–BURN AFTER READING–

Her elation was impossible to contain as her former pimp was cuffed and sent off to a federal penitentiary.  But the excitement was less about seeing a bad guy going to jail, and more about closure to a long and painful process. 

Eduarda Court Pic

MET Partner, Eduarda, coordinates the “Stepping Out” mentoring program for young women exiting the sex industry.     www.havenontheq.com

Last summer Men Ending Trafficking began assembling a team to stand with this young lady.  When she bravely took the witness stand last October, we were there to protect, show our support and pray.  We listened as she told the court how she became a victim of human trafficking.  Our hearts sank when she described what it was like, and how it changed her.  Each of us was profoundly impacted by the experience.                             

Her impact statement began with the words “Please Burn After Reading”.  It was not to say she wanted her mental and physical scars to be kept secret, but that she didn’t want to hold onto them.  Daily, she strives to push past impediments that linger from exploitation in the sex industry; that she envisions a day when the remnant of the abuse will be nothing more than ashes at her feet.

Seeing their friend lead away to his punishment provoked a very different response from a dozen men and women whose loyalty remains with the convict.  Clearly, the context of their relationship with the man was something different.  As they left the court room, some hurled obscenities at the young lady whose testimony was the obvious clincher; the very reason a guilty verdict was possible.  The group, then, assembled in front of the courthouse and waited.  Although our young friend had four men and four women by her side, the crown attorney insisted on a police escort to the parking lot.

The incident on the day of sentencing wasn’t the first we had encountered.  But then, threatening behavior seems almost part and parcel of human trafficking trials.  It’s no wonder that testifying under these circumstances so easily results in a sense of failure and re-victimization. But for our young friend, it brought a personal victory that is helping her let go of the past.  –Please Burn After Reading–  

Victim-Witness Poster

MET extends thanks to all those who volunteered their time to surround this brave young lady with much needed support.  We also gratefully acknowledge  partnership from The Haven, White Rose, Sextrade 101, SafeHope Home and Rising Angels.

 

 

A Brotherhood Born In Pain

I studied the four men who sat across from me. With somber faces and heavy hearts each took a turn to speak.  Any one of their stories was a lot to process; complex and convoluted.  Their emotions were raw and their pain unimaginable.  Each expressed the horror that only a parent can know when his daughter is exploited by the sex industry.  While no two stories were identical, a certain brotherhood was beginning to emerge, the kind that develops between those who share similar pain.

There were also women in the circle, mothers who were losing daughters to this evil.  Tonight was the first time they didn’t outnumber the men in the group.  I had not expected this, because commercial sexual exploitation is a crime that usually befalls fatherless girls.  But here was a reminder of the pervasiveness of this dark industry’s tentacles.

I sat back in my chair, not knowing what to say.  For the moment, it seemed that saying nothing was the best response.  This was the stuff of which third world documentaries are made:  films of far-away places like Cambodia, perhaps, or the Philippines.  Our society has come to uncomfortably accept that these abuses have deep roots in poverty-ridden countries, war zones, or at least places that don’t share our Christian heritage.  But the parents at this meeting represented the countless other Canadian families that face such tragedy in relative isolation, shame and despair.    

It was just over a year ago, that parents J & L approached me with their “Parents Hope” vision.  They saw the need for a support group for parents impacted by the sex PH Pictrafficking of their child.  I had never heard of this kind of group before, but had already been providing individual support for a few parents who I thought might be interested.  After discussing and developing our approach, and networking with other agencies, we began monthly support group meetings in May 2016, at SIM’s national headquarters in Toronto.

Pastoral care, peer support, education and prayer summarizes the Parents Hope approach.  We also work individually with families to help bring an end to the exploitation and encourage the healing of relationships.  While the group continues to gather momentum and its full impact is yet to be determined, the depth of gratitude already shown by more than a dozen parents confirms that Parents Hope is making a difference.

