Living in one of the most developed nations in the world, it is hard to believe that crimes against humanity happen within our borders.
However, on a different scale of human right violations, activist Jacqui Linder revealed that sex trafficking not only occurs on Canadian soil, but also within our communities.
“I was working at the sexual assault centre in Edmonton where I had a client who was a victim of human trafficking and who had never received treatment,” Linder explained. “She’s the one who told me: ‘well, who would I tell? I’m not going to tell a Square John what I do for a living and have them laugh at me and tell me it was my own fault.”
That was the moment when Linder realized that there was another population living deep within Canadian society that desperately needed help.
On May 9, Linder spoke at the eighth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month event hosted by the Sexual Assault Support Center (SASC) of Waterloo Region.
Her speech focused on understanding survivors of human sex trafficking and the psychological turmoil that often goes unnoticed.
“We have an event each year and bring in a keynote speaker that’s speaking on a topic relevant to the community”, said Sara Casselman, the public relations and operations manager at the SASC.
“Jacqui Linder comes highly recommended as a public speaker … She’s probably the number one speaker on this issue in Canada,” Casselman added.
Linder is the CEO of a trauma centre in Edmonton and the founder and Executive/Clinical Director of the Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network.
She has worked with male offenders, war rape survivors, survivors of human trafficking, commercial sex workers, former gang members, survivors of sexual abuse and adult sexual assault.
Although Linder’s practice is based in Edmonton, she also emphasized that the issue of sexual assault is prevalent in all Canadian communities. Waterloo Regional Police reported that in 2011 there were 550 sexual harassment cases in the Kitchener/Waterloo area.
“In our community we’ve really just started to mobilize on the issue of human sex trafficking and a group of us in criminal justice and social services are starting to look at some of the services [available] in our community, how we can meet the needs of our survivors, and how we can create a map of services so when a survivor ends up at the police we know where the resources are in the community,” Casselman explained.
“Human sex trafficking is not something that’s new but the awareness about the issue is starting to grow,” she added.
Linder emphasized the aftermath effects of an individual who has been involved in human trafficking are reflective of their sense of self, boundaries, stability and learned values.
Above all, she called upon the importance of community listening, action and basic human kindness.
“Yes, there are people who go into the sex industry willingly,” Linder admitted. “But they don’t seem to follow the psychological injury that people who are there involuntarily do. My advice is that basic human kindness goes a long way.”
Waterloo Mayor, Brenda Halloran, was also in attendance at Thursday’s event.
“I’m hearing a lot of things that are happening in the community,” Halloran explained to the entire room. “I think we need to do what we do best in the Waterloo Region and that’s collaborate and really form a strong, cohesive group to deal with this issue.”
Halloran urged the community to take a stand against sexual assault and human trafficking. “The subject matter is very heavy but I sense that there’s a lot of hope,” she said. “We have addressed it, we are talking about it, and I feel as sense of purpose. And we are going to step up as a community, I promise you that.”