I was jolted awake to wonder who was calling me so early in the morning. The call was from Brandi and Tom who had contacted me a month earlier, after learning their daughter was being trafficked in the sex industry. A week later Tom and Brandi drove three hours to attend a ‘Parents Hope’ support group at SIM headquarters in Scarborough. The Parents Hope ministry provides support, guidance and spiritual care for parents of trafficked children.
“We felt so lost but were desperate to do something to help our daughter. It was such a relief to attend the meeting. We could be open and honest about the situation for the first time without fear of being judged.”
I wasn’t ready for more bad news, since waking up on Christmas morning to learn that one of the precious young women in our girl’s ministry had passed away under suspicious circumstances. My little bit of family time got squeezed between visiting the girl’s family and the other girls from the group. I thought of letting the phone call go to voicemail but couldn’t do it.
“John, thank you for answering,” sighed Brandi’s voice. “Justine came home on Christmas eve and is supposed to return to her pimp today.”
“I’m glad she was able to see you for Christmas,” I replied. I wasn’t surprised that her daughter’s pimp permitted the holiday visit. Canadian human traffickers rarely keep their victims under lock and key. Instead, they prefer to feign romance to gain psychological control. Once a pimp has a victim’s loyalty, she’ll likely do anything he demands. Sending a victim home for a special overnight with family might seem like a bold move, but it paints the illusion that the girl is free to come and go; as if she’s not a trafficking victim at all. Occasionally, however, the brainwashing isn’t quite as effective as the pimp thinks.
“She stayed up talking to us half the night,” continued Brandi, “She says she hates the things he makes her do and doesn’t want go back to him. Justine wants to stay home!”
“She’s frightened of what he’ll do,” I added, “And fearful that she’ll give in to his demands.” “Exactly,” confirmed Brandi.
That afternoon I met with Justine and her parents to map out an ‘exit strategy’. I learned that the pimp had taken the girl’s college savings and saddled her with a ‘debt bond’ by financing a luxury car and forcing her to sign for the loan. With the help of my colleague, Ryan, from Men Ending Trafficking, I retrieved the car the following day. That was the easy part, the pimp’s mind control over the girl would be the biggest threat. That was realized when Justine failed to honour the ‘no-contact agreement’ she had pledged. She ran back to her pimp at the end of January. Heartbroken, Tom and Brandi continued to lean on the Parents Hope group for support.
During the five weeks she was home, Justine received exceptional support from her family and guidance from our team. She began to grasp the truth of her ‘boyfriend’s’ trickery and the way prostitution had changed her. Even though she returned to her trafficker, frequent calls to her parents became a priority for her.
“She just talks and cries,” relayed Brandi, “She’s paralyzed by fear.”
By September, Justine was at the end of her rope and feeling suicidal. After a particularly violent beating, her desperation finally overshadowed her fear and she reached out for help.
Seeing that Justine was now ready to take the necessary steps to rebuild her life, I referred her to a residential restoration program where she is excelling and enjoying the friendship of another ‘Parents Hope’ daughter.
“We pray for a better future for our daughter, that she will heal and find her way.” Shares Brandi, “This is only possible because God placed John and Parents Hope into our situation and gave us the support and resources we needed. I don’t know what the future holds for our daughter, but I do know we will always have a family with Parents Hope.
To support this project go to www.sim.ca/lifeworthy-project
Lifeworthy Project PROJECT: CA 90232
Lifeworthy provides and promotes supportive community and spiritual care for sex trafficked victims and their families. This project provides:
- Mentoring and life coaching for young women exploited in the sex industry.
- ‘Parents Hope’ ministry to care for family members of sex trafficking victims.
- Consulting/training to churches and organizations on human trafficking issues.