Finally Home

She tried to break up with her boyfriend before, but could never make it stick.

Girl Lake 3He wasn’t a regular boyfriend, actually.  He was a violent young man who exploited her in the sex industry.  He was a pimp; a human trafficker.  His abuse toward her wasn’t random.  It wasn’t brought on by his mood, or by drinking.  It was calculated and methodical.  It stripped her of her confidence and sense of worth.  It left her believing that no one else would have her, and that she needed him.  Her dreams of a very different future faded as she became resigned to the belief that her place would always be with her abuser.

This scenario is more common than we’d like to think.  It happens to young people in virtually every community across Canada, and too little is being done about it.  As God’s people, it’s incumbent on us to “rescue the weak” (Psalms 82) and “help the oppressed” (Isaiah 1).  But even if you became aware of a young victim of sex trafficking, where would you start?

In my role with SIM, I teach adults from local churches to help young people who have been exploited in the sex industry.  Sometimes it means being a mentor for a young person who needs a healthy adult role model.  Or might be about supporting trafficking victims testifying against pimps in court.  Sometimes it even involves housing girls who lack a safe and loving home environment.

The young lady who needed to break up with her “boyfriend” couldn’t do it because he was the only one who showed any kind of dedication to her.  While she recognized his was counterfeit love, she clung to it because of the instability in her life.  Then something changed.  I was able to arrange for her to live with a host family from a local church.  They not only opened their house to her, but their hearts, as well.  She had never experienced a home environment quite like that.  They refused to treat her as an outsider.  From day one, she was considered part of the family.

My young friend was finally in a place where more than her physical needs were being met; she felt loved.  Within a few short weeks, the psychological control of her abuser weakened.  Eventually, it lost its grip, altogether.  Now she could break off this exploitative relationship and make it stick!  She could be free because she belonged somewhere else.

My young friend is finally home.

“…loose the chains of injustice…”    Isaiah 58:6

 

Foot Note:  For many exploited young people, therapeutic counselling is also an important part of recovery.  For the sake of simplicity, I didn’t address that question in this brief story.  Nor did I mention the significant amount of time I invested directly supporting this young lady and the parents who hosted her.  But, by far, the most impactful and life giving thing was the hope that came with being part of a loving family.  Sometimes the biggest needs can be met by simply making a little room for those who would have never guessed they could belong within the safety and care of a local church community.

–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.

CONSIDERING THE NUMBERS: The challenges of estimating of human trafficking in Canada

The past several years have seen an explosion in the amount of mediacoverage given to human trafficking, both internationally and here in Canada as well. News of new human trafficking cases in Canada has become a regular occurrence.

Because human trafficking destroys untold lives of young Canadians, there are important questions we should be asking: just how widespread is it? How many victims are there?

An often-used statistic when discussing this issue comes from the International Labour Organization (ILO). In 2012, the ILO estimated that globally over 21 million people were victims of human trafficking. A worrying number…if true. But how did the ILO arrive at that number?

Red Shoe2The human trafficking population can be seen as an iceberg. The known cases that we are aware of – the ones that go to court and are reported in the media – represent the tip of the iceberg. However, the true size of an iceberg lies below the surface. In the same vein, the true size of the human trafficking population, globally and in Canada, is unknown. It is in effect a hidden population.

As a result of this, statistics for human trafficking often tend to be estimates, where the known number of cases is taken and then extrapolated to generate a number that strives to approximately represent the actual size of the population. Kutnick, Belser and Danailova-Trainor (2007) note that both the U.S. Government and the ILO used known and reported cases as the starting point for estimates on the size of the human trafficking population.

This method has two significant shortcomings that reduce the quality of the estimate.

  1. At the moment, no country has developed the ability to gather data on human trafficking and many countries do not even recognize it as a problem. In effect, there are too few known cases to use as a starting point
  2. The majority of known cases are related to sex trafficking. This ignores labour trafficking, which is also a big issue. Estimates are thus incomplete in they mainly rely on known sex trafficking cases alone.

In light of this, we must be careful when reading estimates produced by the U.S Government, or organizations such as the ILO, and ask questions about the process that was used to arrive at those numbers.

In 2012, Canada introduced a national action plan on trafficking, though it is short on funding for research and data collection, and makes no mention of assigning responsibilities and working with the provinces to develop national infrastructure for data collection on the issue. I would urge the federal government take the following steps to address these limitations.

  1. Establish national framework for data collection on the issue.
  2. Develop a national referral mechanism that links all anti-trafficking services, organizations, and law enforcement together on the issue and allows them to better identify victims and link victims with services (Barrett, 2010, p.20; ).
  3. Mandate each province to develop a dedicated anti-human trafficking office, with protocols for gathering, addressing and reporting human trafficking activities within their jurisdictions.

As we draw together our fragmented efforts, and develop the effective mechanisms to address human trafficking, we will ready ourselves to more effectively combat this evil, both, within our own communities and across the nation.

-Jonathan Devadason has extensively researched human trafficking, both globally and here, in Canada.  He is also a member of Toronto based Men Ending Trafficking.     

 

References:

Barrett, Nicole A.: International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy.(2010). An Exploration of Promising Practicesin Response to Human Traffickingin Canada. Retrieved from http://ccrweb.ca/en/exploration-promising-practices-response-human-trafficking-canada

International Labour Organization. (2012). 21 million people are now victims of forced labour, ILO says. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_181961/lang–en/index.htm

Kutnick, Bruce, Patrick Belser, GerganaDanailova-Trainor: International Labour Office. (2007). Methodologies for global and national estimation of human trafficking victims: current and future approaches. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/publications/WCMS_081989/lang–en/index.htm