Unfortunately, from the beginning of time there have always been certain people who exploit the economic and personal vulnerability of women, children, and men for sexual purposes. Impoverished neighborhoods often become a gathering place for people struggling with disabilities, mental illness, and addictions. These communities also become the targets of those who further exploit the vulnerable such as the ‘pimps’, the ‘johns’ and the drug dealers. That in turn can adversely affect the social health of the community as citizens suffer from an increase in traffic, discarded needles and condoms, and violence related to gang activity. The EPS is conscious of the impact that sexual exploitation has on all people and neighborhoods across the City.
Who is Involved?
The main ways in which women, children, and men become involved in sexual exploitation are coercion, ill-fated attempts at survival, drug addiction, and mental illness.
Most of the individuals involved in Sexual Service Industry (SSI) are the product of negative familial experiences. Many of these men, women and children have been sexually abused or are runaways from homes plagued with neglect. A vast majority of sex trade workers have experienced some form of abuse during their childhood.
Once in the SSI, these individuals are subjected to more violence and victimization. It is thought that abusive families normalize abusive treatment, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence depicted in the life of a sex trade worker. Not only is violence an inevitable part of life on the streets, it can be deadly.
Survival sex becomes an option for others who lack the personal resources to compete in mainstream society. They may be lacking in skills or education, they may be struggling with the disadvantages of racism and poverty or they may be caught in the throes of addiction. Many of these individuals have been the product of negative family environments and have experienced abuse during their childhood. The offer of money to perform sexual services may seem a temporary relief and becomes part of a cycle of violence they already know.
Individuals exploited in the SSI can be as young as pre-school children and as old as senior citizens. It is estimated that the average age of entry into exploitation is 15 years. A child of that age is hardly making an informed decision. Homelessness, poverty, health-related issues, and addictions compound the situation of those caught in SSI.
Victimization is an inevitable part of SSI.
Leaving A Life of Exploitation
Those who wish to leave a life of exploitation face many barriers even if there is no coercion. These can include inadequate housing, limited economic resources, waiting lists for treatment and a lack of social supports. The good news is that many young people are able to make a new life for themselves with appropriate interventions such as emergency relief, addictions treatment, transitional housing, employment programs, trauma counseling, life skills coaching, support groups and education.
The Edmonton Police Service works collaboratively with many Non-Government Agencies that offer support to people leaving the Sex Trade.
- Métis Child and Family Services Society
10437-123 St Edmonton, AB
- CEASE, Center to End all Sexual Exploitation.
- ACT Alberta - the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta.