Shield­ing, heal­ing vul­ner­a­ble kids is ev­ery­one’s duty

Asian Journal - - Editorial -

Vic­to­ria: From lur­ing kids on­line to child sex­ual as­sault, from groom­ing to pimp­ing, and from ‘sex­ting’ to shar­ing child pornog­ra­phy, ex­ploita­tion has one tragic, com­mon el­e­ment: young vic­tims. Stop the Sex­ual Ex­ploita­tion of Chil­dren and Youth Aware­ness Week, March 14-20, 2016, is a re­minder to us all – in­di­vid­u­ally, and with our schools, jus­tice part­ners, youth or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ments – to do ev­ery­thing we can to pre­vent this dev­as­tat­ing vic­tim­iza­tion. We all share re­spon­si­bil­ity for the well-be­ing of our chil­dren and youth. Aware­ness is key to in­ter­ven­ing. It’s dif­fi­cult to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple if par­ents, guardians, teach­ers and oth­ers aren’t aware of what’s go­ing on – and it’s es­ti­mated 95% of sex­ual as­saults are never re­ported to po­lice. That’s why, in sup­port of our Vi­sion of a Vi­o­lence Free BC Strat­egy, we’ll be launch­ing an aware­ness cam­paign shortly that fo­cuses on en­gag­ing all Bri­tish Columbians in speak­ing out against sex­ual vi­o­lence. An­other way we’re build­ing aware­ness is through B.C.’s in­no­va­tive Of­fice to Com­bat Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons (OCTIP). Its free, on­line train­ing helps ser­vice providers to learn the signs of hu­man traf­fick­ing and how to help en­sure traf­ficked per­sons re­ceive the pro­tec­tion, ser­vices and sup­ports they need. About 7,000 peo­ple have taken this train­ing to date, and I en­cour­age any­one to do so. While it’s hard to pin­point how many young peo­ple are traf­ficked within B.C., OCTIP and part­ner agen­cies have as­sisted with more than 200 cases in­volv­ing po­ten­tially traf­ficked per­sons since July 2007. Sadly, many Abo­rig­i­nal women and girls are vul­ner­a­ble to sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. That’s why B.C.’s Ac­tion Plan to Com­bat Hu­man Traf­fick­ing, launched in 2013, has made their safety a pri­or­ity. Through it, we con­tinue to work with First Na­tions and Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties to ad­dress this is­sue. Over the past five years, we’ve pro­vided more than $1.7 mil­lion in civil for­fei­ture grant fund­ing to or­ga­ni­za­tions in B.C. to ad­dress is­sues of hu­man traf­fick­ing and sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. We and our part­ners are mak­ing progress – for ex­am­ple, by hold­ing work­shops on hu­man traf­fick­ing with ser­vice providers, po­lice, school per­son­nel, youth-serv­ing agen­cies and Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity mem­bers. Our po­lice, in­clud­ing B.C.’s In­te­grated Child Ex­ploita­tion Unit, con­tinue to play a key role in iden­ti­fy­ing child vic­tims of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and ar­rest­ing those who dis­trib­ute and view child pornog­ra­phy. This in­cludes par­tic­i­pa­tion in so­phis­ti­cated lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional in­ves­tiga­tive ef­forts, re­sult­ing in ef­fec­tive pros­e­cu­tions and mak­ing it clear: if you make or share child pornog­ra­phy, you will be caught and face se­vere con­se­quences. Sim­i­larly, the many high-pro­file cases of men at­tempt­ing to lure chil­dren through so­cial me­dia and then trav­el­ling to meet them – only to be ar­rested by po­lice who’ve posed on­line as vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren – should serve as a warn­ing. B.C. leads the coun­try in work­ing to keep known sex­ual of­fend­ers away from op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren and youth. Our Crim­i­nal Records Re­view Pro­gram is the most ex­ten­sive in Canada. It pro­vides for ex­pert, con­sis­tent ad­ju­di­ca­tion on de­ter­min­ing whether a per­son presents a risk to vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. Through this pro­gram, in 2013, we be­gan of­fer­ing vol­un­teer and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions free crim­i­nal record checks for their vol­un­teers who work with chil­dren and vul­ner­a­ble adults. But it isn’t enough to pre­vent ex­ploita­tion, iden­tify its vic­tims and pros­e­cute its per­pe­tra­tors. We must also help young vic­tims to be­come sur­vivors. To this end, the Prov­ince pro­vides more than $70 mil­lion in an­nual fund­ing to pro­grams through­out B.C. that aid vic­tims of crime, in­clud­ing chil­dren im­pacted by sex­ual vi­o­lence, and traf­ficked per­sons. The hun­dreds of vic­tim ser­vice and vi­o­lence against women or­ga­ni­za­tions my min­istry funds in com­mu­ni­ties through­out B.C. pro­vide in­cred­i­ble, com­pas­sion­ate and ef­fec­tive as­sis­tance. If you think a child or youth un­der 19 years of age is be­ing abused or ne­glected, phone 1 800 663-9122 to talk to a child pro­tec­tion worker. If the child is in im­me­di­ate dan­ger, call 9-1-1. For more in­for­ma­tion: We all have a role to play – and to­gether, we can raise aware­ness and help pro­tect our young peo­ple. I en­cour­age all Bri­tish Columbians to be vig­i­lant about sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren and youth, and to re­port any sus­pected in­ci­dents to po­lice. The stakes are high – and si­lence is a per­pe­tra­tor’s best friend.

Mike Mor­ris Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Safety and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral

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