For more information about Parents Hope, please email parentshope22@gmail.com

GARBAGE You Hear About Prostitution Laws

When people start weighing in on prostitution legislation, prepare to hear a lot of GARBAGE. Case in point: Sandeep Prasad penned a Huffington Post article, this week, demanding of the federal government “sex work law reform that culminates in the decriminalization of sex work”. He would have us believe that making it legal to buy sex is the reasonable “EVIDENCE-BASED” response to bringing safety to the so-called “workers” of the sex trade. 
Most men are in Sandeep’s corner; they like the idea of easier access to women’s bodies. Most women aren’t comfortable with that. But the men who are onside with him might have a valid position if there was EVIDENCE to suggest the “workers” would be safer. Well, there is no such EVIDENCE. 
Mr. Prasad simply polishes up the old pro-prostitution rhetoric, and tells us that laws protecting exploited persons are the source of “oppression impacting sex workers’ experiences”. No mention of the men who assume the right to abuse them, by the way.
Internationally, the abundance of academic studies on human trafficking, and related violence in the sex industry, shows a correlation between legal purchase of sex and exploitation. The EVIDENCE only makes a case for discouraging sex trade activities; not encouraging them.  
While the EVIDENCE does not work in Mr. Prasad’s favor, it does support a statement by former Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay that called prostitution “inherently dangerous”. Even Alan Young (Bedford vs Canada lawyer who challenged Canada’s old prostitution laws, and won) denies Mr. Prasad’s assertions. In 2013, Mr. Young told the Supreme Court of Canada that legal prostitution has not worked in any other country in the world, and we shouldn’t expect it to reduce violence and exploitation, here. Whether or not Mr. Young actually cares about sex trade violence, what he said was, in fact, EVIDENCE-BASED.
Either Mr. Prasad has little concern for vulnerable women and children in this country, or he’s been duped by the proponents of the dark industry that exploits them. Regardless, his argument is GARBAGE. The truth is, violence against prostituted girls and women ends when men stop buying sex.
 

Righteous Anger

“People do all sorts of things for money,” she says. “I would like to see lawmakers looking through the lens that there’s nothing morally wrong with providing sexual services for money.”

Body Rubber ScrShot

I became angry after reading, in my community news paper, all about prostitution’s therapeutic benefits to local men, and the wonderful career opportunities it provides for our daughters.  And I felt like saying something.

Letter To The Editor, Metroland News, York Region

Local massage parlour luring young women with the same false promises that violent pimps use.

Local massage parlour luring young women with the same false promises that violent pimps use.

“…Onyx Ronin, the alter ego of the woman Mr. Grimaldi interviewed, suggests it’s right and fitting that men should be able to buy access to women’s bodies.  Ronin calls it “selling intimacy” and would have us believe that she receives nothing but respect from her clients.  In contrast, colleagues of mine who have been exploited in local massage parlours tell seemingly endless stories of violence, addictions and human trafficking.  Like Ronin, my friends staunchly defended prostitution, when they were trapped in it.  Only after distancing themselves from the exploitation, and beginning the healing process, were they able to speak about the abuse.       

Ronin’s attempt at advocacy for body rubbers is overshadowed by a bid for her own validation from law makers.  The story sends out a confusing message and ultimately affirms the men who indulge in an illegal industry that opposes Canadian values.”

-John Cassells, Street Youth and Human Trafficking Specialist, SIM Canada

Please Click Here to read my full letter, and Here to read the original article.

G-U-I-L-T-Y

I can only speculate as to the true weight of that one word on the accused as he sat motionless in the court room.

To my young friend, who was a “victim-witness” in the human trafficking case, that same word carried a lot of weight, as well.  It meant that a person with real power and authority believed her voice was as important as any other –that her life was as important as any other. It meant that he had listened carefully to all she had said on the stand. It also meant that any weight that might have remained, in the wake of the trial, was now forever lifted from her shoulders.

Monica HugBefore heading off to his chambers, the judge quickly scanned our group. We were nine of the men and women that had walked in support of our young friend during the court process. But when he found her, he stopped. His look softened, and began to give way to a smile. There was no question that he had been impacted by her strength and character; we all had been. And, just maybe, it was a good and encouraging day for him, as well.

