Raising awareness about sexual exploitation

The Feb. 10 SEACAT conference will heighten awareness and knowledge necessary to identify victims and potential victims of exploitation.

Melissa Hyland is the keynote speaker at Chilliwack's Sexual Exploitation Awareness and Prevention Conference on Feb. 10

Melissa Hyland is the keynote speaker at Chilliwack's Sexual Exploitation Awareness and Prevention Conference on Feb. 10

Chilliwack’s Sexual Exploitation Awareness Community Action Team (SEACAT) is hosting a Sexual Exploitation Awareness and Prevention Conference on Feb. 10.

The event will aid in the education and awareness of how we as community members, parents, and service professionals can combat exploitation and help those who have been victimized.

“It can affect the entire range of children and youth,” says SEACAT member and Chilliwack Community Services Reconnect Worker Brenda Listoen. Exploitation can happen to anyone, regardless of family-income level, gender, nationality or age.

“One of the most compelling aspects of this issue is that young girls and young men often don’t realize that it’s happening to them,” she said.

Listoen provided examples of perpetrators who were 15-year-old girls, fake Facebook profiles that were run by violent and sinister adults, and a seemingly harmless party that transformed into a horrific sex trafficking ring.

Areas of discussion will include an overview of risk factors, the range of ways in which victims are targeted and coerced by perpetrators, as well as understanding of complex concepts like survival sex, trauma-bonding, and exit strategies.

Keynote speaker Melissa Hyland is an expert speaker on the spectrum of sexual exploitation, with a specialty in historical influences and issues affecting Aboriginal woman and girls.

Hyland brings with her a tremendous wealth of knowledge, having worked in the foster system, as well as in the Office to Combat Human Trafficking, where she worked on policy and research in this area.

Kev Lescisin, program coordinator for the Children of the Street Society, will also be speaking at the event.

The event will allow attendees, whether service providers or individuals in the community, to recognize signs of potential exploitation, and the unfortunate, creative ways that it can happen.

“Rarely will a youth say, ‘Hey, I’m being exploited.’ They’ll often slide under the carpet,” Listoen explained.

Our community will come away with the knowledge necessary to identify victims and potential victims of exploitation. Further, it will provide awareness to children in youth of the options and resources available to them for support.

The event takes place at on Feb. 10 at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre (46361 Yale Rd) from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. This is a free event, but online registration is required (eventbrite.ca).

Keep an eye out for fuscia ribbons, which are associated with the prevention of exploitation.

Further to this initiative, there will also be a community forum in Chilliwack on March 10, featuring a panel of experts and a topical film viewing.