The unlikely culprits in this case are three teenage gurls whose names cannot be released because they are minors. The two 15-year-olds and one 17-year-old teen face numerous charges including human trafficking, robbery, forcible confinement, sexual assault and assault.
The group of three allegedly forced groups of teenage girls, ages 13-17, into prostitution. Ottawa police found three young victims who had been lured to a residence in the 2400 block of Walkley Road on three separate occasions by means of social media. The victims were then allegedly driven to other locations, where they were forced into prostitution.
Police believe there may be more victims, and encourage them to come forward and speak out against their abusers.
Sgt. McGetrick said, “We want women out there to know that they can some see us and we’ll work with them and help them out. We’d love to help them.”
There is speculation that these girls who were pimping were once victims of sexual exploitation themselves.
“Certainly it raises the suspicion that the young women involved have themselves been prostituted in the past and are now getting out of the situation they find themselves in by saying, ‘We’re going to be the ones making the money out of this,’ “ said Janine Benedet, a University of British Columbia law professor who researches sexual violence against women.
“But the real question is why are we not arresting the men who are buying?” she said. “In terms of the perpetrators, I’d like to see some accountability of the men who know. If we’re talking about a 13-year-old girl here, there is no mistaking that this is someone who is very, very young.”
This is where we start seeing some of the shortfalls of human sympathy. Although many decry human trafficking and unwilling prostitution as an evil, the blame for this crime tends to fall squarely on its victims. While many sex workers have been charged for prostitution, few johns—the biggest enablers of the sex trade— shoulder any bit of the blame. They get off scott-free.
The way we blame and shame victims of the sex trade is evident even in our daily vocabulary. Saying someone looks like a hooker, a whore or a prostitute is a snarky insult, intended to degrade and humiliate. But, saying someone looks like a john… what does that mean? Nothing, and that’s part of the problem.
“The john” as he stands right now is a faceless, anonymous figure without identity. Without an identity there is no way to make these individuals take accountability for their actions. There is no way to charge them legally, or morally.
I believe this attitude is slowly changing, however. For example, Edmonton, Canada’s 118 ave ad campaign was launched by the Neighbourhood Empowerment team back in April. The campaign posted letters to johns from community members on large signs, in an attempt to deter men from picking up prostitutes.
There is another program run in Brooklyn, NY for men who have been caught buying sex. The program aims to educate men about the lives of the women they are sleeping with in an attempt to decrease the demand for prostitution.
These programs won’t solve the myriad of issues facing the sex trade, but they are a reminder to put the blame for unwilling prostitution back where it belongs — on the conscience of the perpetrators.