January 2, 2019 marked the one year anniversary of the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region's Anti-Human Trafficking program.
The program provides victims with counselling, advocacy, crisis support, individualized safety planning, practical assistance, obtaining housing, and support through the legal process.
Over the past year, 78 people have reached out for help.
Nicky Carswell is the Coordinator and Counsellor Advocate of the Anti-Human Trafficking program and says while they had a successful year, they plan to do even better this year.
According to Carswell, Ontario accounted for 70 per cent of human trafficking in Canada, and says many more people still need help.
"It's densely populated, it's got large expansive highways like the 401 or the QEW and Waterloo Region is located fairly close to the 401, so we're fairly high at risk."
She says this year they are planning on hiring on another counsellor advocate to meet demands. "Currently it's just myself and the need in our Region is much higher than I can, as one person, meet."
The program is planning on spreading more awareness. In February, they plan to host a play on Human Trafficking Awareness Day that would educate people on the signs of someone in distress.
"When you have more than one sign together, it could mean something more is going on."
Those signs include:
- Young person withdrawing from friends and family, attendance at school or social activity is poor
- Unexplained articles of clothing or electronics or hidden bags of clothing
- A person accompanied by someone who speaks on their behalf
- Showing signs of physical injuries
- Wearing clothing that doesn't reflect the weather
- Signs of tattoo or branding
Carswell says when you see signs of human trafficking, don't do anything that could put you in danger, but definitely reach out for help.
"One great suggestion is to reach out to our program, we answer all kinds of questions. If someone is curious, if someone wants to go over signs or just talk about a case, I'm here to answer those questions."