A new billboard campaign in Sudbury is targeting men who pay for sex with young women in exploitable conditions.
The three-by-six metre sign reads "Real Men Don’t Buy Girls," and will be posted at the intersection of Kathleen and College streets in downtown Sudbury, an area notorious for prostitution activity.
The billboard features the silhouette of a young girl dressed in a short skirt and heels, leaning into the driver’s window of a car.
The project was spearheaded by a number of community groups, including Health Sciences North and the YWCA of Sudbury.
Also involved is the Sudbury Women’s Centre, headed up by Christine Schmidt, a local woman who has seen the experiences of young prostitutes firsthand.
"I’ve seen women with broken arms. I’ve seen 17-year-olds that are pregnant. I’ve seen women with two black eyes. I’ve seen them without shoes on," Schmidt said. "These human traffickers know where they are, and they know how to locate them."
Schmidt says the campaign isn’t meant to stamp out prostitution in the city, or to shame men, but rather is a way to address the issue of exploited street prostitutes in Sudbury.
Women put in "survival mode"
One of the dangers of street prostitution is the vulnerable state it puts young women in, said Melissa Lamontagne, who works at a local sexual assault centre.
"[The women] are doing everything they can at that point to stay alive and to be able to survive and to feed their children," she said. "Sometimes it’s to feed an addiction."
Many of the women she sees at the centre are under the age of consent, Lamontagne added.
The new billboard will be posted for one month.
"It’s a direct message from women with lived experiences," Schmidt said. "In our view, real men don’t buy girls. This is a problem."