A Winnipeg woman who says she was a victim of human trafficking says she's relieved to learn police have made an arrest in her case.
A 29-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday and charged with assault, trafficking in persons, living on the avails of prostitution and other alleged offences.
In announcing the arrest on Wednesday, police said the victim was in a "difficult financial situation" when she met the accused in the summer of 2012, and he preyed on that vulnerability by gaining her trust and enticing her into entering the sex trade.
The 23-year-old woman, whose identity CBC News is protecting, said in an interview that she met the man while she was working as a server on a boat.
She said they initially texted each other and hung out as friends, but when she was short on cash he suggested that she work as an escort.
"He had mentioned it to me when I was intoxicated — 'Oh, I know how to make some good money' — and that was after I was telling him, 'I'm so sick of being broke … and all these dead-end jobs,'" she said Wednesday afternoon.
"It's like he sensed out my weakness and that I was maybe naive and didn't really see what he was trying to do," she added.
"I don't think he was meaning to do it because he said he did really like me, but I don't really know now if that's true."
'All he wants is money,' woman says
Police say for the next year and a half, the man controlled the woman through intimidation, threats, and violence, forcing her to work in the sex trade in cities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
"I felt trapped because he's so manipulative, he's scary," the woman said.
"He has hit me before. I have scars on my face here. He's kicked me in the back, in the stomach … my ribs hurt so bad I could barely sit up."
She said she began by working as an escort in Winnipeg, then travelled to Brandon and the other provinces. That was when she started to feel scared, she said.
"He just is not a good person at all to have out on the street or anything," the woman said. "All he wants is money and all that stuff, and he'll do anything to get it."
Diane Redsky of the Canadian Women's Foundation's National Taskforce on Human Trafficking says relocating victims is a common tactic traffickers use to control vulnerable women.
"Survivors have told us that often times they didn't even know what city they were in — that they were moved so often from different cities, across the city, to different provinces, they would easily lose track of exactly where they were," Redsky said.
Jared Matthew Schaffer, 29, was found in the area of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue on Tuesday and arrested.
He has been charged with a raft of assault and sex-trade-related offences as well as failure to comply with a probation order.
Schaffer already has a lengthy criminal record that includes, from 2003 to 2014:
- Failure to comply with court ordered conditions — 18 convictions.
- Possession of goods obtained by crime — 6 convictions.
- Mischief — 3 convictions.
- Uttering threats — 2 convictions.
- Break and enter — 1 conviction.
- Theft — 3 convictions.
- Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle — 1 conviction.
- Flight from a peace officer — 1 conviction.
He also has several charges other than the ones laid on Tuesday, for which he is still awaiting trial. Those charges, which involve the same woman, include forcible confinement, assault, fraud and two counts of failing to comply with court conditions.
Schaffer remains in custody at the Provincial Remand Centre in Winnipeg.