——–

Watch CTV coverage of the first day in court and our interview on 100 Huntley Street.

To learn more about MET’s Vulnerable Witness Program:  john.cassells@gmail.com

CTV Coverage: MET’s Vulnerable Witness Support

Tamara Cherry, CTV Toronto
Published Monday, October 17, 2016 6:47PM EDT

A new initiative to help victims of sex trafficking navigate their way through the court system began taking shape at a Toronto-area courthouse Monday.

A young woman allegedly exploited by a pimp in the GTA sex trade for more than a year arrived at the Brampton courthouse accompanied by members of Men Ending Trafficking – a Toronto-area group made up of men who advocate against the exploitation of sex workers.

The trial for the woman’s alleged pimp was scheduled to begin Monday, but was ultimately put over until Tuesday.

“We’ve got a real problem in that the young victims are terrified,” said John Cassells of Men Ending Trafficking, a group that has aligned itself with The White Rose Movement and Haven on the Queensway to support victims of sex trafficking. “They’re going to court and they’re being intimidated. Often, they just don’t have the support around them that they need. Everything from wardrobe, what are they going to wear, right down to being able to have the confidence to take the stand and calmly and confidently tell the truth about what has happened.”

The group met up with the woman at the centre of the Brampton trial several months ago – after she had testified at the preliminary hearing for her alleged pimp. It was a process she described Monday as “awful,” given the lack of support she said she experienced in the courtroom.

One of the Peel Regional Police investigators referred her Peel Youth Village, which hooked her up with a support worker who has worked with her since July 2015. That support worker then reached out to Haven on the Queensway, which then hooked up with Cassells and Men Ending Trafficking.

“It feels so good,” the young woman, who cannot be identified, said of the support workers surrounding her at court Monday. “I don’t know what I would do without them, absolutely.”

Eduarda Sousa-Lall of Haven on the Queensway said the support for sex trafficking victims can be simple.

“I come with an approach of a mother with a heart,” Sousa-Lall said. “Just, ‘What do you want to do today? Maybe go to the movies? Go have coffee?’ Just sort of keep it real…Just to let her know that she has become a woman of courage and that we’re here.”

The alleged victim said she wants to testify in court to ensure no other young women are victimized.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, right? And I feel like if I back down, then he’s just going to go out there and he’s going to do it all again,” she said.

“We see time and time again where the victims just can’t withstand the rigors of the court process,” Cassells said. “They haven’t had a voice. They haven’t been allowed to think for themselves and now they’re being asked to go face-to-face with their abusers and speak the truth about what’s happened. That’s extraordinarily difficult. Many of these young victims, too, think even after they do this, will their lives be in jeopardy? So there’s a great factor of fear around these issues.”

Asked why it was important to create a men-only organization to advocate against sex trafficking, Cassells said that many victims have grown up without a father and in situations where they are sexually abused by men.

“They’re exploited by men. The entire sex trade is funded by men who want to exploit them. They don’t know that they can trust any men,” Cassells said. “This is hopefully a very restorative process for them to begin to allow men – safe men and honourable men – to walk alongside them and support them in such a needy time of their lives.”

The young woman in this case is expected to take the stand against her alleged pimp on Wednesday.

“Every day this young woman is in court, there will be men and women who are here in her corner,” Cassells said. “We’re not out to get anybody. We’re not out to intimidate any other party. But we just want to make sure she’s not alone in this process.”

CLICK HERE for the video story by CTV News.

Beer Can Rant

Let’s Talk About Shaming For A Moment

ken-paganBy now you will know all about that guy at the Jays game on Tuesday night who lobbed a partially full can of beer at the opposing team. It nearly hit one of the Orioles’ players! Since that time, a grainy photo of the suspect has been trending, and now that he’s been identified, his name is mud.

He’s done!

