Sex trafficking doesn’t just happen in Canada’s big cities.
That’s the message that Joy Smith, founder of the Joy Smith Foundation and a former Manitoba MP, will deliver in a presentation in Yorkton, Sask., Dec. 6.
“I have found out it’s as prevalent in small towns as it is in the big cities,” she says.
“Education is our greatest weapon. The more people know, the more protected our young girls can be.”
After speaking to students at a school in Okotoks, Alta., Smith says one young girl told her a gas station attendant offered her a chance to get rich quick, often the sales pitch of sex trade exploiters.
“We all need to be very wary. It happens everywhere in this country.”
Smith estimates that as much as $280,000 is made annually from just one young victim of sex trafficking.
Perpetrators of the sex trade often tell young girls what they want to hear. They’ll say they are beautiful and know a way girls can cash in on their beauty.
Girls are given presents or a chance to party with alcohol, and more likely, drugs such as highly addictive crack cocaine.
“These men can manipulate the kids,” says Smith. “They can paint a very rosy picture of what life can be like for these vulnerable girls. And the girls get sucked in. This is so typical of how perpetrators work.”
The next thing they know, the perpetrators will tell the girls it’s time to pay back all the things they have received and there is only one way to do it, by selling themselves and giving the money to these men.
Smith said one myth of the sex trade is that it only includes the kids living on the fringe but it’s not the case, noting how many young girls from affluent families also get lured into that lifestyle.
“It happens in every community, not just the big centres in Canada, but you just don’t hear about it,” says Smith. “This awareness piece is our biggest weapon to save our kids.”