Children Exploited in Sex Work

University of Manitoba social work professor Dr. Cathy Rocke and Laurie MacKenzie from the Knowledge Keepers advisory council for sexually exploited youth discussed Oct. 31, 2018, their article The waters of sexual exploitation: understanding the world of sexually exploited youth.

They discussed how an illustration for the article was created to capture the complexity of the world of exploited youth. People often forget that when dealing with youth who have been sexually exploited, it is in fact child abuse. They also highlighted that there are systemic risks and that vulnerability is significantly increased for Indigenous girls.

The illustration shows predators as fishermen or scuba divers, with pimps and gang members as the sharks. Service providers trying to have a positive impact in the lives of exploited youth gather in speedboats with damaged nets, representing the youth who fall through the cracks due to inadequate resources.

Laurie MacKenzie sharing the story of her experience as an exploited youth, which was mirrored in the article’s illustration. MacKenzie noted that exploitation“begins with the colonization of my people”. With her mother a residential school survivor, MacKenzie was part of the ’60s Scoop, which led to being adopted by another family with different beliefs, even though her mother never did anything to harm her. She was also made to feel as though every abuse she encountered in care was her own fault as she was told, inaccurately, that she was retarded due to her mother’s alcohol abuse while pregnant.

Due to abuse while in the care of adoptive parents, she left at age 12 to live with a pimp, where the exploitation continued. Fortunately, after having children MacKenzie was determined to keep her family together and began working to provide a different life for her children.

MacKenzie worked very hard to end the negative cycles within her own family. Both of her children are highly successful. MacKenzie obtained a post-secondary degree and now works with children in care, attempting to end ycles of abuse within the system. “My gift from the creator is my voice”, said MacKenzie, as it is how she is able to share her journey with the world.

Questions

How do you feel about Child and Family Services?

I now work with CFS and I think outside the box. The system isn’t working, and youth may end up murdered. As workers, your job is to protect these children from this abuse. Children are sexually exploited in Manitoba. I’d like to know if they were abused before or after they came into care. Most that I work with say it was after.

Most of the girls don’t seem to know that they’re being exploited. How do you deal with that?

I have lived experience and they usually listen to me. They don’t know that people actually live through it and get out. It’s exciting for them to go places adults go and they somehow feel like they have control. There are some severely hooked on drugs that cloud your brain. I’m here to help others climb over the fence if that’s what they want.

How do you build a positive relationship and trust with youth in care?

Listening instead of telling. We’re all human beings. Not seeing them as dirty or less than, and understanding it’s abuse that they’re experiencing when they’re youth. It’s important to be understanding and empathetic, not sympathetic.

Listen to podcasts from seminars in this series.

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