It’s rare to see this level of hatred being poured out by not just sports fans, but the general public, as well. Right now, I’d hate to be that guy.

jays-beer-canYeah, tossing a beer was stupid. But contrast that with all the guys in Toronto who did something really bad that day. Take, for example, all the men who funded the trafficking of countless girls in Toronto on the same Tuesday. And after some low life pimp gets his filthy paws on the cash, these guys act as if they had legitimately purchased the right to molest the kids. Like the guy who nearly struck a grown man with a flimsy beer can, let’s talk about the guys who verbally, sexually and physically assaulted a girl half their size; a girl who had no business being in their creepy company, but had no choice. Yeah, I’m talking about those guys!

You want to talk about shaming someone? I say, let’s go after someone who did something like that; someone who actually deserves the wrath of the city.

But, of course, we don’t know who these guys are. And why it that? Because we care much more deeply that an overpaid ball team might have been offended, than the fact that young people are being destroyed right now in the Canadian sex trade. But if we did care, you bet we’d find them. And we’d take much more seriously their calculated violence than what this poor sap did in a momentary lapse of judgement.

For this lack of compassion, all Torontonians should bear the shame. God forgive us.

Witness Support Program Launches

20 minutes under the weight of cross examination, and the young witness buckles. You can only imagine what must be going through her mind: “Aren’t I the victim? Would they like having a gun pointed at their heads? I shouldn’t have said anything. They’re not going care about what happens to girls like me.”

Two MET Team Members at Brampton Court. Photo Source: CTV News

Two MET Team Members at Brampton Court. Photo Source: CTV News

Recounting the details of her hellish nightmare had been hard enough. But being torn apart on the stand was more than she bargained for. In a state of panic, she asks the judge for a short break. Once outside the courtroom, she bolts.

The court had heard how, at 16 years old, the victim was exploited in Toronto Area hotels. Images of her partially clothed body were posted online, enticing sex buyers who prefer the young ones. Saying he used threats and intimidation to control his victim, police laid 13 charges against a 25 year old Owen Sound man, including pointing a firearm, uttering threats and human trafficking. But when the witness didn’t return to the court room, the human trafficking charge, along with most of the others, were thrown out. The accused pled guilty to two lesser offences.

A young victim/witness is surrounded by support during the days of a human trafficking trial.

A young victim/witness is surrounded by support during the days of a human trafficking trial.

Within three weeks of losing that one, another Ontario human trafficking trial will begin in Brampton. Again, a young woman will be required to testify against her former pimp. Statistically, the odds of a conviction don’t look great. But a new victim support initiative might just make a difference. Men Ending Trafficking (SIM Canada) along with women’s outreach teams from The White Rose Movement and Stepping Out (The Haven) are coming together in an effort to back vulnerable witnesses. The strategy includes a visible show of support inside the court room; emotional and spiritual care outside of the courtroom; and encouragement from peers who have successfully testified against their own traffickers.

The young woman who will face her abuser at the Brampton trial says the support has already given her a boost in confidence. If you’d like to learn more or get involved, please contact John Cassells at john.cassells@sim.ca.

UPDATE:  October 25th

100 Huntley Street Interview with Cheryl Weber

100 Huntley Street Interview with Cheryl Weber

After an agonizing cross-examination that spanned three days, the witness calmly emerged from the courtroom.  Admittedly, she was tried, but also feeling elated.  There was, most certainly, no sense of the re-victimization that is all too common to those who attempt testifying against their abusers in human trafficking trials.

Our young friend says the support that surrounded her made a great difference to help her do what she believed needed to be done.  Regardless of what verdict is eventually rendered, this courageous young woman considers her part in the trial as a victory; and that she can now move forward with her life.

While Men Ending Trafficking orchestrated this initiative, it was a group effort that included five other agencies* and two dozen volunteers from local churches.  The group will now develop a template to help encourage more groups to add support for vulnerable witnesses in the courts.

Read More to learn about the reaction from the judge!

Watch CTV coverage of the first day in court and our interview on 100 Huntley Street.

*Special thanks to Peel Police, White Rose, Stepping Out (Haven on the Queensway), Rising Angels, SafeHope Home and Sextrade 101 for working with us on this initiative.

