CALGARY – Victoria’s (not her real name) underage daughter was sexually exploited by a predator.
The Calgary mother recalls the signs of trouble she saw early on.
“At 15, she had fake IDs in the bar,” said Victoria “So that to me wasn’t very normal. It wasn’t just staying out late and not coming home – she wouldn’t come home for a week. “
Victoria said her daughter began using hard drugs such as meth, which were given to her by a man in his 40s.
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Shattering the Silence: giving exploited children a voice
“She was in a hotel for a week and a half with him… because she had picked her entire face, there was like no skin on her face at all, that was hard to see,” described Victoria.
“It just went from 0 to 100.”
What are police doing to stop sexual exploitation?
Under legislation unique to Alberta, police and social workers have the ability to apprehend and detain sexually exploited youth.
“The face of prostitution has changed,” said Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta from the Calgary Police Service Vice Unit. “It’s no longer overt, obvious on the street. That’s a very small portion of prostitution now. Ninety-five per cent is through internet advertisement.”
While any officer in our province has the authority to apprehend exploited youth, there are three detectives in Calgary’s vice unit who work full time trying to help victims of prostitution.
“We could have between 400 and 500 youth in Calgary alone that are being sexually exploited – or are at risk of being sexually exploited – on any given day,” said Detective Paul Rubner from the Calgary Police Service Vice Unit.
What is the grooming process?
Police say victims of sexual abuse are often put through what is referred to as a “grooming process” prior to their exploitation.
Police say the grooming process can happen within just one day, and begins the moment the offender singles out their victim.
It can happen somewhere completely ordinary, like a mall.
“Think of the teenage girl that they see walking down the hall towards them, that looks like she’s left her self-esteem at home that day,” said Detective Rubner.
“[The offender will] befriend them, offer to buy them a drink, a meal, compliment them, offer to get their nails done, their hair done… but over time that relationship changes.”
“Eventually it comes back to the ‘you owe me’ situation or the ‘pay back’ situation,” adds Staff Sgt. Schiavetta.
Victoria warns that the grooming process can happen to anyone, anywhere.
“We own a home. We have a car… we’re normal, we’re not rich, we’re not poor…. we’re average,” said Victoria.
READ MORE: Shattering the Silence Part 1. Giving exploited children a voice