It was a miracle that saved two teenage girls from the trap of human trafficking, and I do literally mean a miracle. American Airlines ticketing agent Denice Miracle called in backup when two girls presented themselves at the Sacramento International Airport ticket counter with no proper luggage, no parents to see them off and no idea that the very expensive first-class tickets bought for them by a friend they’d never met in person were for a one-way trip to New York. There was no return flight home in their future.
As adults, it’s easy to experience disbelief at the naiveté of girls like the ones in the story. But we forget the feelings of giddy excitement and pure elation that fill the adolescent heart when someone tells you you’re special. The “sick in love” teenage brain, flooded with endorphins, feels certain that no one ever felt this way before and no one (certainly not stodgy parents) could ever understand how much this promise of true love means. For me, “puppy love” was innocent and appropriate, and apart from a broken heart that mended, it was a healthy experience that helped me mature and grow. But for some young girls, the outcome of adolescent love is tragic and life altering. We don’t talk a lot about sex trafficking as middle class parents, focusing instead on the perils of teenage drinking, experimentation with drugs, and lately, the dangers of vaping. Rarely do we worry about our daughter accepting a one-way ticket to New York to pursue a modelling career that she’s sure is going to happen. But tragically it happens and we are wise to educate ourselves and our children.
The truth of the matter is that sex trafficking victims come from all racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Statistics Canada reports that 95 per cent of those trafficked are female, but boys, men and people who are LGBTQI2S are also targeted, and the age of recruitment can be as low as 12 or 13. We often think of at-risk youth as those who are homeless, dealing with addiction or feeling marginalized in other ways. But young girls struggling with low self-esteem, bullying, feelings of isolation, mental health challenges, or problems at home are also prime targets for those skilled in luring.
Where are our children most at risk and by whom? Almost 80 per cent of all police-reported human trafficking violations occurred in Ontario (65.8 per cent) and Quebec (13.6 per cent). More than 80 per cent of those accused are male between the ages of 18 and 34. Sadly, the majority of human trafficking cases brought before Canadian courts results in decisions of stayed or withdrawn.
Our school is committed to educating our girls, in an age and stage appropriate way, about this important topic. We’re also educating our teachers and our parents, as well as offering up supports to the broader community. We care about every girl’s right to be safe and supported. And most of all, we want every girl to know what a healthy relationship looks like and feels like. We want girls to have knowledge, confidence, self-compassion and the words to ask for respect from their friends and for their friends.
Please help educate your family and friends. If you have a daughter, talk to her about the importance of open communication. Teach her what to look out for, if not for herself, then for a friend. Click here for more information on Parents & Prevention.
If there is immediate danger or if you suspect a child under 18 is being trafficked, please call 911 or your local police service.
For more information in Durham Region, call Victim Services of Durham Region at 905-721-4226. For information and support in other communities, call Canada’s confidential Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 or visit www.canadianhumantraffickinghotline.ca.