Community Living Essex County launches human trafficking education tool
There’s a growing awareness around human trafficking in Windsor-Essex.
On Wednesday, a number of local agencies came together with Community Living Essex County to keep the community's most vulnerable by launching the "As Safe As Possible" project.
According to Community Living Essex County, our region ranks among the top five communities with the highest rates of people involved in human trafficking in the province.
Officials believe people with intellectual disabilities are four times more likely to fall victim.
"The highest risk for sex trafficking is runaway at risk teenage female youth with an intellectual disability," says Brandon Chase, the project manager with Community Living.
But resources are available for the most vulnerable. The agency has teamed with legal assistance, police and other social services to educate potential targets of human trafficking.
Community Living secured a $70,000 grant from the province to develop a curriculum that will educate people with intellectual disabilities and help prevent them from becoming a victim.
"Really, the goal of this is to make sure we have a community that is inclusive so that people with intellectual disabilities can live as safe as possible," Chase says.
Shelley Gilbert of Legal Assistance Windsor and WE-Fight is currently working with roughly 100 local victims of exploitation -- which she says can take many forms, from labour trafficking to sex trafficking – and everything in between.
Gilbert tells CTV Windsor a key way to avoid victimization is understanding what healthy relationships look like.
"When you are extremely lonely, for whatever reason, whether it's because you've been alienated and marginalized because of a disability or for some other reason - you are likely to take that offer of friendship,” says Gilbert. “And you may not always have the capacity to recognize some of the red flags."
Chase says people with a disability are more likely to be victims of violent and sexual crimes because they've learned to put their trust in others. He says that trust can sometimes be misguided.
"That need for belonging and acceptance plays a heavier role than safety sometimes,” Chase says. “And we just want to bring it back and we want them to realize that you deserve a quality friendship, you deserve quality in your life and trafficking and exploitation isn't a quality life."
The training sessions are about two hours -- and Community Living will come to you to provide the curriculum, which will also be offered online.
The training is two-fold, with the agency also looking to reach out to court workers, legal agencies and local police to educate them about the abilities and needs of people with an intellectual disability.