Alberta Health Care Services
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Sexual Exploitation


As you read through the case example, consider the following questions.


Well, now I don’t know what to do. I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant and that would be ok…after all, my partner and I weren’t using condoms. We didn’t have to cuz I ALWAYS used them with my dates at work and having a baby would be so nice. But now, he says it probably isn’t even his and he called me a whore and slut and everything! He never complained about my work before when it was MY money buying him smokes and jackets and stuff. He’s soooo mad…what if he tells my worker and then they’ll PSECA [protecton of sexually exploited children] me?!? If I don’t work, how can I buy baby stuff?

DEFINITIONS

Sexual Exploitation: is the sexual abuse of children and youth who are under the age of majority (18 year old in Alberta but does vary by province) through the exchange of sex and/or sexual acts for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life and/or money. This includes creation or viewing of pornography, sexually explicit images or sexually explicit websites (Justice Institute of BC, 2008).

Human Trafficking: involves the recruitment, transportation, and/or harboring of a person for the purpose of exploitation, typically for sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is sometimes confused with human smugglings which is the procurement of illegal entry into a country for the purpose of material benefit (Department of Justice Canada, 2009).

Sex Trade/Sex Work: an umbrella term for any activity involving sex work and includes activities in which sex is exchanged for money or goods (AIDS Calgary, 2008-2011).


LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS

Both sexual exploitation and human trafficking are against the law and those who commit such offenses are subject to prosecution under various sections of the Criminal Code of Canada. Additional charges may be laid if assault, kidnapping, confinement, threats, extortion, etc. are used.

Sex work (also called prostitution) is legal in Canada if the worker is over the age of 18. However, the following four sex work related activities are addressed in the Criminal Code of Canada:

(Canada HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2005)


SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND YOUTH

The laws in Canada regarding the age of consent for sexual activity and sex work are clear.

The age of consent to sexual activity in Canada is 16 except:

In Alberta there is additional legislation to address the sexual abuse and exploitation of children – Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act (PSECA).

This legislation clarifies that children and youth involved in sexual exploitation are victims of sexual abuse and have the right to safety and protection. This legislation incorporates specific penalties for individuals who solicit or encourage children to be involved in prostitution. PSECA also provides community programming for children and youth who voluntarily choose to end their involvement in prostitution and confined treatment for youth who refuse to end their involvement and continue to be at risk of harm through involvement in sexual exploitation.

If you suspect that a youth in the Calgary area is being sexually exploited, you can telephone the child protection line at 403.297.2995. Outside of the Calgary area, please contact your local Child and Family Services Authority.

Practice note: There are often ethical considerations to think about when reporting to a child protection office. For example, if an older street involved teen has an emerging relationship with a service provider or agency, making this call can sever the relationship of trust with the youth. This in turn may place the youth at higher risk if they leave the support services of the agency and “disappear” back into the street. Balancing this need with the legal obligation to report children at risk can be difficult for service providers and going to agency leadership for direction may be helpful.

STATISTICS

In Alberta, the average age of entry into the sex trade is 15.6 years. Some children begin as young as age 10 (Government of Alberta, 2004). It is estimated that individuals less than 18 years of age represent approximately 10-12% of the sex trade population. Females are over represented in the sex trade with a ratio of nine to one. That said, male sex work activities are typically underreported (Government of Alberta, 2004).


RISK FACTORS

All youth are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. However, common risk factors include coming from a broken or dysfunctional home, childhood physical or sexual abuse, low self esteem, racism, poverty, running away from home, loneliness, poor academic performance, problems at school, addictions to substances such as alcohol or drugs, and/or turmoil over sexual orientation (Government of Alberta, 2004; Government of Manitoba, n.d.; UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse, n.d.).

Practice note: A common myth is that all sex trade workers have chosen to be sex trade workers. In reality, the individual, family and social circumstances described above leave these individuals vulnerable (Government of Alberta, 2004).

For more information, see Protection of Sexually Exploited Children and Youth.


WARNING SIGNS

Some warning signs that a youth may be sexually exploited include:

(Government of Alberta, 2004; Government of Manitoba, n.d.)

For more information, see
http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Acts/P30P3.pdf

Healthy Sexuality: A Training and Education Resource about Children and Youth Sexually Exploited through Prostitution (Government of Manitoba, n.d.)


IMPACT ON YOUTH

Commonly reported outcomes of youth sexual exploitation include substance abuse, poorer health, early school drop-out and exposure to violence (Government of Alberta, 2004; UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse, n.d.).

