Girls as young as 12 are victims of sex trafficking in Waterloo Region

WATERLOO REGION — Girls as young as 12 are being exploited into sex trafficking, says the new anti-human trafficking support worker at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region.

Since January, Nicky Carswell said she’s been referred to 40 girls, all of whom are now between 14 and 17, are living in the region and were recruited into sex trafficking. Two of the referrals were teenage boys.

“They are telling me they started back when they were 12 years old,” she said.

Carswell said many of the vulnerable girls are forced and manipulated into providing sexual services against their will.

The men who coerce them are “Romeo pimps” who pose as boyfriends and gain the girls’ trust and love.

“These guys are smart, skilled and looking for vulnerabilities,” she said. The men range in age from 18 to 24.

“It’s not prostitution. It’s exploitation,” she said. “There is difference between sex work and sex trafficking.”

Carswell said 70 per cent of sex trafficking in Canada occurs in Ontario, most of it in hotels and motels along the Highway 401 corridor.

One local girl was trafficked in hotels from Montreal to London, she said.

In 2015, Waterloo Regional Police reported 27 instances of human trafficking in the region — 26 involved sex trafficking and one was labour trafficking.

Full article: Waterloo Region Record