Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Somewhere to Go:' Sex Trafficking Victim Calls for More Safe Houses

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Somewhere to Go:' Sex Trafficking Victim Calls for More Safe Houses

Article excerpt

Saskatchewan police challenged by human trafficking

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REGINA - For years, Beatrice Wallace blamed herself.

Not only did she feel shame and guilt, but the 46-year-old Regina mother kept it hidden.

Her "dirty little secret," as she calls it, was working the streets -- first forced there by men when she was 14.

"I had seen girls on the streets and ... they were hookers. That's what we called them then," Wallace says.

"When it happened to me, I was a hooker. And a hooker was dirty."

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation are getting renewed attention in Canada following the release of the final report from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

It calls for an effective response to deal with human trafficking and details how Indigenous women are targets, often coming from vulnerable situations such as growing up in foster care.

That was the case for Wallace, who is Indigenous and the daughter of a residential school survivor. Adopted into a middle-class home when she was four, she says there was abuse.

"From a young age, I just assumed it was OK for men to be abusive."

She was kicked out at 13 and moved to girls home in Regina's north- central neighbourhood, but often ran away. At the first place she fled to, she injected drugs and was sexually abused.

"That started my journey of just going downhill," she says.

She suggests more safe houses are needed where victims can go to escape.

"There were many times when I wish I had somewhere to go."

Don Meikle, executive director of EGADZ, a youth outreach centre in downtown Saskatoon, says housing is important, but any solution can't stop there. Those being sexually exploited need help dealing with other trauma as well as with possible addictions and mental- health issues.

"People need to have hope. They need to be able to contribute to themselves, their family, their community," he says.

The inquiry report noted that Saskatoon is part of two human-trafficking circles in which victims are moved between Manitoba and Alberta. …

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