by Emma Elshaw
The Ontario government announced in June that it will require school boards to add anti-trafficking plans and protocols to their Health and Education Curriculum in order to identify, respond to and prevent trafficking from happening in the first place. Teachers in Ontario will need to learn this portion of the curriculum in order to teach it to their students. As students learn the material, they can be equipped to help prevent trafficking from happening to themselves and their friends.
When someone knows and learns how to recognize the signs of trafficking, they are armed with knowledge as a type of shield, protecting them from potential exploitation in the form of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is incredibly prevalent in society and schools today. It is “hiding in plain sight and we need to better educate people on how to spot and stop it” (Tamara Balan). By teaching young people to recognize the signs of trafficking, they are being empowered with knowledge, and it is “very difficult to exploit and traffic[k] an empowered person.”
In Canada, one in ten people either suspect or know that someone is being trafficked for sex. Because of popular movies like the Taken series, many think that those being trafficked are abducted or taken by force; however, “more than a third of [survivors] were recruited by men they considered to be their boyfriends and another 25% were lured through friends, most of them [exploited] themselves.”
“Gender-based violence and human trafficking is prevented through empowerment, increased self-esteem, and increased knowledge of equality, colonization, racism, consent, and healthy relationships.” Remember, education is prevention. When young people are educated to recognize the signs of trafficking, they can be aware when someone might be trying to lure them into the industry, or they can even notice and point out signs they recognize in one of their friends. If trafficking is prevented in the first place, then there will be fewer people who are exploited and subsequently forced to lure their friends into the industry as well.
So, what are the signs that someone might be in a trafficking situation? Some signs include secretive behaviour; a change in appearance and/or clothing, particularly to new, high-end apparel; having a new friend, boyfriend or girlfriend that they won’t introduce to friends and family; being isolated from friends and family and always being accompanied by a controlling partner. Peers have a unique relationship with each other, and they may be more inclined to tell their friends what is going on in their lives, rather than their parents or guardians. This is why it is vital to educate young people on the possible signs of trafficking so they can help and prevent each other from being trafficked.
These are just some of the signs of sex trafficking, and each situation may look slightly different. The presence of one or more of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean someone is being trafficked, but they are signs that it is a possibility that warrants attention and action. If you notice any of these changes in your friends, talk to them about it. If they brush you off but you still suspect that they might be caught in a trafficking situation, call the Canadian trafficking hotline (1-833-900-1010). If you would like more information about human trafficking and how to recognize the signs, you can book a training session with Fight4Freedom here.
Again, education is prevention, and it is also empowerment. When young people are armed with knowledge, they can be “agents of change that [can] shift the course of an entire nation.”