How to help a loved one who is being trafficked

By Allan Bradbury

Staff Writer

abradbury@fortfrances.com

How can you help someone who is struggling with being trafficked? It’s a difficult question, Jessica Wilson at Binesiwag Center for Wellness (BCW) says. Everyone needs different things, and people really have to be ready to change for things to work.

There are many factors that can alter what can be done for someone who is caught up in human trafficking Wilson says.

“I think as service providers we have to really acknowledge the fact that everyone’s experience is different. So depending on if they’re in the grooming process, or the luring and gaming process, or their full blown being trafficked, we really have to know what stage they’re at in that lifestyle,” Wilson said. “Because how you would support them depends on where they were within that life.”

Wilson says as a service provider who helps people involved in trafficking she can only help victims with what they want help with.

“Whatever they feel that they need at that time is how I will support them,” Wilson said “Whether that be mental health services, whether it be disclosure to OPP or Treaty Three [Police], or whether it be finding housing or a job, I don’t get to determine that, they do.”

Of course, BCW might not always be able to help everyone who comes looking so they are more than willing to help people find the help that they need.

“If I can’t help then I’m going to connect them with another organization or another agency that can help,” Wilson said. “And I will always walk alongside them throughout their journey.”

Wilson says it’s unfortunate that many cases of human trafficking do not get reported to the police as many of the victims do not feel safe in reporting what they’ve been through for fear of reprisals. There isn’t much that can be done to protect victims who report crimes from their traffickers. Many traffickers also make their victims afraid to report it because the work they’ve been forced into was also illegal and they are afraid they will be prosecuted as well.

“It’s a really, really grey area,” Wilson said. “We have mental health support, we have family shelter if they’re in need of food, we have BCW for mental health and creating a safe space for individuals, but I can’t say that there is a safety net in our area for people to make disclosures if they choose to that route of law enforcement.”

In a lot of cases, traffickers will scare victims into staying quiet by telling them that they will be prosecuted as well due to the nature of the work they have been forced to do.

“They’re afraid of what could happen to them and how they would be treated or prosecuted or whatever that looks like because of the work they’ve been forced to do,” Wilson said. “They’ll say ‘you go ahead, you go to the cops, go ahead and tell them what you’re doing, but you’ve also done this, this and this.’ So the traffickers and people that are exploiting these individuals are using that as a manipulation tactic.”

Despite the difficulties, Wilson has seen a lot of success in the time she’s been working to help victims.

“I have seen individuals absolutely turn, I can’t explain that spark in someone’s eye when we’ve created a safety plan and we’ve created long-term goals and these plans for them and they go and do the work,” Wilson said. “The change and transformation, and that spark, you see it. There has definitely been success.”

No matter the stage or point of life a victim may be in Wilson and people like her will be there to help them.