Speak Out against Sexual Exploitation

Edmonton is a city of builders! We have built a thriving economy, we have a growing arts community and we are building fantastic inclusive communities. We have an engaged citizenry that can accomplish anything when we put our minds to it.

On October 28th inner city residents and the Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG) are asking all Edmontonians to get involved to help end sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in the city of Edmonton.  This day marks the launch of the Dirty Little Secret: Speak Out against Sexual Exploitation Edmonton! campaign. The social media campaign aims to raise awareness about sexual exploitation in Edmonton and asks Edmontonians to take part in an active conversation, and to take action to end sexual exploitation!

The campaign will be driven by a short YouTube video that shares a “Dirty Little Secret.” The secret is that sexual exploitation is an issue that impacts every community. The impact is wide-ranging, affecting community safety, health and wellness, and economic prosperity.

Edmonton has another little secret as well. There is hope! We can stop sexual exploitation!

The project was developed through residents of Edmonton’s inner city and SEWG. The project really started back in April of 2012 when 118th Avenue N.E.T team worked with CEASE and the We Believe in 118 coalition to launch the Dear ‘john’ campaign. The campaign was able to use the tension that residents and service providers had towards the issue of sexual exploitation to find a common goal among all partners and work to reframe the issue of sexual exploitation. The outcome of the campaign was a shift from a focus on the vulnerable women and men who work the streets to those who consume and demand sex activities. Within the city, Edmonton Police Service has seen an increase in reports for ‘johns’.

As a follow up to that campaign, the Avenue Initiative Revitalization Safe Streets working group met to debrief the project. The working group decided that the Dear ‘john’ campaign showed positive community action around the issue, but that as a community they wanted to learn more about the issue. The group asked that we host a mini public prostitution offender program so community members could learn more about what drives the demand for sexual exploitation. As part of the Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness, N.E.T. hosted this public event and called it Paying for Sex: the Community Impact. It was at this event that we offered community members a chance to use the power of social media to raise their concerns about sexual exploitation throughout Edmonton.

A small group of residents met after that event and decided the format for the Dirty Little Secret video. The residents wanted all Edmontonians to hear from key stakeholders and experts on the issue. They asked these key stakeholders two questions:

  1. What is the community impact of sexual exploitation?
  2. What can Edmontonians do to deter it?

The result is the Dirty Little Secret Video!

In the last few months there has been a lot happening around the issue of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in the city of Edmonton, from the Body Rub Parlour Task force to the controversial Chrysalis campaign. There is a lot of positive action happening around this issue and we would like to see this grow.  Both the SEWG and the residents who crafted the campaign want all Edmontonians to get involved, stay informed and Speak Out Against Sexual Exploitation!

Sexual exploitation is not an issue that can be solved through a single approach. This is not solely a legislative issue, an issue of poverty, a policing issue, a mental health or an addictions issue.

Sexual exploitation/sex trafficking is a community issue.

Edmontonians are fantastic community builders. Let’s build a community that works to stop sexual exploitation.

Share the video, stay informed and speak out!

Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter #YEGsecret.

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About the Author
Alec Stratford
Alec Stratford is a social worker with the City of Edmonton and a member of a specialized Neighbourhood Empowerment Team working in the 118th Ave area. Alec and his partners Constable Kurtis Hauptman and Cassie Smith work with the community to identify and implement ways to reduce and prevent crime and the fear of crime.
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