Let’s say there’s a 12-year-old girl in your life who giggles at your silly jokes, watches movies side-by-side as you share popcorn, comes shopping with you once in a while, and eats your homemade pies. She’s a daughter, niece, granddaughter, or perhaps she’s the child next door who walks your dog. Let’s call this girl Sally.
Now imagine both of these scenarios.
#1. Sally’s 17th birthday is tomorrow, but you’ve given up trying to arrange a day out to celebrate with her. She’s angry and has been for a year, and you’ve no idea what you’ve done to upset her. You’ve asked her what’s up so many times after she’s yelled at you; you’ve tried acting as if nothing was wrong in the hopes her new attitude is temporary due to changing hormones; and you’ve quizzed her teachers as to whether they’ve noticed any bullying or other activities that may be the cause of her distancing herself from you. You are completely baffled.
#2. Sally has disappeared. She left a note saying she’s moving in with a friend and not to worry, but she hasn’t told you which friend, and none of the usual crowd of kids growing up alongside her know where she is. They’re as puzzled as you are. Neither do you have any idea as to why she became withdrawn, gradually closing off contact and avoiding her usual activities such as soccer after school. She quit her part-time job a few months ago, yet always seemed able to buy expensive purses and new shoes. Perhaps from her savings?
Unfortunately, Sally’s behaviour is common for girls being groomed. I hope that is not what’s happening with your “Sally,” but it is a possibility that needs to be considered. A pimp is a master of manipulation and many times they are exploiting several underage females at one time. They are earning money that is immediately handed over to him.
It’s possible that a trafficker, which can be a peer/friend, boyfriend, someone posing as an employer, etc., has been grooming Sally for months. This begins with “loving-boyfriend” affectionate behaviour including gifts of money and clothes, and then proceeds through several stages until the girl is alienated from friends and family, completely dependent on just him. And once in, it’s hard for a girl to get out…
SAVIS of Halton (http://www.savisofhalton.org/human-trafficking/) has supported many persons from lives of exploitation, fear and abuse. Below is “JENNIFER’S STORY,” as told by a young woman, now a single mother, who is getting back on her feet after several years of horror. I first heard her story at SAVIS’ Take Back The Night event in September. Jennifer (not her real name) read out her account, and has kindly given me permission to post it here. Below her story are some helpful links I found, that explain more about this whole terrible story of exploitation.
You never truly know who someone is, right off the bat. They may treat you like the only person in the world, make you think they just want the best for you. Until you realize love is supposed to be between two people and that they just want to use you to put money right into their pockets.
At age 21, I met a guy through mutual friends, I had seen him many times in my area before and he kept asking me for my number. One day he offered to help me make extra money and all I needed to do was run his errands. I got treated like royalty, all expenses paid, and partying with the elite was my life until I was told to go upstairs by someone who I thought was a friend and sleep with them. This friend had another woman direct me what to do and follow the rules. I was given money, that was promised to be mine, a brand new luxury car, that was supposedly a birthday present, and I was hooked into a world of craziness, drugs and a partying scene, something that I never thought I would be subjected to.
Pimps force you into habits and addictions that I never thought I would struggle through in my life. All the lies and deceit, I knew this wasn’t my life, this isn’t the story I want to live the rest of my life by. I tried to leave and everything I had was stolen right in front of me and unfortunately it is now just ruining my entire credit. I tried working independently at a strip club but it wasn’t the life for me. After being locked up on more than one occasion, and detoxing from a cocaine addiction, I knew I could put my life in a better situation.
With just a t-shirt on my back I left the past behind me. I reported my situation and was ready to speak up, and thankfully I was put into the hands of SAVIS. I wanted someone to listen, to hear me out, and SAVIS provided me with that, I got out of my situation, with SAVIS and Human Trafficking officers by my side, something I will be forever grateful for. SAVIS is a safe space for me, providing me with someone to be there for me and was able to truly build my self-esteem back up, no matter what.
Without them, I have no idea where I would be today. If you are to take anything from my story, it is to always seek help, you do not need to depend on a guy for money, you can get through it.
Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking National Hotline (in over 200 languages):
Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking:
Psychological Chains of All Kinds: