Sex slavery and human trafficking exist daily as devastating and often underreported crimes, but a recent bust by Toronto Police has cast some light on the situation, which the United Nations says affects as many as two million women around the world each year and forms the basis for an industry worth tens of millions of dollars.
The arrests were made after a 21-year-old woman from Eastern Europe walked into 52 Division last Thursday and told cops she was lured to Canada with promises of a modeling contract.
The reality she met with here was anything but model. The woman alleges she was forcibly confined and forced into sexual slavery.
“That’s exactly what it is,” said Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Mike Ervick. “They have no control over their life, they’re being dominated, coerced, threatened.”
The confession led to the arrests of four people, including a husband and wife, all facing a lengthy list of charges including human trafficking which marks only the second time the charge will come before the courts since the law was enacted in 2005.
Police and experts agree it just goes to show the difference one victim can make when the silence is broken.
“They’re so afraid of their families being held captive back home, debts that are owed, and their lives are being threatened,” said Natasha Falle, who helps get sex workers off the street with Streetlight Support Services.
“We had one woman who came through our program years ago who was being held captive in a closet. When she wasn’t with men and servicing men she was kept in a closet.”
Investigators say they know there are other victims out there waiting to come forward and promise protection for those who do so, even offering advocacy with Immigration Canada.