Abduction, forced prostitution case discussed at Ottawa shelters: worker
Workers at shelters in Ottawa have been talking to the teenage girls who stay there about the case of three girls allegedly lured from near an Ottawa shelter and forced into prostitution in Gatineau. And they are maintaining high security as usual while the case unfolds, says the acting director of an Ottawa shelter for young women.
"We make sure we engage the young people about any event that may affect them," said Stacey Laurdney Thursday. "We talk about … what measures they can take and how they're feeling and how this impacts them."
Two adults, Laura Emerson, 28, and Gordon Kingsbury, 33, appeared briefly in court in Gatineau on Thursday in relation to allegations that three 17-year-old girls were abducted, assaulted, drugged, confined and forced into prostitution for up to a year.
Charges facing Emerson include forcible confinement, aggravated assault and procuring prostitution from minors, while Kingsberry faces two counts of sexual assault. The Crown has indicated they may also be charged with human trafficking.
Laurdney said his shelter has a lot of security built in.
"We have cameras, we have 24-hour staffing, we don't publish our address, we talk to young women on a daily basis about their experiences and we're proactive about those issues of safety."
The shelter also has a good relationship with police, and report young women staying at the shelter missing if they do not return when expected.
However, he acknowledged that many of the young women who use the shelter are vulnerable to predators, as they have no supports in lives, haven't developed many positive relationships with adults, and often aren't getting their basic needs met.
Emily, 25, who has been using shelters since she was in her teens, agreed that it's hard to leave a shelter without someone noticing, as many require the women who stay there to sign in and out.
Pimps regularly lure street kids: police
However, that is not the case for street youth in general.
"For someone to go disappearing for a year, it can easily happen without anyone really noticing."
She said young women on the street like herself are often approached by men and she's not surprised to hear about the case in Gatineau.
Ottawa Police Sgt. Reno Rushford said teenage girls on the street are regularly lured into prostitution by pimps, who usually begin by offering them gifts such as clothes, money and drugs.
"At some point though, the stoplight goes up and these people say, 'OK in the last couple of weeks you've been given all this stuff. Time for payback,' " he said. "The worst case scenario, they're turned out to prostitute themselves."
He said the Gatineau case is also not the first time girls have been held somewhere against their will.
Rushford said it is difficult to estimate how many girls are involved in prostitution because many are too afraid to talk.
"The difficulty is for them to come forward with it and relive it all through court and be put in that position, possibly put themselves in danger in regards to telling on these people."