A story about Human Trafficking, by Anne Day

If there was just one take away from Karly’s talk about being trafficked into the sex trade, it was take an interest in the children/teens in your life.  Ask questions. Show you care and are interested in them.
Karly grew up in a small town in north east Ontario, with her parents and two siblings. She hardly saw her father who was working two jobs to keep the family afloat, but as the youngest of three, she felt he didn’t love her and she’d been an accident. Her mother was distant, caught up in her own issues.
All of which led Karly to feel she was unlovable.  She experienced sexual violence when she was young but with no supports around her, had no one to ask for help. By grade 6 she was starting to act out at school and was frequently in trouble, but no one asked her why. As for high school, she never went.
By 16 she was a drug addict and at 17 she left town, but no one noticed or asked her about how she felt.  Eventually her sister did notice and the family arranged for her to go to a treatment centre in BC.  But when it came time for her to leave the treatment centre, her father told her that they were not going to pay for her airfare home. 
It felt like an epic rejection and her whole world crumbled. She slipped back into her drug dependence. The drugs took away the pain. After two years she tried to get clean and came back to Ontario, to Toronto in the middle of winter, with no where to go.
Together with another girl, she ended up in an apartment, where a man approached her and asked why she was there. He told her she was too beautiful to be there. “And in two or three sentences, he built me up again.” shared Karly.  He also asked what had happened in her life to take her down this self-destructive path?
 “I’d waited my whole life for someone to ask. “ she confesses. He also asked about her dreams and was compassionate.  “He had already identified my vulnerabilities.” she adds. He moved her out into a hotel, where she could shower. He bought her food, clothes, drugs and looked after her. “He gave me a sense of belonging, and I was willing to do anything he wanted.”   
This Romeo type of manipulation is common. And over time, he would stretch her boundaries and morals, as she did as he requested, just to please him.
Why did she stay? As she shares herself, she could have walked out of that hotel room and never returned, but she didn’t.   Fear played a big part – fear of the violence she could receive, fear of the unknown – what would she do and he had a psychological hold over her.
“He’d built me up and broke me down again into small pieces.” And he would say to her “Karly, I am so proud of you.” Words she’d longed to hear growing up.
How did she get out? An undercover cop came to the hotel, and after he’d shown his badge he asked questions. “He was warm and genuine, did not judge and built a relationship with me.”  He left his number on a scrap of paper and asked her to call if she needed help.
And she did.
Today she is a Crisis Intervention Counsellor at a regional support service for victims of human trafficking. 
She gives talks at schools, particularly with grade nine students and teams up with the Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the regional police force, and often intervenes and talks to individuals who are being trafficked. Karly is one courageous young woman who not only has turned her life around, but is actively working to help others do the same. Thank you.
Karly’s presentation was part of the Guelph Rotary Clubs’ series to create awareness of human trafficking.  Held online the 4th Tuesday of every month at 7.00pm.   The next dates are October 26th and November 30.