Human trafficking happens more often than many people might suspect here in Fort Frances.
Not in the traditional sense or the way Hollywood portrays it, with ladies of the night lining the streets in the bad parts of town.
But in today’s internet age, an alarming number of people in the district are posting ads on websites like “Backpage” looking for young female escorts.
Peggy Loyie, manager of the Rainy River District Victim Services Program, said she first discovered the area’s alarming demand for prostitutes after attending a training session in Minnesota late last year.
“We are kind of in a prime area, actually, where a lot of things are going on that we don’t see,” she noted.
To educate the public on this issue, the RRDVSP is hosting a information session, with keynote speakers, next Wednesday (March 21) at the Zion Lutheran Church here.
The session is geared towards service providers, including police, social service workers, paramedics, volunteers, and anyone who provides some form of service to the public.
Loyie is excited for attendees to hear the keynote speakers they have lined up.
“We’re bringing in people, one women in particular, who has worked with street people in the Winnipeg area and works to help people who are potentially being trafficked or sexually-exploited,” she said.
The speaker’s name is Jackie Anderson, who has received awards recognizing her work helping young women get out of the sex trade.
Nastasha Falls, another keynote speaker, is a co-founder of a national advocacy and peer support coalition called “Sex Trade 101.”
“She shares her own story, which makes her such a compelling advocate,” said Loyie.
“She speaks from a place of lived knowledge and lived experience.”
Hearing a first-hand perspective will help people to empathize with women stuck in the human-trafficking industry and better understand why it occurs, Loyie reasoned.
Prostitution has changed rapidly in the last 10-15 years, with an increasing number of women being lured online, she explained.
“A young woman might get talking with someone online, on a site, and the more they share, the more the person they are speaking with can identify their vulnerabilities and then use that to lure them,” Loyie noted.
The way in which the sex trade has changed is making it so people are missing the signs, she added.
To learn about the signs and what to do when witnessing human trafficking, attend the information session, which runs next Wednesday from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Zion Lutheran Church (1105 Scott St.)
A free lunch will be provided.
Anyone interested in attending is asked to R.S.V.P. to 274-5687 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org by this Thursday (March 15).
“I encourage people to take this training while it is available,” Loyie said.
She believes this information will make the difference in recognizing, responding to, and combating the issue of young women being sexually-exploited.