Tapestry

"She saw the human behind my lived experience": police and sex trade survivors build trust in Newfoundland

For decades, the relationship between police, people in the sex trade, and the media has been fraught with mistrust and mutual suspicion. Over the last 13 months, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, an organization called Thrive, and CBC NL have been working together to forge trust. What they’ve accomplished is extraordinary.
For decades, the relationship between police and people in the sex trade has been fraught with mistrust and mutual suspicion. Over the last 13 months, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, an organization called Thrive, and CBC NL have been working together to forge trust. (Dave Howells)
Listen to the full episode54:00

A police chief and a survivor of the sex trade walk into a room. It's not an interrogation room. Nor is it court.

It's a radio studio, and they're about to dive deep into a heart-to-heart.

Recently in Newfoundland and Labrador, exploitation survivor Melendy Brace (née Muise), who was used to being hounded by cops during the time she was sexually trafficked in St. John's, sat down with Royal Newfoundland Constabulary chief Joe Boland.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary chief Joe Boland with Melandy Brace (née Muise), co-ordinator of the Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Youth. (Mike Moore)

In a conversation with Tapestry host Mary Hynes, they looked back on the project that brought them together -- and set in motion a budding camaraderie between police and people in the sex trade.

Brace invited police officers to write a personal message to sex workers and survivors. Later, she invited the women to write their own messages back to the police officers. 

"Mel made this a safe room for [the police officers] to be able to write anonymously how they felt and I can guarantee you what they said was right from their hearts." - RNC Chief Joe Boland

(David Howells)
(David Howells)
(David Howells)
(David Howells)
(David Howells)

As it turns out, the two groups are more similar than either of them realized.

"I saw police officers arm in arm with some of the women. Everybody was standing together closely and we were all just human beings in that room. There was no us and them." - Mel Brace

Melendy Muise, a sex trade survivor, and Joe Boland, Chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, open up about the wall that existed for decades between the police and people in the sex trade... and the project that helped tear it down. 24:22

For the past 13 months, Brace's organization Thrive has partnered with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador. Everyone involved has said it's been an eye-opening, heart-opening experience.

One of the early collaborations involved singer-songwriter Amelia Curran.

Singer songwriter Amelia Curran was invited to lead a conversation among a group of sex trade survivors... and then challenged to write a song about the experience. (David Howells)

The CBC invited Curren to lead a conversation among women who were in or exiting the sex trade, and challenged her to write a song about it.

Singer songwriter Amelia Curran was invited to lead a conversation among a group of sex trade survivors... and then challenged to write a song about the experience. This documentary invites you to listen in on that frank conversation and the song it inspired. 25:17

The women spoke frankly and honestly about the complexities of their lives and their experiences in the sex trade.

"Conversation-into-song is everyday stuff for sure, but that was a hell of a conversation," Curran said.

Curran captured the experience in her song Shouldn't Need Sayin'.

According to all reports, the women loved it.

 

See Amelia Curran perform her song based on a conversation with women who have worked in the sex trade 3:08