Sex trafficking trends sees pimps get victims to recruit others, London advocate says

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It’s not the pimps who are heading to jail; it’s their victims.

One advocate calls it a growing trend, saying she sees more young women taking the fall for the people trafficking them.

Police in Waterloo Region charged an 18-year-old woman and 16-year-old girl with procuring and trafficking a minor this week, alleging the victim was forced to perform sexual acts for men in both Kitchener and London.

Despite the stereotypes of men controlling trafficked women, it’s no surprise to Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, who said charges are often brought against young women who are victims themselves.

One girl is chosen by traffickers to recruit and manage a group, Walker said.

“The actual pimp is protected from criminal charges, because it’s his young (recruiter) that will be charged with trafficking-related offences, not him. She’s so fearful of him that . . . she’ll go to jail rather than give him up,” she said.

Legislation to tighten punishments for human traffickers made the practice of deflecting blame more popular, “although we always knew it was happening,” Walker said.

“I’ve seen the trend increase over, probably, the last eight years, to many more young women charged.”

Cherri Greeno, spokesperson for the Waterloo Regional Police, wouldn’t comment on any trend in human trafficking cases, but said the three females in the recent investigation were all known to one another.

The alleged activity took place in late July and early August, Greeno said, and police launched their investigation on Aug. 6. The case is ongoing, but Greeno couldn’t confirm whether police anticipated more victims or charges.

“We take this very seriously and have dedicated resources to investigate these types of incidents,” she said.

Though Walker was speaking generally — not about the recent case from Waterloo — she said experts see evidence of the trend in London.

Pimps also like to designate one woman, labelled with a derogatory name, because the woman is better able to access other females.

“They are actively recruiting, directly, young girls into prostitution,” Walker said of those chosen women.

“We know they are currently infiltrating group homes. We know they are currently infiltrating areas around the city that are targeting to promote health in youth.”

The key, in Walker’s eyes, is to focus on demand.

“We need to crack down on men who believe they have a right to buy and sexually assault underage girls and young women.”

In the meantime, more young women in London will be brought into the world of sex trafficking, Walker said.

“We are losing girls with great potential to make a different in the world, in our communities,” she said.

“Once these girls go, even if we get them back, they’re never the same. It’s very, very traumatic.”

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