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Human Sexual Trafficking

Definition: Human Sexual Trafficking is a form of slavery. It happens when human beings are sold and bought for the purposes of sexual exploitation. It includes people (mostly women and girls) being recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received. These actions are accomplished by means of force, the threat of force, or other forms of coercion. Trafficking can happen across international borders or within them. It is always involuntary because even when consent is achieved, it is through some form of fraud, deception, abduction/kidnapping
or abuse of power/vulnerability. (Adapted from the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, 2000.    Although there are numerous forms of human trafficking, The Salvation Army used the term human sexual trafficking, because we focus on trafficking for the purpose of Sexual exploitation.)

History of The Salvation Army’s Provision of Services to Victims of Sexual Exploitation And Trafficking

The Salvation Army is a faith-based organization built on Biblical principles and dedicated to providing practical and immediate services to those in need, as an expression of God’s love. Since its inception, The Salvation Army has worked in communities around the world to address problems associated with exploited persons. Importantly, the provision of services for women who were sexually exploited through prostitution was a seminal area of attention for The Salvation Army.

The term “human trafficking” was not commonly used in the late 1880’s. However, William Booth, the founder, was one of the first to recognize the need to intervene in the repulsive, violent, and crime-infested living conditions that contributed to the ever-present sexual and labour exploitation of persons in the poorest areas of London. So inspired to reach those seen as society’s disposable persons, he embarked on a crusade of rescue and restoration of those exploited in the streets. Booth’s campaign of rescue and restoration was an opportunity for persons, sexually exploited on the streets, along with non-trafficked prostituted persons, to find a place of refuge for personal and spiritual restoration.
Florence Booth, daughter-in-law of founding member William Booth had begun to advocate for women who were being bought into slavery. Many people, including her husband thought she was exaggerating until in 1885 a girl appeared on the doorstep of the Salvation Army headquarters, telling Bramwell Booth her story of escaping the night before from a prostitution house.
The Salvation Army advocated on behalf of this enslaved population and their powerless families. Soldiers of the Salvation Army collected 393,000 signatures and influenced the British Parliament to change the age of consent to 16, at the time virtually stopping the intercontinental traffic in girls.
Florence Booth has been credited for starting the Army’s work in Women’s Social Work.

William Booth on Trafficking

“Now something must be done, and some- body must do it. Thank God, The Salvation Army never sees an evil without asking the question, “Can anything be done to remove it?” One of its strong principles is that the straight way to destroy the branches is to go at the root; to deal efficiently with the effect is to do away with the cause. It is good to rescue the poor things out of the gulf when they have got in, but if we can prevent them from getting in, it will be better still. What can we do?”    - The General’s Letter, The War Cry, 1885

Recognizing Human Trafficking

A victim of trafficking may look like many of the people you help every day. You can help trafficking victims get the assistance they need by looking beneath the surface for the following clues. Many of the indicators for trafficked persons are similar to those identifying women who are being abused by their partners. Discovering these indicators does not necessarily mean that the person has been trafficked, but it may be the case:

  • Evidence of being controlled (rarely alone, seems to be under constant surveillance, isolated or cut off from family and friends)
  • Evidence of inability to move or leave a job.  Bruises or other signs of battering (both physical and non-physical)
  • Fear or depression.
  • Newcomer to Canada/Non-English speaking
  • Lack of passport, immigration or identification documents

Suggested Screening Questions

In a respectful way, speak with the person privately and confidentially. The person they came with could be a trafficker posing as a spouse/boyfriend, family member or interpreter. Interpreters must be screened carefully, to ensure there is no conflict of interest. Preference is to use an interpreter that you either personally know or hire.
Has your identification or documentation been taken from you? Can you leave your job or situation if you want?

  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been threatened if you try to leave?
  • Have you been physically harmed in any way?
  • What are your working or living condi- tions like?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Do you sleep in a bed, on a cot or on the floor?
  • Have you ever been deprived of food, water, sleep or medical care?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom?
  • Are there locks on your doors and windows so you cannot get out?
  • Has anyone threatened your family?
  • Is anyone forcing you to do anything that you do not want to do?

Needs of a Trafficked Person

Physical: Safety, shelter, health care, potential need for addictions treatment.

Emotional/Psychological: trust, self-esteem, freedom from fear/guilt/shame, trauma counseling, potential need for mental health care.

Social: culturally appropriate, education and employment training, financial options, social activities, family reconciliation.

Spiritual: Connection/re-connection with faith and hope.
Each person, regardless of their background, occupation, lifestyle, race, class, culture or gender possesses human dignity, and therefore deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and compassion. We should never forget that people who have been trafficked possess both human dignity and enormous reserves of strength and capabilities.

Reporting Trafficking

If you suspect someone has been trafficked and may be in danger call 911
and/or the RCMP (1-800-387-0020). To make a report anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
For more information visit:

Ways You Can Help

Pray for a country where trafficking takes place: that governments will make laws, which stop people being able to traffic other human beings; for the people who do the trafficking, that God will change their hearts and they will stop abusing others; that God’s people will take a stand and speak out about this issue whenever they can.

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1 NIV

Poverty is one contributing factor towards human trafficking. Pray for people in need. “When you’re kind to the poor, you honour God.” Proverbs 14:31

Sometimes people who are trafficked are made dependent on drugs to keep them vulnerable and in need. Ask God to break chains in people’s lives. Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. If the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.” John 8:34, 26 The Message

Pray for people who have been trafficked into the sex industry, that they would be set free and discover their true worth. “What’s the price of two or three canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And He pays even    greater    attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head. So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” Luke 12: 6, 7 The Message

Pray for young people and children who have been caught in domestic slavery or child labour. Ask God to provide a way out for them. “But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple, do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 The Message

Pray for people who have been trafficked and have lost their identity, that they would be rescued and given the change to start again. “This is my son, chosen and marked by My love, delight of My life.” Matthew 3:17, The Message

Make a commitment to: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31: 8,9 NIV