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Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls


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Title: Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls

Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of
Aboriginal Women and Girls
  • By Teresa Edwards,
  • IAHR Director
  • January 2015

Road Map
  • Literature Review - Limitations
  • Statistics A Snapshot
  • Why are Aboriginal women and girls more
    vulnerable and at risk?
  • Typical Experience In The Life PTSD
  • Impacts of IRS
  • Recruitment
  • Survey Results
  • Prevention
  • What Have We Learned Needs, Exit Strategies
    Effective Supports
  • Gaps in the Research
  • Law Practice
  • Recommendations

Literature Review / Research
  • In March - May 2013, NWAC completed a literature
    review on the state of sexual exploitation and
    human trafficking of Aboriginal women and girls
    in Canada.
  • This review examines relevant research,
    legislation and regulations in Canada and
    internationally, as well as related reports to
    examine, review, analyze, and subsequently report
    on, relevant research from 1998 2012.
  • In May 2013, NWAC conducted Key Informant
    interviews and also collected data from
    experiential Aboriginal women via survey monkey.

  • Time
  • Interviews - trauma
  • Help hotline phone number
  • Sample size

Statistics a snapshot
  • Aboriginal women and youth comprise up to 90 of
    the visible sex trade (Save the Children, 2000).
  • In Vancouvers Downtown Eastside, Aboriginal
    women account for nearly 80 of survival sex
    trade workers (Burgelhaus, M. and M. Stokl,
    Sheway, 2005)
  • 4 out of 5 women in Aboriginal Communities will
    be sexually abused
  • 82 of Aboriginal women involved in the sex trade
    are in need of urgent drug and alcohol treatment
  • 80-90 of Aboriginal mothers in Winnipeg, Regina
    and Saskatoon are single mothers and live below
    the poverty level (RCAP 2006 from 2001 Census)

Stats from the literature
  • 70 of the street prostitutes were Aboriginal
    women under the age of 26 (Currie, 2000)
  • 30 of sex workers that they surveyed identified
    as being Indigenous women (PACE Society, 2000)
  • 52 out of 100 sexually exploited and trafficked
    women interviewed in Vancouver Downtown Eastside,
    BC identified as being First Nations (Farley,
    Lynne and Cotton, 2005)
  • Studies on human trafficking in Canada conclude
    that the majority of people trafficked within
    Canada are Aboriginal women and children victims
    of sex trafficking (Barrett, 2010)
  • Vancouver, BC Ottawa, ON and Winnipeg, MB as
    major centers for the sexual trafficking of
    Aboriginal women and children (Pierce, 2012)

Why are Aboriginal women and girls more
vulnerable and at risk?
Increased Risk/ Vulnerabilities
  • Dysfunctional home environment / family violence
  • Previous experience of sexual exploitation
    forms of abuse as a child
  • Ongoing inter-generational impacts of IRS
  • Systemic discrimination / colonization
  • Race- and gender-based discrimination
  • Lack of formal education
  • Extreme poverty, financial hardship
  • Homelessness
  • Migration

Increased Risk/ Vulnerabilities
  • Lack of employment opportunities
  • Lack of support networks
  • Low self-esteem
  • History of child welfare system
  • Drugs substance abuse / addictions
  • Lack of basic needs being met / survival needs
  • History of family in prostitution
  • Remote / rural community
  • Lack of cultural identity

Aboriginal children
  • 52.1 of all Aboriginal children live in extreme
  • 53 of children on social workers caseloads are
    aboriginal and are 12.5 times more likely to be
    in care than non-aboriginal children
  • Children from indigenous or ethnic minority
    populations are also frequently at greater risk
    of commercial sexual exploitation due to the
    harmful effects of systemic discrimination and
    social breakdown.
  • (Save the Children, 2000)
  • .

