Escaping Sexual Exploitation

Others, Exploitation , Relationships

Contributed by: Youth Unlimited (Greater Vancouver)

Written by: Jason Hradaway

On our last night of outreach in 2017, our team brought hope to Mia during the advent season. She came onto the RV with a group of friends who devoured a large portion of our teriyaki chicken. She was the youngest of the group, and her slim frame and innocent eyes affirmed this reality. She was polite, loud, and sassy — everything you would expect from a thirteen–‐year–‐old. Throughout the night, Mia began to open up more and more. Between eating food, drinking hot chocolate, and colouring adult colouring books, her guard was lifted. She shared about her life and the things she was excited about. Unfortunately she was excited about meeting up with her “boyfriend” at a hotel the next day.

Without prodding or over‐stepping boundaries, we dug a little deeper. Mia met her “boyfriend” online, and tomorrow was the first time they were going to meet in person. She said he was sixteen and was going to be driving into town from Vancouver Island just to see her. As she shared more and more details about this “boyfriend” and the situation, more and more alarm bells went off inside our minds. It sounded like she was about to become sexually exploited by an adult. Her desire to be loved was overshadowing her ability to realize what was happening. She made it sound like a movie–‐inspired romance between two distant lovers. Her vulnerability and longing to be noticed was about to deliver her over to a very dark reality. In the gentlest of ways, we challenged her dream–‐like thoughts about this guy. Her friends even chimed in here and there to express their concerns. Eventually she grew silent. To our team that usually means one of two things: (a) she’s thinking things over, or (b) she’s shutting down and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. Providentially, Mia asked to use one of our phones to call her group home.

When it came time for our team to debrief and log the evening’s events, we took the liberty to call that group home back and report what we had learned. They had no idea that such a scenario was taking place, and the manager was incredibly thankful for our help. The group home staff, along with the Ministry of Child and Family Development, took it from there. If it wasn’t for people like you, our team couldn’t have stepped in to Mia’s life. At Street Life it often feels like we’re constantly trying to put out fires of chronic crisis. Homelessness, addiction, violence, drug trafficking, overdoses — a life steeped in street culture is a life of chronic need. It’s only through longevity that we’re able to make a difference in such ongoing struggles. With Mia, though, we were blessed to prevent the injustice from even beginning. My team and I celebrate this victory, because on that cold, frosty advent night, darkness did not prevail.