Human trafficking in Perth County is more prevalent than the numbers suggest: social worker

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A human trafficking investigation that led to the arrest of a 34-year-old Stratford man last week is an important reminder that rural areas, including Perth County, are not safe of these types of crimes, said a local social worker.

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“It seems like it’s happening more and more and it’s amazing because it’s really something that has been going under the radar for so long,” said Emily Schurter, a social worker with Family Services Perth-Huron, a non-profit advisory and support organization. service that also covers Gray and Bruce counties. “As much as it’s appalling to see these things in the news, it’s also encouraging for me to see (the media) helping people realize that this is happening because that’s the only way it’s going to be. Stop.”

Stratford Police said a human trafficking investigation was opened in early September after a victim showed up to report incidents dating back to 2012. The incidents lasted all summer and l fall before the victim, who was 15 at the time, managed to escape around Thanksgiving, investigators said.

The accused, who police say surrendered after learning of the allegations, is charged with trafficking a person under the age of 18, for material benefit by living off the property of a person under the age of 18. 18 years old and pimping or attempted pimping.

The police did not provide the name of the accused. He has been released on bail and is due in court in November, police said.

It is not uncommon for victims in these circumstances to hesitate to come forward.

“Often… there is emotional and mental abuse and therefore the coercion is not just physical,” Schurter said. “It affects the fundamental belief systems of the individual involved. (This) will make it difficult to have the tools to express themselves, to have the confidence that they will be believed or that they can be helped.

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According to data compiled by the Perth County Stop Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee, three cases of human trafficking were reported in the region last year. Schurter, also the group’s coordinator, said the actual figure is likely higher.

“When we look at the reported figures, it is not unrealistic to infer that these figures would be higher due to the risk of reporting and, moreover, not all trafficked persons are always aware that they are. . “

The provincial government has committed to funding a five-year plan to fight human trafficking in 2020.

According to government documents available online, approximately two-thirds of police-reported human trafficking cases in Canada occur in Ontario. More than 70% of victims of human trafficking identified by the police are under 25, while the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking, which represents the majority of human trafficking cases, is is 13 years old.

One of the reasons Schurter believes it is important to talk about human trafficking in Ontario is to dispel myths about victims and perpetrators.

“Victims can really come from any age, any ethnicity, any gender, any socio-economic background,” she said, “and abusers can also to be people who tarry in our community. These are not the bad guys who come from elsewhere. It’s important for people to know that this is something going on here because we can’t keep tabs on something that we don’t think can happen here.

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Signs of human trafficking to be aware of:

  • Sudden change in dress or appearance;
  • Sudden change in social circle (avoiding or withdrawing from usual friends);
  • Sudden change in behavior;
  • Check in frequently with someone, can have multiple phones;
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries;
  • Present with malnutrition, excessive fatigue;
  • No access to their own passport or personal identification; and
  • Do not speak for themselves.

To help:

www.canadianhumantraffickinghotline.ca, 1-833-900-1010

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