Human trafficking victim brings her story back to Halifax
Jade Brooks aims to help other victims of sexual exploitation
Jade Brooks wants to become the face of sexual exploitation survivors in Halifax because so many other victims remain in the shadows.
The 24-year-old woman doesn't shy away from talking about how she was trafficked from Halifax to Toronto when she was 17 years old.
Brooks grew up in the Uniacke Square area of Halifax and says the road to being a victim of human trafficking starts at home.
"A lot of these girls, and guys as well, they come from these dysfunctional families and their family isn't able to care for them and show them the love and support that they need. So in turn they end up turning to these guys who end up exploiting them," said Brooks.
"Employment opportunities, self-esteem issues, bullying at school, things like that, things that I've had myself."
Brooks moved to Toronto after she says she was groomed by her trafficker to believe she was in a healthy relationship with him. She started working in strip clubs, then moved to massage parlours in both Montreal and Toronto.
The stages of sexual exploitation
She says her pimp eventually tired of her and "let her go" in 2011. After she left the sex trade industry, she approached a mental health agency in Toronto about ways she could help other victims.
She is now a peer support worker for sexual exploitation victims and helped create The Stages of Sexual Exploitation, a tool used to identify if people are being sexually exploited.
The stages are luring, grooming, coercion and exploitation. Brooks says the grooming stage is what young women need to be aware of before falling victim to sexual exploitation.
"That's what we call the honeymoon stage, basically treating you like a princess and doing everything he can for you and taking care of all your needs and it escalates from there."
Glamorizing the industry
Brooks says platforms like social media are allowing young girls to easily fall into sexual exploitation.
"When I was in it everything was so secretive, but with online and social media and all that stuff girls are proud to say this is what they're doing and they're encouraging other girls to do it."
Brooks has written a book about her experiences called Stages and is looking for a publisher. She says her goal is to work with sexual exploitation survivors in Halifax, which she says is a popular hub for human trafficking in Canada.
"A lot of what it is now started in Halifax to my knowledge, so hopefully I can bring this back home and speak to the young girls about it," said Brooks.
"People have told me they fear for my safety, but again, if it's not me then who's it gonna be?"