Stay Awake Campaign 2022 | Sex Trafficking

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Today we will be exploring the intersectionality of precarious migrant youth and sex trafficking.

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What is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking that involves recruiting, moving, or holding victims for sexual exploitation purposes. Sex traffickers can coerce victims into providing sexual services by force or through threats, including mental and emotional abuse and manipulation.

The FCJ Refugee Centre Anti-Human Trafficking program serve people who are at-risk or in situations of labour and sex trafficking. In working with survivors of sex-trafficking, we have developed many community partnerships to ensure we serve survivors in the best way possible. Using the resources provided by the Aura Freedom International, Human Trafficking info hub, below is some information that describes the grooming and exploitation tactics that may be used on survivors of sex trafficking.

Grooming and Sexual Exploitation amongst Precarious Migrant Youth

Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust, and/or emotional connection with an individual so they can manipulate, exploit, and/or abuse them. This is a process that happens over a period of time where the trafficker will take time to get to know the individual and assess their vulnerabilities in order to manipulate them. Over this time, the trafficker will gradually earn their trust and have the individual become more reliant on them.

To keep victims from leaving, the trafficker uses specific tactics to maintain control:

Control Tactics Traffickers use:

  • Debt Bondage: Telling victims they owe their trafficker money for rent, food, trips, gifts or drugs purchased for them.
  • Seizing official documents: This includes passports, and birth certificates, and any other immigration documents
  • Isolation: Taking advantage of precarious migrant youth who are isolated due to the lack of social support and integration support systems.
  • Language: Being the point of contact for those who don’t speak English. Victims are reliant on traffickers to navigate the systems they are not able to understand yet.
  • Preying upon the need for approval, attachment, or love in a new country.
  • Physical and sexual violence

Possible signs of sex trafficking

Do you or someone you know:

  • Have a new relationship with someone controlling, perhaps online?
  • Receive excessive gifts or cash from a partner for no reason?
  • Seem to be in a relationship that has taken a sudden negative turn?
  • Have intimate images that have been shared by someone online with/without consent?
  • Feel intimidated or controlled? For example, is somebody controlling their phone, ID, or movements.
  • Live and/or work in unhealthy, unsafe conditions?

If you said yes to one or more questions, you or someone you know may be at risk of being trafficked.

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How to Stay Safe Online

  • Change privacy settings
  • Do not accept friend/follow/DM requests from strangers-You are under no obligation to respond to messages from anyone
  • Turn off location
  • Avoid going into private chat with strangers
  • Block people who are inappropriate, rude or abusive
  • Avoid sending nude photos with your face or recognizable tattoos that someone can identify you in
  • Just knowing that sexual exploitation often starts online these days

Healthy Relationships

In the prevention of sex-trafficking, it is important to bring awareness around healthy and unhealthy relationships:

Green Flags: Behaviours that are a part of healthy relationships

  • Respect – To respect is to care about someone and honour their feelings, needs, and rights
  • Willing to apologize when necessary
  • Communication – Each person needs to be able to express themselves freely. Learning to communicate your needs, expectation, and boundaries are key skills.
  • Feeling safe – this does not involve physical, sexual or emotional violence. Both people should feel as if their presence is valued, and their thoughts are encouraged and welcomed.
  • The time invested in the relationship feels reciprocated.
  • They are comfortable with spending time apart from you.

Red Flags: Behaviours that are unhealthy and could be possible signs of Grooming

  • When someone doesn’t provide much information about themselves but wants to know everything about you
  • Want to keep all exchanges a secret – going private, talking on snapchat, saying things like, “are you alone”?
  • “I know a way you can earn money fast” – something is too good to be true.
  • Wanting to meet up too suddenly, especially in an isolated or sketchy places; insisting that you go alone.
  • Asking for nude photos fairly quickly or sending nudes to you.
  • Stalker behavior (e.g. ridiculous amounts of one-sided messages or liking all of your pictures in what seems like a second).


If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be a victim of forced labour or sex please contact the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010.