A group set up to combat exploitation in the sex trade says 90 per cent of women who work in massage parlours, as escorts, or as strippers want out.  

Men Against Sexual Trafficking, a London Ont.-based group, was to hold a seminar Friday afternoon at the high school in Marathon to help young people avoid being caught up in the business.

mi-stan-burditt-300

Men Against Sexual Trafficking group founder Stan Burditt said they want to get the message across that women in the trade are victims rather than criminals. (Supplied)

But group founder Stan Burditt said the best way to combat exploitation is through education targeted at men.

"Our goal is to … get men to realize the harm that's being done on many levels when they purchase sex from a woman who's being prostituted," he said.

"We're really trying to get the message across that the women in the trade are the victims rather than criminals themselves."

Burditt noted there is trafficking in the sex trade in virtually every community, but "when 90 per cent of the women involved in the industry want out of it, there's obviously exploitation going on. Whether it [is] through strip clubs, escort services, massage parlours, places like that. Pretty well every one of them has people who are actually forced into it."

That number has been determined by many studies, he said.

But there is a way to bring it down, Burditt continued.

"If you can decrease the demand, they don't have to exploit as many women."

At the Marathon session Friday and at a meeting at Pic River First Nation on Sunday, a woman who spent years in the sex trade was to share her story with the audience.

Hearing stories like these will "challenge men to change their attitudes and also protect their families, their children and grandchildren, from being exploited," Burditt said.

MAST has about 350 members across Canada. Federal funding is supporting the group’s tour of northern communities.