A two-day training program that teaches police officers, justice officials and community partners how to better support victims of human trafficking and those at risk begins Monday in London.
The training can't come soon enough, says London Police Detective Michael Hay, the head of the anti-human trafficking section.
"Human trafficking is extremely common. Seventy-one per cent of human trafficking is domestic sex trade trafficking. These are women and girls who are born and bred here, being forced into the sex trade," Hay said this morning on CBC's London Morning.
Front-line workers will learn about the impact that being trafficked can have on a victim and how to support victims through the criminal justice process.
"The statistics are that 50 per cent of victims are between 18 and 24, and 25 per cent are under 18. In the past three months, my team and I have come across a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds," said Hay.
"I've been blown away by what I have been finding. I never would have expected the scope of what I have seen here."
London police launched its human trafficking unit in January.
When officers perform "John stings" to catch men buying sex from trafficked women, they get 50 to 70 people in an hour trying to arrange dates.
"It's huge business here in London," Hay said. "There are women who have been victimized for a weekend, and others who live like this for months, for years."
About 250 front-line workers from 40 different community organizations will attend the first day of the conference.
The second day is specifically for police and justice officials.
Location on Hwy. 401 makes London a prime spot
Dr. Jacqueline Linder, an internationally-known psychologist and expert in victims of sexual trauma, will offer "psychological first aid training."
Linder is the founder of the Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network and the clinical director for Canada's first residential treatment facility for sexually abused children.
London is a prime spot for human sex trafficking because it's on the Highway 401 corridor. Women and girls are taken from hotel room to hotel room on the highway, often without knowing what city they're in, and forced to have sex.
"These victims can't give consent. They're being, every day, repeatedly sexually assaulted. The trauma that someone has to work through after going through that is incredible."