Thursday, March 8, 2012

 

  Feature Story          

 

                                                                                      

     

Closer to Home

Child sexploitation an ongoing concern for the community in Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photos

 

Chilliwack RCMP Cst. Loreli Jeffery speaks at City Hall last Monday about the need for child sexual exploitation awareness in the home.

 

 

ost people are aware that child sexual exploitation is a global pandemic, but what many don't realize is that it's also hitting close to home right in Chilliwack.

 

The beginning of March each year marks Child Sexual Exploitation and Youth Awareness Week around BC, and each year the movement against exploitation of kids gets stronger.

 

On Monday, Tim Bohr and others from Chilliwack Community Services (CCS) brought several agencies to City Hall, including the RCMP, Pacific Community Resources Society, Ministry of Child and Family Development and the Society for Community Living, for a public information forum where they made presentations and discussed topics around the issue of sexploitation in Chilliwack.

Bohr, who is Youth Services Director with CCS, told reporters prior to the forum that sexual abuse happens everywhere, and crosses every demographic.

Tim Bohr speaks with reporters at City Hall on Monday.

"It's the real deal, it is happening, our children are at-risk and we need to be aware and we need to empower them to be resistant."

Chilliwack child protection agencies are continuously scrambling to provide information to school kids in an all-out war against exploitation and human trafficking.

"Chilliwack Community Services does is that we're a partner agency, so we have partnered with multiple community agencies for the specific purpose of; a) raising awareness and b) providing services that youth can access," explained Bohr adding that he hopes that by taking the awareness campaign to local schools, more kids will be able to access the services CCS offers.

A gripping half-hour NFB docudrama titled "Where did you sleep last night?" written by Susan Musgrave and Cliff Shelton was shown, depicting a girl who arrives by bus and meets a man who specializes in luring teens into the sex trade.

James Morgan, CCS Youth Probation Officer shares a laugh in council chambers

After the video, the audience was invited to make comments or ask questions.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz greeted the audience saying that "I know we're all going to walk away from here feeling more knowledgeable, more compassionate".

RCMP Cst. Loreli Jeffery told The Voice that each year the RCMP investigate one or two local cases of luring or a related offence in the Chilliwack area.

Jeffery has been the Chilliwack middle schools liaison officer for four-years, and gave the main presentation. In it she said the median age kids are approached seems to be around 13 to 15 years-old and also that the crime isn't restrictive to young girls.

 

Mayor Sharon Gaetz expresses her passion about the issue during the forum Monday.

 

"Young boys are lured-in just as easily, and as often as the girls are," she said.

Craigslist is a magnet for criminals, and although social media is a great networking tool, the proliferation of it has also enabled the nefarious side of the Internet.

Nexopia, a popular teen networking website, recently had it's knuckles rapped like a nun with a pointer by the privacy commission for not doing enough to protect users personal data, where the majority of it's users are teens.

Jeffery says that parents need to be more proactive by learning more about what their kids are doing at nights and what they're doing on the internet.

When there's a computer in the bedroom, parents have no idea what their child is doing, or who they are interacting with. If the kids are spending time in chat rooms, inevitably they will be dealing with, and letting strangers into the home, via the internet.

"In many homes kids rule their bedrooms, and it's off limits to moms and dads," says Jeffery.

In their quest to deal with a burgeoning caseload at CCS, Bohr says one thing that would help is a "specific targeted sexual exploitation worker" and that as it is various other CCS programs help bridge that gap in services.

Necklaces are available for sale in support of CCS.

But the numbers of clients CCS handles is staggering.

"We deal with maybe 200 kids a year and all of them have been exploited in some way at some point in their life," said Bohr. "One of the awareness things is, our community needs somebody who is going to work directly with this demographic and provide ongoing, specified programming and services for that demographic."

Advocacy done is across multiple agencies and Bohr says they all need to work in unison.

One of CCS's initiatives is called the "community action team" and it's essentially a consortium of community agencies that advocate.

"We can accomplish more together than we can with each of doing our little individual things, so, if we can consolidate some of those efforts, and coordinate some of our services, we can better serve this vulnerable demographic," concluded Bohr.

Upcoming Dates

1 P.M. Thursday, March 8 - RCMP Human Trafficking Coordinator, Cpl. Jassy Bindra will be giving a public presentation at City Hall council chambers Thursday March 8.

1 P.M. Friday, March 9 - Executive Director for Safe Online Outreach Society Merlyn Horton, will be giving a presentation at City Life Church. This is "designed for professionals, parents and youth ages 13+. Topics will include; Emerging trends in online youth culture, high-risk activities online, the nature of sexual exploitation in cyberspace and internet safety tips and resources.

For more information call Amanda Johnson with Chilliwack Community Services at: 604-798-3246 or by e-mail here or contact James Morgan, Youth Probation Officer at: 604-793-7748

 

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