Anyone can be a victim, but there is a preference

The facts about human trafficking are cut and dry and it is easy to recognize that there are numbers that go unaccounted for.

Most people can mistake human trafficking for human smuggling, whereby a person is illegally taken into a different country. But human trafficking is the sexual exploitation of a victim, usually a woman or child and the basis of the exploitation is almost always sexual.

Here in Canada we are quite content to think “good thing we live here, where things like that don’t happen.”

However, more than 90 per cent of female human trafficking victims in this country are Canadian-born and are typically recruited into sex work by young men that they form dependent relationships with. Sixty per cent of all reported human trafficking cases in this country are reported and occur in the Greater Toronto Area says Peel Regional Police.

The reality of the matter is that young girls are recruited at school, on instagram or at the mall and many continue to live at home while performing sex work at local motels or condominiums. Trafficking victims as well generally don’t keep any of the money they make and have little say in what they perform for payment. But there are those that are victimized far easily and far more.

Indigenous women are victimized by human trafficking at rates that are higher than the general population. In a study conducted at four sites in Canada and the US, the study concluded that 40 per cent of women involved in sex trafficking identified as indigenous, yet indigenous women represented 10 per cent or less of the general populous of the studied communities.

“If you are a trafficker looking for the perfect population of people to violate, Native women would be a prime target,” said Sarah Deer, an attorney, law professor and author of The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America in an article with VOA News. “You have extreme poverty. You have a people who have been traumatized. You have addiction to alcohol and drugs as a result of trauma. And you have a legal system that doesn’t step in to stop it,” said Deer.

The facts and numbers are there, but as Deer suggests, the action to correct is not.

“Native women experience violent victimization at a higher rate than any other U.S. population. Congressional findings are that Native American and Alaska Native women are raped 34.1%, more than 1 in 3, will be raped in their lifetime, 64%, more than 6 in 10, will be physically assaulted. Native women are stalked more than twice the rate of other women. Native women are murdered at more than ten times the national average. Non-Indians commit 88% of violent crimes against Native women. Given the above statistical data and the historical roots of violence against Native women, the level of human trafficking given the sparse data collected can only equate to the current epidemic levels we face within our tribal communities and Nations,” said Lisa Brunner of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, who summarized the problem to Congress in 2013.

It also wasn’t recent (2013) that an American researcher discovered that First Nations women and babies from Thunder Bay, Ontario, have been sold on ships in the harbour at Duluth, Minnesota for sex trafficking.

Surprise. The sexual exploitation of indigenous women and women in general happens in our backyards and neighbouring cities so if you weren’t aware before, now you are.

Take steps to protect yourselves and your sisters.

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