MS. JUSTICE MINISTER, About Those Prostitution Laws…

Below is a letter I sent to Canada’s federal Justice Minister on November 23rd, 2015 regarding Canada’s prostitution laws.  Because the current government has expressed interest in changing or removing the legislation, you may also want to express your concerns.  Please feel free to borrow from my letter as you compose your own.  Remember to include your own MP, along with Justice Critic, Rob Nicholson.

Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca     Rob.Nicholson@parl.gc.ca

Dear Ms. Wilson-Raybould,  You have my deep appreciation for your willingness to take up the mantel of Justice Minister of Canada. 2015 certainly is the right timing for an aboriginal leader of your stature to advocate for the rights of Canadians at the federal level.

Jody Wilson-RaybouldAs you’re well aware, there are presently great opportunities to shape the way Canadians think about gender equality and aboriginal issues. And there is no more important matter before you than the exploitation and violence that befalls countless young and vulnerable Canadians in the sex trade. I’m confident that it’s from a compassionate desire to help, that the government might consider a different approach in prostitution legislation.

There is a great deal of confusion on this issue. And, as you receive input, I can only imagine how conflicting, and potentially misleading, the messages will be. From the perspective of one who has extensively studied this issue, and also, walked alongside countless exploited young people during the past 30+ years, please allow me to offer my input. I’ll do this by briefly addressing three of the most common fallacies you’ll be hearing about prostitution.false-1

With various other western countries having changed their legal approaches to prostitution in recent years, we have the vantage point of learning from their experiences. The body of evidence (the actual studies as opposed to select anecdotal reports), internationally, strongly demonstrates that decriminalization increases not only the volume of sex trade activities, but also the rate of human trafficking and other forms of violence.

When Bedford versus Canada was brought before the Supreme Court, Alan Young (the lawyer who challenged constitutionality of the old prostitution laws), testified that no country that legalized prostitution has met their objectives in reducing violence. The only reasonable conclusion, for the Canadian context, is that that legal prostitution would actually decrease safety for prostitutes and increase the criminal element.

false-2

Canada’s human trafficking laws are important for punishing violent individuals and raising awareness about this hideous crime. But ironically, they do very little to stop human trafficking. In fact, it’s the prostitution laws that can potentially have a much greater impact on this phenomenon.

JC JUST PicTo understand the game, you need to know the players. The trafficker, or “pimp”, is rarely a serious businessman. While a great deal of money changes hands, it slips through his fingers as quickly as it comes. Pimps operate in a subculture where achievement is gauged primarily by notoriety. Avoiding prosecution does nothing to build the infamy that is the quintessential measure of success. Because of that, risk of arrest can be as much an enticement as a deterrent.

Contrast that with the typical sex buyer, or “john”, who cultivates the opposite persona. To protect his good and decent reputation, he will avoid arrest at all costs; even if it means utilizing a little self-control. On balance, the pimp, is more violent than the john, and so, he more easily draws our contempt. But if not for the buyer, there would be no pimps.

Like any industry that operates on the principal of supply and demand, if the money stops, the industry grinds to a halt. You cannot stop the violence of the sex trade and also allow men to fund it. Therefore, the most effective way to stop the violence is by prosecuting the men who buy sex.

false-3

As long as one remains in proximity to the darkness of the sex trade, perceptions are skewed; laws are cruel, police are the enemy and violence should be accepted as a normal part of life. The things that expose a woman to, and keep her enmeshed in, the underworld, should rightfully evoke compassion and a desire to understand. But she must not be the one to guide us on matters of justice, while in that mindset. 

There are, however, many who, exit the sex trade and regain their place in society. And they do this in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. These are the “sex trade survivors”. When they cut their ties to the street, they can begin to heal; with the change of environment, they can start to hope again. While some avoid any talk about the violence they escaped, others confront it, speaking on behalf of those who either have no voice or cannot grasp the truth. Ms. Wilson-Raybould, you have promised to proceed in a way that is open and engages with people. I’m wholeheartedly behind you. If you want to help those caught in the sex trade, listen not to “sex workers”, but to those who can accurately explain what it means to be one.

