- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

 (Note: Some words and concepts may offend or trigger)

On International Women's Day, I was thinking about those women who, as children and teenagers, were used for the sexual purpose of an adult and over time found the courage to come forward and identify the men who exploited them.

I am not one of these women. Not because I was not sexually exploited as a child. I was. But I never found the path to disclosure.

Human trafficking, acknowledged by authorities to be a growing concern in our communities, includes using another person for one's own personal purpose: “the recruitment and exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person; often sexual exploitation”.

Three male teachers employed by the Bluewater District School Board were charged with sexual exploitation in the past seven years.

The second was released on parole a few months ago after serving one-third of his 22-month sentence. We understand he has returned to his home in Owen Sound, has a job and a small business.

The third teacher went before the Discipline Committee of the Ontario College of Teachers in 2018. He was found to have “entered into an inappropriate relationship with a student and encouraged her to deny the relationship when he became aware that the school was conducting an investigation.” He was given a reprimand by his professional body, but he was not criminally charged until 2019 when a former student, now an adult, found the courage to go to the police.

I have heard these relationships referred to as “affairs”. I have heard the young women who came forward called Lolitas. Sluts. Cock teasers.

As if the power imbalance between girls and their decades-older teachers or coaches were really tipped in her favour, because men are helpless in their presence.

As if these girls had intentionally wielded the overwhelming power of their young bodies and pheromones to strip men of their judgement, professional standards, and family commitments.

These girls were manipulated to lie and to keep the dirty secrets of grown men for months, years, even decades. Those men knew their behaviour was inappropriate and could not be revealed to their wives or friends or employers, and was in fact against Canadian law.

Three young women from our community came to understand this too, and came forward to tell the truth and face their own consequences.

We have discussed this subject before, and the Bluewater School Board provided details of the programs and resources they have put together to address the risks of grooming and sexual abuse and exploitation. They are primarily focussed on the students, their friends, other staff: how to recognize and report sexual grooming, how to support the young people affected. There is little directed at the predators.

We all need to acknowledge that it is not only possible but probable that there are men actively working with young people in our community, waiting for the vulnerable ones.

They need to know that we are watching for them, and their inappropriate behaviour, and that we will not give them sanctuary nor accept their excuses.

Our young people are precious to us and it is our obligation to keep them safe.

We cannot expect them to have the courage of these three young women, to disclose their own abuse.







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