I'm a survivor of sex trafficking, and a founder and front-line worker for Walk With Me, an organization that has been working 24-7 on the ground with victims of sex slavery for the last four years here in Canada. Of these victims, 90% were Canadian girls between the ages of 15 and 21 who were rescued from domestic sex trafficking.
I originally entered the sex industry when I was forced into it by traffickers. Sometime after my rescue I went back to the business for a few months, responding to a huge financial crisis. I already knew what I had gotten myself into and I voluntarily returned, but my choice to prostitute myself was to make a living, to avoid becoming homeless, and to be able to put food on my table.
In the media these days we hear the voices of women sex workers who demand their human rights be respected in their choice of work. Those women represent a small percentage of women in prostitution. Studies estimate the number of women voluntarily making an informed choice to do sex work is between 1% to 10%.
I speak for the other 90% of prostituted women and men whose voices are largely not being heard in this debate precisely because they are still trafficked and they are still forced to do this work. I speak for the 60% to 95% of women in the sex trade, based on numerous studies, who were sexually molested or assaulted as children. I was sexually molested between the ages of 12 and 17, and that background sets you up to be abused again.
I speak for the 70% to 95% of people who were physically assaulted while in sex work. My first encounter when I was sex trafficked was in a massage place where three Russian men entered the room, and I more or less just became meat. Three men started to take pieces out of me. I was lying on this very cold massage table and I closed my eyes and I looked up and I wondered if anyone had seen this and would anyone rescue me, only to find out later my so-called bodyguard was watching the whole thing on video.
I was indoors. It was safe. They paid for their services, but nobody told me the rules because I was new to it, so I was raped for about an hour by three different men.
I speak for the hundreds of Canadian girls I have met and talked to and rescued in the last four years who have been and continue to be raped, violated, and exploited against their will.
First of all prostitution is not a profession. It's an oppression. Ninety per cent of the time it's the only job in the world where you can go to work and every day there's a chance you could be killed or hurt by your employer, the johns, or the pimps. The dangers inherent in sex work are well documented in research.
Prostitution always involves the imbalance between a customer who pays to have their pleasure met and a person who is hired to act like a sex puppet. Prostitution is rarely if ever about two consenting adults. For example, a husband and father of three children is highly unlikely to go to his wife and kids and ask for their consent for daddy to be able to have unprotected sex that evening with a prostitute. Again, there are absolutely no laws protecting the wife and children from the ripple effects that come afterwards.
I speak for the vast majority of people in the sex trade for whom this is not a free choice among many choices but for whom it is indeed an issue of human rights, rights of liberty, equality, dignity, safety—all of which are being ripped from us on a daily basis.
There does not appear to be a perfect answer in this debate. The rights of some will be curtailed to support the rights of others. Sometimes that is what laws are forced to do. The only way they can be encouraged to seek help is by decriminalizing their part in prostitution and by creating an environment of safety and support that gives them viable exit options. The legislation attempts to do that.
Two groups of people are impacted most by this legislation. Pro-prostitution advocates speak loudly and with resources behind them, but there is the other voice of those trapped and tortured that needs to be heard as well, and they deserve to be protected by this country.
Trafficked men and women and those who would rather do something else if they had a viable choice don't have the same voice. We need the Government of Canada to be that voice for them, and we believe that Bill C-36 is the legislation that will protect our most vulnerable.