Counseling for Sex Trafficking Survivors Coming to Hamilton



Beginning in mid-February, the Hamilton Sexual Assault Center will begin offering counseling specifically geared toward survivors of human trafficking, a growing need in the community to help survivors cope with trauma.

The sex trafficking survivor counseling program, which launches Feb. 15, is for anyone, of any gender, who is 16 or older and has left human trafficking at some point in their life, Miranda said. Jurilj, public education coordinator for the Hamilton and Area Center for Sexual Assault (SACHA).

“We know that trauma doesn’t end,” he said, adding that this program is meant to be a safe place where someone will listen and believe survivors.

Survivors do not need to be referred by another agency, they do not need to have reported to the police or filed charges against their trafficker. A survivor may have recently left human trafficking, or it may be something they are only beginning to understand years later. There is no time limit, he said.

SACHA is part of the Hamilton Coalition Against Human Trafficking. One of the issues they have talked about is the lack of support for survivors outside of emergency or crisis settings when someone escapes for the first time. That’s where the idea of ​​the counseling program came from.

The sexual assault center’s other programs continue to be available to survivors of human trafficking, but Jurilj said there is a need to specifically address the pervasive and diverse impacts of human trafficking.

Survivors don’t have to talk about what they experienced, if they don’t want to, but they may want to talk about how it affects them now, their relationships, their perceptions of self-esteem, he said.

“We know that the way it looks from each individual survivor is different… the way it affects everyone is not linear,” Jurilj said, adding that a journey to healing has many ups and downs, twists and turns.

The program, funded through the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, has a dedicated human trafficking counselor hired to work three days a week.

Starting February 15, anyone interested can call SACHA or fill out a form on their website. To begin, the counselor will interview the survivors, explaining the program. If they are interested, they can access 16 counseling sessions of 50 minutes each.

Other sexual assault centers in Ontario have implemented similar programs.

Some of SACHA’s anti-trafficking work also includes public education. All of her programs and counseling have a feminist, anti-racist and anti-oppression focus, she said.

Jurilj said it is important to note that SACHA takes the position that sex work is different from human trafficking.

“The really key part of human trafficking is that there is no consent,” he said, adding that it can involve coercion, manipulation, control through threats of violence, isolation and blackmail.

Sex work is about consent, it is the choice of the person doing the work, who has weighed the pros and cons and receives the benefits of doing that work.

In essence, all forms of sexual violence are connected to oppression, Jurilj said. There is a misconception that it is about sexual pleasure; it is really about the perpetrator gaining power and control.

A “powerful part of counseling” is working on the understanding that it was entirely the perpetrator who caused the harm.

For more information on counseling for survivors of sex trafficking, visit sacha.ca/services/stsc. To contact SACHA’s 24-7 support line, call 905-525-4162.

Nicole O’Reilly is a crime and justice reporter at The Spectator. [email protected]


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