The executive director of the Corner Brook Status of Women Council says recommendations from a report on sexual exploitation commissioned by the provincial government 2-1/2 years ago that wasn't released are key to expanding ways to deal with the issue.

CBC Investigates obtained a copy of the controversial report, which was withheld by the provincial government.

Paula Sheppard Thibeau said the group wasn't even aware the completed report was being held back from public view.

"Absolutely not. We knew that it had been submitted to government, but we had no idea that it had actually been — that there would been a decision made to withhold it," she said.

'The biggest thing that we've been waiting for are the recommendations and how to proceed.' - Paula Sheppard Thibeau

"We were simply told that we were waiting for it to be released."

Sheppard Thibeau, who was one of the people interviewed when the needs assessment for the report was being conducted, said she doesn't see why the government wouldn't release the report.

"I understand that a number of individuals who are working in the sex trade have been interviewed, and that there may be some information within the raw data, but my understanding is that the final report would not include any identifying information," she said.

"So I was very surprised that they wouldn't have released it, especially because the biggest thing that we've been waiting for are the recommendations and how to proceed."

Knowledge is key

"We need to acknowledge the fact that sexual exploitation is happening within our communities, right across the province — it's not simply a St. John's issue, and many of us are curious of how to actually effectively deal with it," she said.

According to Sheppard Thibeau, releasing this report and recommendations would increase community awareness about how to deal with an issue they all face.

"We know of women and we've worked with women who have traded sex for a roof over their head, for money at times, for drugs. We also know that with the advanced technology that there's also the more proliferation of internet-based child pornography," she said.

"These are all issues that are happening right here in our community."

She said the recommendations are necessary information, and should be shared with communities and groups, not held in secret.

"I think if these recommendations are implemented it definitely does give us hope. It gives us a stronger ability to address the situation, to acknowledge that this is an issue within our community, and put services in place for those who are involved in the sex trade or who have been sexually exploited."