Typical experiences In the life
  • Farley, Lynne and Cotton (2005) reported on
    prostitution in Vancouver. The following data is
    a comparison between First Nations participants
    (52) and non-First Nations participants (48).
  • 96 reported childhood sexual abuse vs. 82 by
  • 81 reported childhood physical abuse vs. 58 by
  • 88 experienced physical assault while in
    prostitution vs. 89 non-FNs
  • 92 experienced rape in prostitution vs. 92 of
  • 83 reported homelessness vs. 87 of non-FNs

Health Risks
  • Physical and Mental health conditions
  • HIV and other STDs
  • PTSD and trauma
  • Chronic health conditions (respiratory illness,
    bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • Substance abuse and addictions
  • Reproductive health problems
  • Increased risk of violence

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Out of 100 participants, including both First
    Nations and non-First Nations, 72 qualified for
    PSTD which is among the highest reported in
    populations where PTSD has been studied,
    including battered women, combat veterans,
    childhood trauma survivors, rape survivors, and
    torture survivors
  • (Farley, Lynne, Cotton, 2005, p. 255)

Indian Residential School (IRS)
  • Placing First Nations children in foster care
    has been linked with many of the same tragic
    outcomes as children who attended residential
    schools such as cultural and linguistic erosion,
    poorer educational outcomes, over-representation
    in justice systems, and higher incidence of
    substance misuse and sexual exploitation
  • (Blackstock ,2010)

Impact of IRS experience
  • Forced loss of culture, language and traditional
    values, sexual abuse, difficulty bonding with
    others and in forming relationships, lack of
    parenting and life skills, loss of
    self-respect/respect for others, use of drugs and
    alcohol to cope with painful memories
  • More than 40 of Aboriginal women in prison have
    been to IRSs more than that have been placed in
    care or have parents who went to IRS

Over-Policed Under-Protected
  • Aboriginal Peoples in the justice system are
    classified as higher risk and higher need.
  • One out of three (33.1) new female offenders in
    the federal corrections system are Aboriginal.
  • Disproportionate number of missing and murdered
    women in Canada are Aboriginal.

  • Instead of the question, Did she voluntarily
    consent to prostitution? the more relevant
    question would be Did she have real
    alternatives to prostitution for survival?
    (Farley et al., 2003)
  • Isolation, poverty, homelessness
  • Violence
  • Familial aspect (people they know), praise,
  • Education (lack of)

  • Trends have been identified that show that
    Aboriginal girls are forced into situations or to
    use coping strategies that increase their
    vulnerability to violence, such as
  • Hitchhiking
  • Addictions
  • Unsafe housing or homelessness
  • Prostitution and the sex trade
  • Gang involvement
  • Trafficking/sexual exploitation
  • Abusive relationships

Survey Results
  • 50 of those surveyed were first recruited
    between the ages of 9-14, 1 participant was under
    9 yrs when recruited.
  • 85.7 were sexually abused, raped or molested
    before being sexually exploited or trafficked.
  • 100 answered that they were expected to do
    everything the men wanted.

Survey Results pt. 2
  • 85.7 of participants had to do things they were
    not comfortable doing.
  • Many participants indicated they were forced to
    have sex with professionals including Doctors,
    Judges, Police, and Social workers.
  • 42.9 were not allowed to come and go freely.
  • 85.7 said that they sometimes, often and always
    tried to resist and leave their situation.

Survey Results pt. 3
  • If caught trying to leave, 71.4 were beaten, 57
    were locked up, 71.4 faced increased debt
    higher quota, 43 were drugged or withheld food
    and water.
  • 50 were not allowed contact with family or
  • 75 did not get to keep any of the earnings.

Survey Results pt. 4
  • 71.4 did not abuse drugs, alcohol and other
    substances BEFORE
  • 71.4 abused drugs, alcohol and other substances
  • Only 14.3 are currently abusing drugs, alcohol
    and other substances
  • 85.7 of bosses were involved in criminal

  • Education awareness
  • Healthy, stable environments
  • Economic, housing, support options
  • The Aboriginal community

What Have We Learned ?
What do you need?
  • 88 drug or alcohol treatment
  • 78 job training
  • 67 individual counseling
  • 63 self-defense training
  • 61 home or safe place
  • 53 peer support
  • 41 medical/health care
  • 33 legal assistance
  • 24 legalized prostitution
  • 16 childcare
  • 4 physical protection from pimp
  • (Sexually exploited Aboriginal womens answer,
    Farley, Lynne, Cotton, 2005)

