Sex trade survivor shares painful story
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 5, 2018
Simone Bell grew up in a middle-class family, and was like most other teens.
It didn’t take long for the native of Scotland to adjust to life in Kanata, after immigrating to Canada at the age of 15 with her parents and siblings. She made new friends, got good grades and played sports.
When it came to relationships, she gravitated toward the “bad boy.” But little did she know that one relationship would lead to her being forced to become a sex worker.
“I felt trapped behind a wall,” Bell, now 32, told attendees at a human trafficking awareness event at The Community Room in Haliburton on April 27. A man, who would become Bell’s pimp, contacted her after hey boyfriend was arrested for possession of firearms. He claimed he was her boyfriend’s friend and that the guns belonged to him. He demanded Bell pay him back, since her boyfriend couldn’t.
“He made up an astronomical amount of money and said ‘you owe me that’,” she said.
She was beaten badly after telling the man she couldn’t. He forced her into human trafficking by threatening to hurt her family. Bell was too scared to tell anyone about it, so she gave in to his demands.
Facts about human trafficking
• Human trafficking is a $150 billion/
• It’s a “ghost crime,” meaning that
victims are among us, yet we can’t
• It’s known as “the game” in the
• There are “Romeo” and “Guerilla”
pimps. Romeos use psychological
manipulation and shower their
victims with gifts. Guerillas control
victims with violence and force.
• The average victim in Canada is 14
• Ninety-three per cent of victims in
Canada are Canadian-born.
• It takes an average of three years
for a victim to begin the recovery
The man, who also was a gun and drug trafficker, made her turn over all her identification, and passwords to her bank and social media accounts. She was sexually abused, fed drugs and made to work 17-18 hours a day. She was in her early 20s when this happened and on the verge of starting college.
Eventually, she broke free and received help from a friend. That friend, who took a “45-minute course” about human trafficking and is now a social worker, was the first person who realized Bell was a victim.
“My parents tried hard to help me— but everyone was trying to help me with the wrong thing,” she recalled. “Everyone was trying to help me fix something I had done.”
It was a huge relief. At that moment, Bell realized it wasn’t her fault, that she wasn’t alone and help was available. She encouraged the audience to reach out to anyone they might know in a similar situation. She also told them to forget the preconceived notions they might have about sex workers. Often in the media, these women are depicted as tied up, wearing ropes, chains and handcuffs.
But in reality, all that traffickers need is psychological control. “There’s no need to tie them up,” said Bell.
Her message was that anyone can become a victim and that knowledge is power. Now, Bell works for Voice Found, a charitable organization “committed to the prevention of child sex abuse and commercial sexual exploitation.”
There she co-founded The Hope Found Project in 2016. It utilizes a “trauma-informed approach” to help victims in Eastern Ontario. Other presenters at the event, which was hosted by MPP Laurie Scott, included members of Kawartha/Haliburton Victim Services and an OPP officer with the crime unit. Patricia Walshe of Minden said she first found out about human trafficking from people she knows in Peterborough, a city in which it happens, If it can happen there, women from Haliburton County can be impacted, she learned.
“It is hard for me to believe that this is an issue in Haliburton County. Am I the only one in the county who is surprised about this?”
To access 24/7 support, call 1-800-574-4401 or visit victim-services.org
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.