Amy: I’m Amy. I did really well in school, I had a lot of friends, but I really hated the way I looked. I started dating Ryan; he just seemed really interested in me. He gave me a lot of attention. He loved me. He just made me feel really good about myself. We talked a lot about what we wanted and the future. I was in love with him. After two months he started telling me he had money problems. He told me his friend’s girlfriend was opening a massage parlour, and I should go and work there.
Michèle Anderson, Sex trafficking specialist, Covenant House: Sex trafficking is when someone is forced to sell sex against their will. This is happening right under our noses. It could be happening to a girl just like a girl you know. They are lured in public places, schools, malls and online.
Detective Sergeant Nunziato Tramontozzi: All our victims, to date, have come from Toronto or somewhere else in Canada.
Michèle Anderson: The girls that I work with are 16 to 24. I do get calls about girls as young as 12 and 13 years old. They can be an “ace” student at school but still not have self-confidence, so that is a common thread with all the girls that I work with.
Amy: He told me it would only be for a little while, you know, we would make all this money and buy a house. I was working 12 hours a day. I was in so much pain from having sex.
Michèle Anderson: The way that they lure the girls is to romance them. Compliment them that they’re pretty, to buy them nice things, to shower them with attention.
Detective Sergeant Nunziato Tramontozzi: Girls, they actually, they fall in love with these guys. These guys become their boyfriends, at first.
Amy: I had this total breakdown, and I was crying. And I told him I don’t know if I could do this, letting these guys be all over me. He was like, you better figure out how to deal with it, because I’m not going to be with a girl who isn’t giving me money.
Detective Sergeant Nunziato Tramontozzi: Typically one girl could make a pimp about $250,000 a year. And that’s just one girl. It’s very lucrative. It’s as lucrative, or even more lucrative, than selling firearms or drugs.
Amy: And I’m hearing conversations like, “If we killed her, like we can just bury her somewhere up north and no one will ever find her.” I was just so scared. And the thought going through my head is that he really could have killed me.
Michèle Anderson: The trafficker imposes lots of rules on the girls, so they’re not allowed to eat or sleep without his permission. They’re not allowed to go out on their own. Even if they are, he is watching their every move and they know not to go against what he’s telling them they have to do.
Amy: I felt so much shame and guilt. And I still didn’t understand that I had been pimped out.
Michèle Anderson: Some of the red flags to look for when you suspect someone might be sex trafficked: the girl has nice expensive clothing; she’s going out and she’s not telling you where she’s going; her grades at school might start to slip and her world becomes more and more secretive; she talks about having a boyfriend in her life but she’s not going to introduce that guy to the family. My hope for these girls is they reclaim their lives and go after their dreams and have a good life.