Getting Out: A National Framework for Escaping Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation in Canada

Exiting sex trafficking can be a long and arduous process, with survivors having many needs that must be addressed before, during and after exiting. Often this process takes many attempts.

To date, very little work has been done to document the process survivors must undergo in order to successfully escape from sex trafficking or to document their specific needs while attempting to do so.

The following pages detail the findings of a national research project conducted in eight Canadian cities: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Thunder Bay, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John’s. Through a combination of focus groups and interviews, we spoke with 201 stakeholders from 147 organizations, including service providers, healthcare professionals, police, and most importantly, 50 survivors of sex trafficking.

This research project sought to answer five key questions related to exiting the sex industry:

1. What is the process of exiting sexual exploitation? What are the major barriers to escaping sex trafficking?

2. What basic, instrumental, and psychological needs do survivors have when exiting sex trafficking?

3. At what point in the journey are certain needs more pressing?

4. How does this process vary by regions in Canada?

This report explains that when exiting situations of sex trafficking, survivors face numerous structural and systemic barriers, while also contending with complex psychosocial and psychological factors. In addition to highlighting these barriers, this report outlines the multiple basic and service needs of survivors when they are exiting/escaping and proposes promising service philosophies for working with survivors.

This report aims to provide guidance to service providers (including frontline agencies, health care providers, first responders and child protection agencies) so that they can better understand the unique and complex needs of those who have survived sex trafficking.

In addition to answering the five questions, this report calls for a long-term, coordinated national effort to:

• Recognize the structural barriers that put individuals at greater risk of sexual exploitation, including experiences of poverty, colonialism historical trauma, and discrimination

• Increase coordination between social services agencies supporting survivors and ensure more funding for programs supporting the unique needs of survivors is available

• Raise public awareness about this heinous crime, including the signs of luring, grooming and trafficking and how Canadians can better support survivors

• Increase dialogue across municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions to ensure gaps in the system are being addressed

Publication Date: