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High school students hear the grim reality of human trafficking

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Editor’s note: This story may be offensive or disturbing to some. Reader discretion is advised.


Jake Romphf

Katarina MacLeod was raped by a family friend at the age of five.

By the time she was 12, she was doing drugs, drinking and having sex with men twice her age.

“I had mistaken sex for love,” she said.

MacLeod told her story last week to students at Great Lakes Secondary, describing the warning signs of human trafficking and how to avoid getting lured into an industry that targets high school-aged girls.

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transfer and harboring of persons through abduction and abuse for the purpose of exploitation.

MacLeod, who experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse much of her life, went from one abusive relationship with older men to another, she said.

One day, another member of an abused women’s group asked if she had considered prostitution as a way out.

Thus began 15 horrifying years in the trafficking industry, where she was forced to do things she never thought possible, she said.

“I come here to educate,” she said after the assembly. “I want kids to know there are pimps and traffickers out there looking for them, and they can be easily lured into this.”

Luring often begins with social media and talking to strangers online, she said.

Recruiters convince girls to meet them in person, then drug and take advantage of them sexually. They threaten to share the video online unless the girls agree to work for them.

Macleod said recruiters fill a void in victims’ lives by making them feel important, grooming them for emotional attachment.

Sarnia is especially vulnerable because of its proximity to the border, she said.

“Girls are being brought across the border, people are coming in to buy or to sell girls,” she said.

It’s key that police be trained on how to identify the signs of trafficking, and that the community have the resources to help young victims.

Ten individuals have been rescued from human trafficking in Sarnia, according to Victim Services of Sarnia-Lambton.

“There’s already been a few cases of trafficking happening here and I’m sure there’s a lot more,” MacLeod said.

Principal Paul Wiersma advised students during the assembly they could leave at any times, and that extra counsellors were on hand to help anyone distressed by the presentation.

“Human trafficking is a reality,” he said.

“We want to equip our students with the skills and knowledge to identify those potential threats and avoid being lured and groomed into that activity.”



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