Doug van der Horden has been fighting against human trafficking for many years. He has a Facebook page, FAST 101 Fighting Against Sex Trafficking 101 but has been fighting an uphill battle.
But, he has come up with a program to help some of the victims and last Sunday, the Harrowsmith Free Methodist Church came to his aid, raising $6,000 to provide about 24 backpacks to be given out to girls who’ve fallen victim to this crime that he says “depends on secrecy to operate.”
“We want people to be more aware of the problem and the need for support for children and youth in our community,” said BJ Calver, HFMC a missions.
The bags are backpacks stuffed with all sorts of personal items such as soap, toothbrushes, clothes, other toiletries and essentials as well as other comfort items like a journal and pens, and a fleece blanket to curl up in.
“One of the gaps when victim services or police go in to make arrests are that the girls literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs,” van der Horden said. “These bags go a long way to establish rapport and hopefully trust between the police and victims.
“They are a great first point of contact.”
Van der Horden said human trafficking for sex has been going on for years but because it depends on secrecy, it’s not very visible.
“Ninety-three per cent of domestic trafficking victims are our own kids,” he said. “And being on the 401, we (Kingston area) are a big hub.
“It’s been happening for years but it hasn’t been on the radar and we’re talking thousands of victims.”
He said the profile of a victim is a young female, usually teenaged but some as young as 11, who wants to leave home for whatever reason.
“It can be from abuse but it can also be as simple as rebelling against authority,” he said. “They don’t know what they want but they only know they want out of here.
“The predators are very good at picking up on this, being nice to the girls and luring them into the life.
“It’s a crime that depends on secrecy and it’s ugly.”
He said he’s been working with the Kingston Police Force and their response has been enthusiastic.
“Things are moving along,” he said. “We just gave the first bags to victims services.”