Walker, executive director of the London (Ontario) Abused Women’s Centre, spoke of the urgency of addressing the problem of the sexual exploitation of women and girls and the violence that so often goes with it.
“We have a major crisis,” she said.
A longtime advocate of women’s equality rights, Walker was one of the panellists during a June 14 session for the general public, part of a two-day event hosted by the Tri-County Women’s Centre.
Panellist Jennifer Holleman, whose daughter Maddison got ensnared in the world of sexualized human trafficking, said it’s important to educate girls about predators who may be looking to lure them into the sex trade. She also stressed that this sort of thing can happen anywhere, that no one should assume otherwise.
Maddison was killed in a car crash two years ago while living out west. The vehicle was driven by a john, Holleman said. A month later the driver died.
Holleman talked about an incident in which Maddison was hospitalized after being beaten and tortured by a group of men.
Said Walker, referring to Holleman going public with Maddison’s story, “I’m very inspired by her courage.”
Linda MacDonald, an RN and activist and another of the panel members, said torture likely is a bigger part of prostitution than most people realize.
“That’s a horrible reality that we have to grapple with,” she said.
Detective Inspector Simon Häggström of the National Swedish Police Force, another of the panellists, said fighting sexualized human trafficking opened his eyes to a dark side of humanity. Prostitutes in Europe tend to come from the poorest countries, he said, and it’s some of the richest men who take advantage of them.
He noted that prostitution also is very lucrative for the criminals behind it. While an illicit drug supply has to be replenished as the product is sold, he said, a prostitute can be used over and over.
“Prostitution hurts everybody,” he said. “It hurts all of society.”
Ultimately, he said, the solution is for men to stop buying sex, to put an end to the demand. (Collaborating to End Demand was billed as the theme of the June 14-15 Yarmouth event.)
Another issue raised during Wednesday’s community session was Internet pornography, which is said to be more graphic and violent than ever, offering viewers – including children – a distorted view of sex.
Walker said kids, on average, reportedly start watching porn at the age of 11. “That’s how they’re learning sex education,” she said.
At its core, though, she said the issue of sexualized human trafficking and exploitation is not about sex. It’s about male violence against women.
Still, when asked after the session if she is hopeful, Walker said she is.
“Every day something happens that moves us one tiny step forward,” she said. “Every day we’re taking some measure towards ultimately achieving women’s equality rights and ending this heinous, horrible crime against women and girls.”