A sombre four-minute video dramatizing the real-life experience of "Amy" — a teen who found herself enslaved by a man she believed was her boyfriend — puts a human face on the statistics behind sex trafficking in Canada.
"I was working 12 hours a day," she said. "I was in so much pain from having sex."
The video was produced by Covenant House, the agency for homeless youth that will be launching a $10-million fundraising campaign later Wednesday to help end sex trafficking and support young women trying to start over.
Titled Just Like A Girl You Know, the effort, which is chaired by Suzanne Rogers, "will support the implementation of the broad-ranging plan over the next five years," Covenant House said in a statement. The agency says it has raised $5 million already.
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Toronto Mayor John Tory, Toronto police sex crimes unit head Joanna Beaven-Desjardins and Casandra Diamond, a sex trafficking survivor, will be guest speakers at the event.
'Happening right under our noses'
"[Sex trafficking] is happening right under our noses," said Michele Anderson, a sex trafficking specialist who works at Covenant House.
"It could be happening to a girl just like a girl you know. They are lured in public places — schools, malls and online," she said.
Bruce Rivers, the executive director of Covenant House, told CBC News that there is "a need for an urban response model that focuses on prevention, and that provides the services and support that survivors and victims need at a time when they need it."
He said Covenant House will be opening a transitional housing program in the spring that will provide housing and support services for victims of sex trafficking.
Those services will include addiction and trauma counseling, court support and life-skills training. The new program plans to help up to seven victims over the course of two years.
"We work with people ages 16 to 24 and we've seen a significant increase over the last couple of years," Rivers said.
Last month, a provincial legislative committee reported that Ontario has become what it calls a "major hub" for human trafficking and sexual violence in Canada.