Janet and Karen were 17 years old and lived in Thunder Bay when an older girl befriended them. She was fun, beautiful, self-confident and the two high school girls felt special for getting to spend time with her. Until that one day when everything changed. They had plans to meet in the park as they had so many times before. This time was different. He was there. They had never seen him before but there was something about him, something in his eyes, that gave Janet a shiver. What happened next, happened fast. The thought of it is almost too hard to bear and yet, it is all too common and we need to, have to, talk about it.
Janet and Karen were shoved into a trunk and brought to Niagara. They found themselves in a hotel room and were soon caught in a web of forced sex work, drug addiction, emotional and physical abuse and no way out.
Service providers in Niagara see victims of human trafficking come to their doors on a regular basis but often lack the knowledge and tools to address their specific needs sufficiently. “That is what brought on the idea to get together to develop an Anti-Human Trafficking Protocol,” explains Krystal Snider, the YW’s Skills Development Coordinator. In partnership with the Niagara Sexual Assault Centre and Victim Services, she brought forward a proposal to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “The main goal is to enable community members to easily and clearly identify victims of human trafficking and to then be confident in their ability to offer supports and information about intervention to them.”
We are fortunate that the Canadian Women’s Foundation acknowledges the importance of Snider’s idea and proudly announce that the YW is the recipient of a $25,000 violence prevention grant.
“We see it regularly in our own shelters at the YW: women are sent in to recruit other women and girls to come work for them.”
“This project is so necessary because Niagara is home to two border cities – Niagara Falls and Fort Erie,” says Krystal. “There has been an identified need for quite some time. We see it regularly in our own shelters at the YW: women are sent in to recruit other women and girls to come work for them.” For Janet and Karen, the YW was their way out. They managed to escape the hotel room that had become their prison and are back safely with their families in Winnipeg today.
A shared Anti-Human Trafficking protocol in the region will help more women like Janet and Karen to get the support they need to escape human trafficking.