With the COVID-19 pandemic still very present around us, the start of the school year this year looks very different. While some classes may still be offered online, many governments have announced that most students will return to class. For some young people, this might mean leaving home for the first time to attend a new school, often in a new city. At the best of times, this transition can be a time of excitement and anxiety, but also of vulnerability. For most of them, time spent online can also mean an increased risk of being approached online by a trafficker.
Schools are meant to be a safe haven, but the conditioning and luring of children and youth for commercial sexual exploitation often occurs on campuses, in our schools and online. While the most recent statistics suggest that human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation primarily affects women between the ages of 18 and 25 , we know that exploitation can begin much earlier. There are potential risk factors that can increase a person’s vulnerability, but human trafficking can affect anyone, from any community.
Here are some concrete actions to integrate into your back-to-school routine. If you are looking for information related to online safety, we invite you to read our blog post on tips for using social media safely.
For the parents :
- Avoid putting your child’s name on the outside of their mask (s). Instead, consider writing something inside or choosing a design that is unique to your family.
- Talk to your kids about conditioning and luring online. Social media are increasingly used by traffickers to facilitate trafficking for sexual purposes and access to new victims. The Canadian Center for Child Protection has great online safety resources for parents, children and youth.
- Understand that peer-to-peer recruiting occurs in schools and that human trafficking for sexual exploitation is often perpetrated by an intimate partner, friend or family member.
- Know the signs of trafficking and share them with the young people around you. Have open conversations about consent, peer pressure, and healthy relationships.
- Share information about the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline (1 833 900-1010) with a young person leaving home for the first time and discuss safety planning with him / her .
For educators and school staff:
- Teachers and administrators need to know and recognize the signs of trafficking in order to better support healthy learning environments and keep students safe.
- Officials should consider inviting a local organization and / or police department specializing in anti-trafficking education and awareness to come and speak to students and staff. These conversations sometimes lead to the denunciation of cases of trafficking or sexual exploitation of young people and allow students to access support services.
- Schools are encouraged to contact their students by email to tell them about the risks and signs of human trafficking in Canada, and what help is available.
- School staff should develop a comprehensive anti-trafficking policy and ensure that all staff are properly trained.
- Ensure that school security policies are enforced, especially visitor policies.
- Schools should download and post the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline posters on campus, in areas frequented by students and staff, such as cafeterias, lounges and washrooms.
For the young :
- Familiarize yourself with the signs of human trafficking and the common methods used by traffickers to recruit their victims.
- Understand how to protect yourself and your peers from online luring .
- If something is wrong, talk to a trusted adult.
- Call or chat with the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline if you have any questions, or would like more information or resources.
For young people who identify as indigenous:
- Know the signs of human trafficking and the common methods used by traffickers to recruit their victims.
- Plan your safety with a family member or trusted friend if you are leaving your home community to go to school.
- Understand where and how to access supports and services in your new community, make sure you have access to emergency phone numbers, and know your rights.
- If you need help or advice, Espoir pour le Mieux être offers support in English and French as well as in Cree, Ojibwa and Inuktitut upon request to anyone who identifies as Aboriginal.
- The Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline can provide services in 27 Indigenous languages.
For higher education students:
- Higher education students should be wary of so-called modeling jobs and job postings that promise hundreds of dollars a day. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Review your favorite rideshare company’s pledge to tackle human trafficking and passenger safety tips. Uber has developed safety tips and advice for users online and in the app .
- Attend campus orientation sessions, understand emergency safety infrastructure, such as pedestrian safety programs, and support services available to students on campus.
- Students can raise awareness of human trafficking on campus and in their extracurricular activities by starting a student anti-trafficking club, sharing the campus hotline number, or volunteering with a anti-trafficking organization.
Principals, boards of trustees, community members, parents and student body members all have a role to play in fixing this problem, preventing it from happening, and ensuring that our schools remain safe spaces. If you think you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, you can call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to access services and assistance in complete confidentiality. We are here to help you.
Reposted with permission from the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking website.