I am a mom; I have mentioned that before in my column. And I would do anything to protect my son. He is everything to me, and I know a lot of parents and caregivers say that all the time. But, having a child is terrifying as you are sending your raw open heart out into the world and it makes me nauseous sometimes to think that there is only so much you can do to protect them from harm.
And at the same time, it makes me so angry to hear about harm that is inflicted upon children. Which I am sure is a natural response for most empathetic people.
Child sex trafficking has recently gained a lot of traction on social media lately, although I am aware that it has been something that has been going on since, well, since forever I suppose.
It is not something that is easy to stomach, I will admit that the videos that I seen that explained what was happening in certain rings made me feel physically ill and outraged.
It is one of those things that is incredibly difficult to wrap your brain around. I just could not and cannot believe these types of situations go on in the world.
I cried about it, and I felt incredibly overwhelmed trying to figure out a way to show that I too want to take a stand against the exploitation of children. I believe that children should be free from harm and be able to be children and I cannot believe I live in a world that this kind of thing happens to anyone, let alone little ones.
Overwhelmed is the first place my head went to, as this is happening across the world it was hard for me to pinpoint exactly where the best place to show support would be.
Sharing on social media is great for creating awareness but I wanted to know how my impact or someone else’s impact on the matter can go farther.
So, I guess the question I asked myself and I want you to ask yourself is:
‘What are you doing to extend your support outside of social media?”
I did a little digging and reached out to MP Viersen for Peace River – Westlock and asked if he and his team could share with me some resources, so that people reading this and myself can learn about ways that the can show their support locally.
For those of you who are not aware, MP Viersen is a co-chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. Many of the sex trafficking cases in Canada involve children. The APPG to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking focuses on ending all types of human trafficking, of all ages and includes sex trafficking and forced labour
I figured a good place to begin would be locally. I know this is a situation that is going on globally, but it is also something that happens right in our own communities and I felt that it would be easier to gather my focus locally.
I was provided with the following information about what myself or anyone interested can do to help end the exploitation of children in Northern Alberta and Canada.
1. Ensuring that children are educated on what sex trafficking looks like and educating children on how to recognize grooming. It was explained to me that much of it happens online and through social media.
The reach of social media is huge, and that is a terrifying thought but one the best things we can do to protect our children is to educate them about what grooming looks like and having those tough conversations with them about how to protect themselves and what to lookout for.
2. It is also important for parents and caregivers to know what to watch for, and to recognize the signs. Parents and caregivers should also encourage that the people their children spend many hours with, such as their teachers, take training on what to look for as well.
Caregivers can approach their school trustees and ask if training has been provided to the school’s teachers and administrative staff and if not, they can work with them to develop this training.
The Joy Smith Foundation has great resources on this and has made significant advances on the human trafficking laws and awareness in Canada. The foundation strives to educate teachers, parents, and children on how to protect themselves and the children in their care. For more information go to www.joysmithfoundation.com .
3. The Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) offers programs and a ton of information to either help victims, help families impacted, and provides online resources for parents and families. Go to www.ceasenow.org/families-communites to learn more.
4. PACE Centre is a Grande Prairie based organization but works in Peace River, High Prairie, and Valleyview with victims of exploitation. The website for this organization is: www.pacecentre.com/contact
5. Cases of children being trafficked can be reported to the national human trafficking hotline 1-888-373-7888 or the Canadian human trafficking hotline 1-833-900-1010.
It is not much but it’s a start. I encourage anyone who is interested in showing support and helping to end the exploitation of children, to further explore the resources mentioned above.