Man charged with buying sex from teen in Child and Family Services care
Teen's picture was featured in ad on website advertising sex; 'There needs to be intervention,' says advocate
A 53-year-old Manitoba man has been arrested and charged with buying sex from a minor who was in the care of Child and Family Services, according to court documents.
CBC News has learned the 16-year-old girl he allegedly picked up was living in a Brandon, Man., group home at the time. CBC News is not naming the accused or the group care facility in order to protect the identity of the girl.
A search of websites that advertise sex revealed the teen's picture was featured in an ad, and a contact number was provided.
First Nations family advocate Cora Morgan believes more needs to be done to protect teens and girls.
"There needs to be intervention. There needs to be monitoring. But at the end of the day, we have young women who are engaging in this kind of activity … they've also suffered in the system for a long time," said Morgan.
There are about 11,000 kids in the child welfare system in Manitoba, 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous.
The 16-year-old girl the Manitoba man is accused of exploiting was described by police as Indigenous.
"You think about what the system is doing to young children, where they're removing children from everything they know. They're immediately catapulted into grief and loss and as children, they don't know how to deal with that, so it results in their behaviour," said Morgan.
New Brandon police position
Const. Dana McCallum is less than a month into her new job as the Brandon Police Service's youth intelligence officer. The position was created to deal with a spike in the number of runaways in the city.
"Unfortunately a lot of these young kids are getting introduced to meth, they're getting hooked on it and then they're doing anything they can, including selling their body to get money for their next fix," said McCallum.
Despite the prevalence of exploitation, being charged for buying sex from a minor is rare. In the past two years, 31 charges were laid in the entire country, according to Statistics Canada.
McCallum says it's a hard crime to detect because victims are reluctant to report the offence.
"A lot of people don't want to talk about this. So sometimes it's hard for police to get the information and statements from victims that would lead to charges," McCallum said.
Backpage.com, a popular website for sex trafficking and prostitution, was shut down by the United States Department of Justice in April, but that hasn't stopped the online sexual exploitation of teens.
"We're in a new generation. I don't think that it takes very long for them to find a different avenue on social media to advertise these types of services," said McCallum.
She is trying to get to know girls and teens in the community to figure out who is being exploited online. When police find ads of underage girls, they ask the online service to remove them.
"I think a lot of people don't realize that [the girls] may have been sexually abused as children. And they've grown up in some not very nice homes and unfortunately they are being exploited. This isn't a choice for them," said McCallum.
Morgan said once a child is labelled as exploited or considered a high risk, it becomes increasingly difficult to help them envision a better future or guide them to turn their lives around.
"There's this expectation that these children can be well rounded. Well, no one's making that investment. It's like stamping seeds into a crack in the sidewalk and you're expecting, you know, a beautiful flower," said Morgan.
Teen's troubled past
The 16-year-old involved in the case against the 53-year-old man had been reported missing numerous times in the past three years, police say.
In those cases, officers voiced concern about the girl's well-being, worried she could be in a risky situation.
The director of the group home where she was living said the Child and Family Services Act prevents him from commenting on specific cases but offered an observation based on years of working with exploited children.
"Generally, I would say that charges were probably laid because entities worked very close and very quickly to keep that youth safe and continue to do that. You'd only get that with a co-ordinated effort, and information and teamwork working quickly," said the director.
As for how a child in care could end up being exploited, the director noted 16 and 17 year olds get free time and they sometimes leave without permission.
"There are provisions and mechanisms in place that we try to keep kids safe. Unfortunately, sexual exploitation is a part of society and we're all working together to keep kids safe and working and sharing information," said the director.
Texts, threats, obstruction of justice
The alleged john's brush with the law did not end with the initial arrest.
A week and a half after being arrested, in February 2018, he was charged again, this time with uttering a threat and obstruction of justice.
Police allege he texted the girl and threatened her with death if she didn't lie to police, according to court documents.
The charge of obtaining sex for money with a person under 18 comes with a minimum six-month jail sentence and a maximum of 10 years.
The man's next court date is later in June.
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