • The age of recruitment is as low as 12 or 13.
  • Homeless and marginalized youth are targeted by sex traffickers.
  • Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, discrimination, poverty, abuse, isolation and other social or family issues may be targeted.
  • Indigenous women and girls are especially likely to be trafficked.
  • Addiction, mental health issues and developmental disabilities are also risk factors.
  • The recruitment and “grooming” process:
  • Sex traffickers often recruit and groom people for trafficking by becoming a trusted friend or boyfriend.

Possible Signs that Someone is Being Groomed

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Being secretive about their activities
  • Having a new boyfriend, girlfriend or friend who they won’t introduce to friends and family
  • Suddenly spending time with an older person or people
  • Staying out more often and later
  • Absences from school or a decline in school performance
  • Wearing more sexualized clothing
  • Having new clothing, jewelry etc. that they can’t afford to buy
  • Suddenly having a new or second cell phone with a secret number

Facts About Sex Trafficking:

  • Language like “pimping,” “the game” and “the life” is sometimes used when talking about sex trafficking.
  • Most police-reported cases of human trafficking in Ontario involve sex trafficking.
  • Sex trafficking is different from consensual sex work – in trafficking situations, the trafficker is in control.
  • A person can be trafficked anywhere, including in their home community.
  • When a person under 18 is advertised for sex, it is a criminal offence – legally no one under the age of 18 years old can consent to engaging in sex work.
  • Sex traffickers often control every aspect of the person’s life: when they eat and sleep, what they wear, who they talk to, etc.
  • People who are being trafficked, as well as people come into contact with them, may not know or understand that a crime is taking place.
  • Most often, sex traffickers purposely develop a bond with the person they are trafficking, in order to manipulate them and make them believe they are better off staying than leaving. For this and other reasons, the trafficked person may fear and resist police intervention.
  • It can be very difficult for a survivor to leave a trafficking situation. It can take several attempts before they are able to find assistance.

Sex Trafficking & Sexual Exploitation:  Keeping Youth Safe
A Resource for Young Women and Girls

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Information gathered from the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
Learn more about Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking