The impact sexual exploitation has on the community has been recognized in a significant manner.
“A proclamation in a public space makes a statement that addressing sexual exploitation is a priority in Edmonton and recognizes the suffering caused by sexual exploitation,” said Kate Quinn, executive director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation.
The proclamation was signed in downtown Edmonton on April 22, kicking off the week that was declared the Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness.
Sexual exploitation has particular relevance for the Aboriginal community.
“Intergenerational trauma, poverty, and racism that raises barriers for Aboriginal people to find affordable housing and employment can create vulnerabilities and predators/traffickers/pimps search out vulnerable people,” said Quinn.
She notes that work is being done in the city by a number of Aboriginal organizations, such as Métis Child 7 Family Services, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Ben Calf Robe Society, Creating Hope Society, and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, to provide leadership and support for children, families and people who are vulnerable.
“I feel (this week) is very important for Aboriginal women and youth so we can educate them and make them more aware of what sexual exploitation looks like, what the cycles are, what the roots of it are and to help especially the youth, the young girls to identify when they are getting into that cycle and to help break that cycle,” said Christie Deleon with Bent Arrow.
CEASE and Bent Arrow joined forces with the City of Edmonton and a handful of other organizations, including REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities and Catholic Social Services, to organize the week’s events under the banner of the Sexual Exploitation Working Group. Quinn is chair of SEWG.
SEWG was originally the Prostitution Working Group before a name change in 2009 was enacted with the goal of more accurately reflecting ongoing issues relating to sexual exploitation like child pornography, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
SEWG works to create awareness of the harm that sexual exploitation has on the community with events such as the Annual Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness and other learning opportunities, and defines sexual exploitation as “taking selfish or unfair advantage of any person for sexual purpose or gain.”
“We are trying to help people that are in abusive situations, that are being forced into doing things they would not ordinarily want to do and I think it is important that we make sure that this week is about them,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel while delivering the proclamation.
The week of events raised awareness of issues surrounding sexual exploitation. A public event, “Paying for Sex: the Community Impact” focused around the discussions of why men buy sex, civil responsibility, police strategies to curb the demand, and actions communities can take.
A two-day professional conference concluded the week. “We All Have a Role: Ending Sexual Exploitation in Edmonton” had keynote speakers that included Lewis Cardinal and Dr. Sue McIntyre.
“The conference goals are to educate and offer tips and tools for participants about internet exploitation, how to talk with youth about sexual issues, and exploitation, to better understand the sexual exploitation of males and gain insights into the men who are sex consumers/exploiters of vulnerable children, youth, females, and males,” said Quinn.
Photo caption: A moment of silence is observed by (from left) Lindsay Daniller of REACH Edmonton, Inspector David Spiers of the Edmonton Police Service, Mayor Stephen Mandel, cultural advisor Eric Daniels, Kate Quinn of CEASE at the proclamation ceremony for Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness.