Where to start?
Hm…For the last 4 years I have been rewarded with more awards I can think of, for my work with victims of Human Trafficking, both Internationally and Nationally. (I felt incredibly honored every time)
I have spoken publicly, I am the to-go person for the Media when they need a “victim” to share her story and I become the “face of human trafficking” in Canada. I have often been invited to the Parliament to support Anti Trafficking Bills, we have been invited to various Task Force meetings, both Federal and Provincial. The agency that I have founded has seen and dealt with probably the most victims in Ontario if not Canada. We are now assisting over 36 Law Enforcement Agencies and receive about 3-5 calls a day regarding a possibly new victim. We are a 24/7 Mobile Victim Care Agency. That means that we cover 7 days a week/24 hours a day shifts on Front Lines, and 24/7 shifts in the safe house when we have victims. (with a VERY SMALL staff)
This all sounds amazing doesn’t it?
In our very first 6 months of existence (without any funding), we assisted 3 long term cases. In our first year we assisted Canada’s Largest Human Trafficking investigation to date. All together 27 victims. By this time It was still supported from my personal money and some small donations. But it was barely enough to pay for their food. But we continued because no other agencies at the time were allowed to work with HT victims, because they didn’t have the training, or the funds, or the policies and procedures around it.
I was very fortunate to meet a Lawyer from Hamilton in 2010, who heard me speak in a basement of a church, begging for donations for the Hungarian victims at the time. Not only he donated our first bigger donation, but he put our board together, and him and his wife is been supporting financially Walk With Me since that day. When we get in a financial hole, he comes through for us over and over again. I thank God for him and his wife every single day because we wouldn’t have made it this far without them. But this can’t be going on much longer. Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking Victims can’t just be supported mainly by one or two generous donor. It’s just doesn’t seem right.
I have been saying for 4 years, that Victim Care needs serious support. Financial, but mainly coordinated effort. 4 years later, I slowly start to see the Media paying close attention to this issue and finally call it what it is. Recent reports and data showing the amount of increase of the new cases and new victims. Still, there is no substantial support from Corporations, Private Sectors and from the Grants there are available.
So I must ask the question:
What will it take for our society to realize that this is a huge issue? Should I use numbers to explain? Well, we don’t have exact numbers. We have approximate numbers from a recent report that was released by Alliance Against Modern Day Slavery. For example, 551 Sex Trafficking cases were documented in Ontario. Just in Ontario!!
Most of the time people say, or think: “Well, that doesn’t really affect me. I come from a good middle class family, my daughter would never be trafficked”, so why would I care?
Well, that is one way of looking at it. But picture this:
An Economical research was conducted based on our 2012 victim files.
Based on the amount of victims of that year (36)
Each victim will “cost” the Canadian Government and tax payers (you) $166.666.67 over a life time.
So, 36 times 166.666.67 is $60 Million dollars in our life time.
So far we have assisted 290 victims all together. 89% of them are Canadian girls, born and raised here in our own land. Because we can’t provide proper long term rehabilitation for these victims, the likely hood of a successful healing journey is about 30% if that. 30% of those victims will become healthy member of society and will start to pay taxes and contribute in about 5 years. While the 70% will struggle to find ways to survive. Some victims will and are returning to the sex industry voluntarily mainly for financial reasons. Others will may go on disability, or welfare. Education is not something that they will ever be able to access to.
These are of course just some “numbers” and boring stats.
I could give you some real stories, real names, even before and after pictures to help you understand how real this issue is, but I am not going to. The victims are not subjects, nor la brats and they are certainly not “selling features” of my work as one marketing consultant suggested back in the day.
For years I refused to give out victim’s stories. I refused to re-victimize them by asking them to do Media, and exploit them all over again. Somaly Mam Foundation done that. Somaly Mam has asked young girls to go on Oprah and a media tour to tell their heart wrenching stories of sexual exploitation in Cambodia. Somaly Mam raised millions and millions of dollars for shelters in 8 countries for trafficked victims.
I know I sound like a broken record, but honestly, I am tired. I am absolutely stunned and tired that we as a society are still not reacting to this. I know there are a million other causes out there. I know that everyone is just trying to survive. But the truth is, that Sex Trafficking and Human Trafficking will not just fade away. Its actually getting worst by every moment. The longer we wait to take any action, the worst it is going to get. And it does and will affect you one way or another.
I get emails and calls and text messages from parents every single day begging me to save their daughter. Begging me to come to their school and talk to the other kids so that we can prevent what happened to their daughters. I had a mom, (middle class, stay at home soccer mom) crying her eyes out, begging me, hugging me from shaking and crying, because her daughter is trafficked and taken by a pimp across Canada and we don’t have the resources to bring her back. Parents can not thank me enough that we exist. They can’t go anywhere else for this kind of support. There isn’t any other agency that will answer the phone 24/7 and help mom to overcome her fears and anxiety about her daughter being sex trafficked. There isn’t an other agency that can talk to them and help them to understand how to communicate with their daughter while she is still trafficked. Can you imagine knowing that your daughter is trafficked, but there is nothing you can do about it at the moment, because if you are trying to take her out of the situation you may cause more harm to her or yourself as a family? So you have to wait…and the only person you can talk to is this agency because no one else in your circle would ever understand the world you just stepped into? Even if we were to bring her back, we wouldn’t have a long term rehabilitation to put her in, so even if we were to bring her home, she would run away in two weeks, because of the shame, the humiliation and the PSTD that she is suffering from.
So, it is absolutely amazing how far Walk With Me came. I am really proud of all the work that we have done. I am really proud of all the awareness that we raised. I am absolutely stunned that we are still at the edge of closing our doors almost every single month, because we don’t have enough money to operate.
The front line work itself is extremely emotional, draining and difficult at times.
Now imagine doing a 34 hours shift with a victim, driving 7 hours in between cities, providing emotional support, and then go to the office to find out that we may not have enough to keep our doors open in a month. So of course you can’t just go home and get some sleep, you going to start to campaign for money…This is the story of all agencies in Canada including us which are currently working with victims of Human Trafficking. Then we turn on the news, and learn that some agency raised 20 million dollars in one day for their research. Or you hear about a woman who donated 10 million dollars for an anti-aging research.Or you hear about Millions of dollars spent on Power Plants, and I can go on and on and on…And then you sit down and think, hm, maybe Human Trafficking is not a priority.
What I do know is, that I am not alone in this position. Survivors and Other front line agencies is been saying this for years. No one seem to have the answer just yet.
So, you go home (if you don’t have victims to take care of) and decide not to watch television anymore. You sit down, and out of frustration you start writing letters like this…At times you just want to scream from the top of your lung, so that people will stop and actually listen. But you just end up calling your close friends and let out some tears and frustration. And then you just get tired and go to bed, and pray that help will come soon.
PS: Just for the heck of it, I’m going to post our donation link here. I guess we can’t loose anything by asking…
Cost of 1 Victim for up to 3 months: $2500-3000
A welcome kit at the safe house costs $250
(comfy paints, socks, underwear, hygiene products, pajama, food, medication, and emergency cash)
Victim transportation / Front Line worker: $400 / month
Maybe your work/Corporation/Company would like to support one of the above?