Sexual exploitation in spotlight at Manitoba forum
'It's actually happening in our own backyards here,' survivor says
Alaya McIvor isn't a prostitute, sex trade worker or victim of exploitation — she's a survivor.
"If you're using the language sex trade worker, hooker, prostitute, you're only engaging in the behaviour of those perpetrators that are preying upon the vulnerable population," said McIvor, a survivor of exploitation and human trafficking.
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She's behind the Seventh Annual Public Awareness Forum on Sexual Exploitation in Manitoba on Thursday. McIvor has organized the event for the last seven years.
This year's theme is Survivors Protecting Sacred Lives and the forum features panel discussions and speakers from renowned American feminists, researchers and leading anti-sexual exploitation activists.
Topics include how to develop a survivor-led organization, what to do about sex buyers and successful ways to tell a survivor story.
The event also gives survivors like McIvor a chance to network with each other.
McIvor, an advocate for at-risk women, uses her experiences to teach others in Manitoba about the realities of exploitation and human trafficking.
"People drive by it, see it for five seconds but cast judgment upon those who are in it without understanding the person as an individual," she said.
At one point she was taken from Manitoba and sold repeatedly across the country, she said.
"It doesn't only happen in a Third World country. It's actually happening in our own backyards here," she said.
Education and acknowledging sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Winnipeg are keys to ending them, which is what the forum aims to do, McIvor said.
"How are we going to champion this in our city?" she asked.
The Winnipeg Sexually Exploited Youth Community Coalition organized the all-day forum at the Canad Inns Club Regent Hotel.