In terms of sexual health, sex workers are at risk for pregnancy, STI and HIV. Sex workers are at risk because of their high numbers of sexual partners, their use of substances such as drugs and alcohol and their lack of access to social and health services (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2010). The use of condoms varies among those involved in the sex trade. Often times the use or non-use of condoms is dictated by the customer. Customers often reject the use of condoms or offer to pay more for condomless sex (Rekart, 2005).

Practice notes: For those who become pregnant, early pregnancy awareness is crucial. If a youth knows she is pregnant early, there are more pregnancy options available. If substances are used, there may be opportunity to stop use prior to significant damage to the developing fetus. Finally, early prenatal care can be accessed, promoting optimal health of mother and baby.
For more information see Pregnancy

Regular STI testing is also important as it can facilitate early treatment and reduce transmission. In females, untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia infections, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an inflammation of the internal female reproductive organs. PID may lead to chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, or infertility. Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia infections can put males at risk of testicular infections and in rare cases infertility. Additionally, having these STIs increase a person’s risk for spreading or getting HIV infection.

For more information see STI & Blood Borne Pathogens


STRATEGIES

(a) Prevention: Prevention strategies target higher risk youth prior to their involvement in sex work. Prevention approaches typically address systemic issues such as poverty, racism and abuse. These types of programs necessitate a multi-dimensional strategy including education, community support and structural change (UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse, n.d.).

(b) Harm Reduction: Harm reduction is a philosophy whereby the primary goal is to reduce risk related to a way of living (Raise the Roof, 2009). Harm reduction approaches include:

(Rekhart, 2005; UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse, n.d.)

In Calgary, Shift is anexample of a program that uses a harm reduction approach with adults involved in sex work. Shift endeavours to: create safer working conditions (e.g., educates regarding harm reduction, provides outreach to sex workers, supplies updated “Bad Date Sheets”); provide skills training/education opportunities (e.g., partners with and refers workers to skill development programs); and provide prevention and advocacy (e.g., provides legal assistance, provides safer sex supplies).

For more information on Shift, call: 403.237.8171, or visit: www.shiftcalgary.org

(c) Crisis Intervention: Crisis intervention involves the provision of immediate support to deal with a crisis during street work. Some approaches include mental health and medical care, treatment for substance abuse, counselling, and 24 hour drop in centers (UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse, n.d.).

(d) Assistance Leaving the Sex Trade: Leaving sex work is difficult for youth. Therefore providing support for youth to exit the sex trade safely is paramount. Approaches which help youth to leave the sex trade include training programs, safe long term housing, and legal and financial support (UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse, n.d.).

For more information about sexual exploitation in Canada and Alberta, see:
http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/tp/what-quoi.html

http://www.child.alberta.ca/home/590.cfm


References:

Aids Calgary. (2008-2011). What is…? Retrieved January 13, 2011, from

http://shiftcalgary.org/What_is…html

 
Canada HIV/AIDS Legal Network. (2005). Sex, work, rights. Changing Canada’s criminal laws to protect sex workers’ health and human rights. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.aidslaw.ca/publications/interfaces/downloadFile.php?ref=197 
 
Department of Justice Canada. (2009). Trafficking in persons: What is human trafficking? Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fs-sv/tp/
 
Government of Alberta. (2004). Protection of sexually exploited children and youth. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.child.alberta.ca/home/documents/childsexualexploitation/Sexually_exploited_report_dec04.pdf
 
Government of Manitoba. (n.d.). Healthy sexuality: A training and education resource about children and youth sexually exploited through prostitution. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.gov.mb.ca/healthyliving/pta.html
 
Justice Institute of B.C. (2008).Sexual exploitation toolkit: What is sexual exploitation? Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.jibc.ca/seytoolkit/what.htm
 
Raising the Roof. (2009) Youth homelessness in Canada: The road to solutions. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://intraspec.ca/RoadtoSolutions_fullrept_english.pdf
 
Rekart, M. L. (2005). Sex work harm reduction. Lancet, 366, 2123–2134.
 
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). (2010). Canadian guidelines on sexually transmitted infections. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/sti-its/guide-lignesdir-eng.php
 
UNBC Task Force on Substance Abuse. (n.d.). Research brief – Sexual exploitation of youth. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.unbc.ca/assets/centreca/english/research_brief_sexual_exploitation_of_youth.pdf