Durham seminars aim to help parents spot sex trafficking

Tue, Nov 22, 2022 12:00 PM GMT

Victims Services of Durham Region wants to educate people about sex trafficking and how to prevent it.

They’re holding free monthly virtual seminars about the topic and they’re called the Sex Trafficking Education and Prevention (STEP) program. The next one is happening Thursday, November 24 at 6 p.m.

Executive Director Krista MacNeil says human trafficking is a big problem.

“It’s largely an unreported crime,” said MacNeil. “It’s quite hidden. Ontario houses about probably two-thirds of the reported cases of human trafficking in Canada with the GTA and Ottawa being the hotspots. Durham Region is a hotspot for trafficking because of its proximity along the 401 corridor. Our referrals at Victim Services of Durham Region have doubled annually from about 2018 to around 2020. Since 2018 up to where we’re at today, we’ve seen a 263 per cent increase, so it’s huge in Durham Region. Unfortunately we are a hotspot for trafficking.”

Victim Services of Durham Region is a non-profit that helps people who are victims of violent crime or sudden tragedies. MacNeil added the referrals she was speaking about where specific to human trafficking survivors.

The seminar is aimed at parents and caregivers, but MacNeil said it’s appropriate for anyone 13 or older who wants to participate.

She says parents will learn about red flags to look for to tell if their child is involved in sex trafficking or is being groomed.

The parents of a survivor will speak at the seminar and there will be an opportunity to ask questions to presenters at the end of the event.

It will also touch on online safety, how to identify safe adults and how to speak to young people about human trafficking.

“With human trafficking, traffickers use a lot of psychological manipulation so often times, victims do not even realize they’re being trafficked or they believe they’ve consented to what’s happening to them,” said MacNeil.

MacNeil shared they also have a free STEP e-seminar available and both the seminars and events for kids have resulted in the prevention of human trafficking.

“When we provide prevention education to youth, in many of the presentations that we do, we do get a disclosure directly after the training session from youth who may be fully entrenched in a trafficking situation or they’re being lured and groomed and they’re going through the process and they weren’t recognizing the red flags.”

She says after hosting a youth symposium this past year in February, they received three disclosures the day of the seminar, including one from a 12-year-old, and in the two weeks after the event, they received another 50 referrals. Half were from youth in the luring and grooming stages, which means they reached them prior to victimization happening.

For more information about the seminar, click here.

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