The Canadian model on prostitution provides this country’s very first offering of meaningful protection from commercial sexual exploitation. And it aligns with the values of Canadians, as the voices of the 31,172 respondents to the federal government’s public consultation clearly indicate. The rationale for discouraging the prostitution is well founded. Some of Canada’s leading police forces are now beginning to use the new laws to more effectively protect vulnerable women and children. Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit Insp. Joanna Beaven-Desjardins publically put her city’s ‘johns’ on notice last Thursday, saying, “We’re coming after you. You are the problem.” York Regional police have arrested at least 22 sex buyers so far, this month. The list goes on.

The Liberal government will fail if the intent is to create safety within a burgeoning sex trade. Toronto Pharmacist, Allen Chow had the opportunity to amass 70 hours of rape videos because it was, at the time, legal for him “hire” prostitutes. You will not significantly reduce the harms that result in the chronic medical conditions, addictions and mental health problems that plague prostitutes. You won’t stop them from taking their own lives, or been killed, directly. And you’ll make little ground on women’s issues, and especially aboriginal women’s issues, as long as men can rent their bodies. To undo our new prostitution laws would be a callous betrayal of those they were meant to protect.

I sincerely thank you for your diligence on this critical matter,

John Cassells, Street Youth Specialist, SIM Canada

Men Can Stop Trafficking

I have worked many years with young people who have been exploited in the sex trade and my favourite stories are of those who have been spared that plight, like my friend Kayla. She spoke at an event to celebrate the new SIM Canada project, Men Ending Trafficking. This project is under the YES initiative (Youth Exploitation Stops) that drives SIM’s efforts to address human trafficking within Canada. In her talk, Kayla affirmed the importance of godly adults who walk alongside vulnerable youth. She illustrated her point with her own testimony and expressed that she was kept from the exploitation that has happened and continues to happen to so many of her friends. Kayla Volunteer

SIM Canada is committed to seeing young people, like Kayla, come under the care and protection of believers in their own communities. And further, SIM recognizes that commercial sexual exploitation of young people is a huge issue in Canada, and needs to be a high priority for the church. In Jeremiah 22:3, it says “This is God’s message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows…” (The Message). We are committed to the care of those being exploited and being the voice for those who cannot be heard.

Last summer I visited a safe house for young women exiting the sex trade. In the office, a half dozen memorial bulletins caught my eye. Each one bore a photo of a different young woman; all in their late teens or early 20s. They looked like anyone’s daughter or sister; bright, beautiful and ready to take on the world. I remarked to the Director that, after so many years in this work, she must have plenty of happy stories along with a few sad ones. “Yes”, she agreed, “but it’s worse than you think. These are the ones we lost in the past 12 months alone!”

The sex trade, like any other industry, exists only because there is a market for it. In Canada, a strong demand for paid sex fuels a large and lucrative industry. Last year, new prostitution laws were passed and now there’s a very real opportunity to see a decline in demand for prostitution. In a recent conversation with another one of my young friends, I referenced prostitution and human trafficking as a man’s issue. She balked. Then, after a moment’s thought, affirmed my claim, pointing to the exact number of female ‘clients’ she saw during her five years in the sex trade: zero.

MET at CTS Crop

Watch John, Richard & Jermaine in an interview with Cheryl Weber at 100 Huntley Street.

 

 

 

 

The vision for confronting this injustice involves mobilizing the men of the church, who until now, have mostly remained silent. Men Ending Trafficking begins with a taskforce of young Christian men who are eager to put their faith into action. This taskforce is the nucleus of what will become an important men’s movement that will challenge men to walk justly before the Lord. Seven enthusiastic volunteers have joined me around the table and bring a wealth of skills and connections! Their role is to brainstorm and implement ideas that will educate and engage the men of the church on this hugely important human rights issue.

Men Ending Trafficking is the second installment (joining Arkenstone) under SIM Canada’s YES initiative – a strategy to engage the church and bring hope to vulnerable and exploited youth. To find out more, go to MenEndingTrafficking.ca.