Exit strategies support
  • People dont heal overnight. It took seventeen
    years to get all the shit inside of you and its
    probably going to take twenty years to get it out
    of you (Experiential woman from Seshia,
  • What works (flexible services judgement free
    understanding long term
  • Survivors make the best health-recruits
  • Education
  • Opportunities support
  • Long term programs with reliable support
  • Adequate housing

Effective Supports
  • Judgement free
  • Understanding
  • Staffed by survivors
  • Designed with experiential women input
  • Long-term
  • Flexible treatment
  • Harm reduction
  • Culturally appropriate
  • Gender appropriate

Gaps in the research
  • Overly focused on Western Canada
  • Findings on Aboriginal women and girls are often
  • No longitudinal research on support programs
  • Lack of recent research in Aboriginal communities

Gaps from the research, pt. 1
  • Lack of services that are Aboriginal specific
  • Too many obstacles for young Aboriginals
    attempting to get help
  • Rigidity of program services
  • Lack of participation in program development from
    experiential women

Gaps from the research, pt. 2
  • Lack of sufficient and reliable funding for
  • Lack of data on a national level
  • Lack of supports in rural Aboriginal communities
  • Lack of capacity for running support services and
    doing research into the exploitation in
    Aboriginal communities

Law and Practice
  • Bill C-49
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Human
    Trafficking National Coordination Centre (HTNCC)
  • British Columbias Office to Combat Trafficking
    in Persons (OCTIP)
  • National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
    (NAPCH) and
  • Manitobas development of the Child Sexual
    Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act (Act).

  • The first step in addressing domestic
    trafficking of Aboriginal girls is to acknowledge
    the seriousness of the problem (Seshia, 2007)
  • Because of the complexity of the trafficking
    situation for Aboriginal communities, any one
    anti-trafficking practice will be insufficient to
    solve the problem on its own (Barrett, 2010)

Recommendations, pt. 2
  • Equality
  • Empowerment
  • Culture
  • Awareness education
  • Economic opportunity
  • Job skills life skills
  • Complex, multifaceted solutions
  • Initiatives built on cooperation and
    collaboration with Aboriginal communities and
    advocacy organizations

Recommendations, pt. 3
  • Aboriginal Community
  • Keep kids in school Cultural mediators
    Survivor-led shelters and transition programs
    Strengthening Native culture
  • Native communities, agencies, leaders need to
    be more active in addressing issues of sexual
    exploitation for Aboriginal people

Recommendations, pt. 4
  • Policy
  • Acknowledgement and recognition honor Indigenous
    knowledge recognize diversity among Aboriginal
    peoples establish national strategy bridge the
    policy-practice gap alliance between Aboriginals
    and non-Aboriginals emphasis prevention over
    reaction culturally relevant services capacity
    building of NGOs capacity building in Aboriginal
    communities (Sethi, 2007)

Recommendations, pt. 5
  • Awareness campaigns
  • Education on healthy touching
  • Education on healthy living
  • More services aimed at Aboriginal women and girls
    (culture- and gender-relevant)
  • Preventative measures

Conclusion Intersections of Ethnicity, Sex
  • Social and economic marginalization of Aboriginal
    peoples persists.
  • Government policies undermine the culture and
    social fabric of Aboriginal communities
  • contributing to poverty, substance abuse, loss of
    language, and traditional practices.
  • Aboriginal women continue to face racism and
  • These, and a multitude of factors, lead to the
    drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal women
    and girls in human trafficking for sexual
    exploitation in Canada

Lessons Learned
  • Need to continue to improve the socio-economic
    outcomes for Aboriginal women and families.
  • Policy MUST be informed by evidence.
  • We cant do it alone all levels of government
    and all justice officials need to work together
    to develop a coordinated plan.
  • Leadership at all levels of Government needs to
    speak out.
  • Men must take a stand and be part of the
  • Need for ongoing recognition that this is an
    issue affecting all Canadians through a National
    Public Inquiry and implementation of a
    comprehensive Plan of Action.

WelalioqChi-MiigwetchNiawen Ko waThank
  • Teresa Edwards
  • Director of International Affairs and Human
    Rights, In-House Legal Counsel
  • Native Womens Association of Canada
  • 613-722-3033 x 235
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