Sixteen-year-old Shawna was brought to us by police. She accepted their help when she was found in a motel where her boyfriend had been forcing her to sell herself. As we implement our comprehensive, anti-sex-trafficking plan, we are providing more support for young, female victims. Among our new services are two dedicated crisis beds in our shelter, the first of their kind in the city.
Young women, like Shawna, can find comfort and help from our caring specialized staff so that they can consider taking the first step out of their nightmare.
Shawna’s boyfriend had promised her they’d have a perfect life together and convinced her to leave home to come with him to Toronto. Here, he asked her to sell herself until they had enough money to get a start. Shawna went along, wanting to believe in their dream.
Romance soon turned to terror and humiliation. Shawna’s trafficker took her identification and her money. He also threatened to lure and exploit her younger sister. She felt she had no choice and no escape.
Since opening our crisis beds 18 months ago, they have frequently been filled. Victims of sex trafficking are among our most vulnerable and complex youth who we serve. We have a team of experts that meets their unique needs with case management and wraparound support.
The beds are part of an emergency response protocol with partners, including police, victims’ services and other community agencies expert in helping trafficked victims, Young women may be found by police or they come forward on their own.
“These young women need to be able to see that there is a way out for them,” says Michele Anderson, one of our trafficking advocates. “Our crisis beds and specialized support offer the chance for them to begin that journey.”