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Human trafficking violates human rights — and it is happening in Ottawa

The hard truth that Jodi Mosley and Sharon John were at Tedx Ottawa 2018 to share was that human trafficking is a real problem — and it’s a real problem right here in Ottawa.

Both Algonquin graduates, Mosley has worked with high risk youth for 35 years while John is a survivor of human trafficking now working as a peer counsellor and a mentor for other young women trapped by human trafficking.

John shared her own story of how she got lured into the human trafficking world and how she found her way out, while Mosley detailed the information, the facts and the hard message at key pauses in John’s story.

John was young and thought she was in love with an amazing man she trusted with all she was until he turned on her and began selling her to cover his needs.

“He would sell me for drugs,” said John, “He would sell me for food, he would sell me for rent, he would sell me for whatever he wanted.”

John was reliant on him for her drugs and her safety. It was what Mosley called the trauma bond and while John felt it was her choice to work, the choices she was being given were both terrible: work or be beaten.

John became even more dependent on the man she thought she loved.

“Human trafficking is horrific and it violates every right that every individual has,” said Mosley. “These people are deprived of their basic needs, they are threatened, they are beaten and they are repeatedly raped.”

Eventually John got away but she went from a bad situation to one even worse.

“(The new man) would make me kneel in the corner,” said John, “And pray out loud and beg for forgiveness because he said I was a dirty filthy whore. I spent a lot of hours in the corner. God must have been listening to me. I managed to escape when he brought me here to Ottawa.”

Mosley shared the statistics.

“Victims can be anyone,” said Mosley, “95% of victims are female. 70% are under the age of 25 and 25% are under the age of 18.”

Not all victims come from high-risk backgrounds such as being Indigenous, LGBQT or being in the foster system. The victims can literally be any person that accidentally falls into the wrong relationship. So many young people are not taught the warning signs to watch for so they can get out or ask for help before it’s too late.

Some stories, like John’s, have happy endings.

When she began listing her achievements, including being 15 years sober and having graduated from high school at the age of 32, the crowd roared and came to its feet. It brought John to tears.

“Something here tonight should make us angry,” said Mosley, That’s Sharon’s story. Buying sex fuels human trafficking.

“Every young woman that I’ve worked with, they told me that they were forced to work as an escort, they were forced to work as a dancer, they were forced to work in private clubs. So, frequenting these establishments, purchasing their services, fuels human trafficking.”

And Mosley wants everyone who hears their talk to remember they have a choice: just say no to the exploitation of people through sex work. Don’t go to strips clubs, use escorts or watch pornography. She believes that bringing more awareness to what happens to the victims of human trafficking can help stop the practices that enable it.

It’s a big hill to climb as sex trafficking is the second largest illegal trade worldwide, according to Mosley. It’s exceeded only by the drug trade. Mosley believes that “hope starts with awareness and education.”

The day of the Tedx Talks was John’s 49th birthday and at the end of her and Mosley’s talk, the entire audience and the emcee, Stefan Keyes, CTV news anchor, serenaded John with a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday.

“It really is (hard to tell her story),” said John, “because going over it you relive it.”

But she has no regrets. John added she has an amazing support system and was really happy to do Tedx Talks Ottawa with Mosley.

“In addition to Sean McCann,” said Jasmine Brown, an audience member
waiting to speak with John and Mosley after the show, “I’d say they were
the two most personal and most moving stories.”

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