During February, we often celebrate idyllic notions of love and romance, but just one week after Valentine’s Day, we also mark a milestone that reveals the toxic side of human relationships.
February 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This year, The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking (The Centre) – a national charitable organization dedicated to ending human trafficking – is educating Canadians on the issue of sex trafficking and sharing how all Canadians can make a difference by focusing on healthy relationships and discussing the topic with loved ones. The Centre is also raising awareness of its Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, a confidential service that provides information and support at 1-833-900-1010. Since most calls to the Hotline involve sex trafficking, The Centre is spotlighting this aspect of the issue which predominantly impacts young people.
Recent research by The Centre reveals that while over two thirds of Canadians (69 percent) feel that the average Canadian doesn’t understand the issue of sex trafficking*, a staggering 93 percent believe it’s important to raise awareness and increase education*. Increasing understanding involves undoing perceptions that trafficking is limited to cross-border smuggling or kidnapping, when the reality is that sex trafficking is happening right here at home.
Sex trafficking often begins with someone the victim knows, loves and trusts. Traffickers can be a love interest or friend who has mastered the process of luring, grooming and trafficking individuals. They prey on vulnerabilities and offer whatever is missing in the target’s life, often love, money or housing. But these gifts always come with a price and the payback is inhumane and traumatic.
“Fostering healthy relationships is at the heart of ending human trafficking, and sadly, many people, particularly young people, don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like,” says Julia Drydyk, Executive Director, The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking. “It may seem basic, but they need to understand that those who truly care about them will not place them in unsafe situations and that love shouldn’t come at a cost.”
Is it Love or Is it Luring?
Healthy relationships among family and friends are vital as loved ones play a critical role in preventing human trafficking. It is essential to keep lines of communication open with those you care about; to discuss what healthy relationships look like; and to watch for the signs of unhealthy relationships that may be a precursor to sex trafficking. While each relationship is unique, The Centre has simplified some common signs – both positive and negative – to consider:
5 Signs of a Healthy Relationship:
- Respect – for all parties in the relationship and for personal boundaries
- Consent – all involved are fully aware and agreeable to all aspects of the relationship
- Good Communication – all have the liberty to openly discuss their thoughts, ideas and feelings; the flexibility to change their mind when desired; and the capability to resolve conflicts in a positive manner
- Supportive – no one is undermined or taken advantage of, but instead all are supported unconditionally
- Freedom – all have the freedom to be who they are, to have their own interests and friends, and to make their own choices
5 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship:
- Feeling Pressured – experiencing the need to do something they don’t want to do, especially in relation to sexual pursuits
- Being Threatened – either while in the relationship or when trying to end the relationship
- Violence – whether real or perceived, no one should be afraid of someone they love, or who loves them
- Isolation – being cut off from family and friends; being forced to spend all their time with a new romantic interest or friend
- Loss of Control – when someone tries to control all aspects of another’s life i.e. friends, activities, cell phone and social accounts
Potential Signs of Sex Trafficking to Watch For:
- Sudden Change in Behaviour – acts in a fearful, anxious, submissive or nervous manner; is excessively concerned about displeasing a partner; appears to be controlled by someone else; is becoming isolated from friends and family; rarely responds to phone calls
- Appearance Seems Out of Place – is dressed inappropriately for their age; has cuts or bruises; is branded/tattooed
- Strange Possessions – has unexplained expensive gifts, multiple cell phones, no access to identification, excess cash; lives outside financial means
Recognizing these signs early is key to helping fuel positive relationships and in turn, ending sex trafficking. Trust your instincts and reach out if something about your relationship, or that of a loved one, doesn’t seem right. Call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 or connect online via www.canadianhumantraffickinghotline.ca.
The World’s Most Understanding Hotline
The Centre is activating an educational awareness campaign around National Human Trafficking Awareness Day to bring attention to the issue and help the most vulnerable. “The World’s Most Understanding Hotline” campaign will raise awareness of the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline and encourage those in need to call. The campaign includes a homespun heart visual featuring the words “You Are Loved” to let those who are struggling know that someone cares about them and is ready to help. Campaign posters are available on The Centre’s website for teachers, professors, doctors and other professionals to post in their workplaces. The Centre is also encouraging Canadians to get involved in the conversation online using #EndHumanTrafficking.
“We understand the difficult issues being faced by these individuals, and our Hotline team is here to listen and to help, not to judge,” adds Ms. Drydyk. “We are sharing the ‘You Are Loved’ message, because often traffickers make their victims feel that no one else cares about them. They establish a trauma bond, making it very difficult for many to escape their situation. We want them to know that they have options.”
About The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking
The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking is a national charity dedicated to ending all types of human trafficking in Canada. In 2019, the organization launched the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline, a 24/7, multi-lingual service that can be accessed via phone, chat, webform, and email. The Centre also operates as the national “backbone” organization working on this issue, working with governments, companies and service providers to facilitate collaboration, identify best practices, and advance change towards ending trafficking in our country. For more information on The Centre, please visit www.canadiancentretoendhumantrafficking.ca.
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