Sexual exploitation is when children and youth under the age of 19, as per the Child, Family, and Community Service Act, are sexually abused for an exchange of basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. It may also extend into an exchange for money and drugs in some instances. Sexual exploitation ties in with sex trafficking/prostitution and pornography, as these are some ways in which a victim may be used for the above-mentioned exchanges.

Sex Trafficking / Prostitution

When someone is forced to sell sex against their will, it is called sex trafficking. You may be astounded to learn that sex trafficking happens all around us. The victims of sex trafficking can come from anywhere and be of any ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

In Canada, it is reported that many of the trafficked victims are coerced by their significant other or close friend to sell themselves for sex. Those who lure and capture victims assume a position of control, where they use violence and psychological manipulation to establish their dominance. In doing so, they subdue and trap the victims. The victim becomes reliant on the trafficker’s queues – they are told when to sleep, eat, and even speak. Because of this, it can be very difficult to escape.

For example, let’s say a teenager is taken from Vancouver and brought to Toronto, where they are now sold for sex in the form of prostitution. Considering the above, even if the victim were to break free of the dominance of their trafficker, they would still be so far from home, likely without an ID and money to help them get back home. As a result, victims are vulnerable to returning to sex trafficking as it is a potential means of food, shelter, and clothing. They may have also been so brainwashed by their trafficker that the lifestyle becomes comfortable. This is known as Stockholm Syndrome, which is a term you might hear in regards to sex trafficking.


Pornography is any sort of media that reveals naked people and/or sexual activity, with intent to cause sexual excitement. Pornography strays from emotional feelings and focuses strictly on the physical body. These days, pornography has become increasingly accessible to youth, which is something that must be addressed.

When one partakes in viewing pornography, it becomes damaging to the brain, relationships, and all of society. Pornography gives us unrealistic expectations of what sex should be, and it can be very easy to become addicted to it. It may begin with a seemingly harmless picture or magazine and move to video, but what happens when that isn’t enough? Someone partaking in pornography who craves more might even resort to prostitution to fulfill their needs. And it doesn’t stop there – pornography is also a cause for poor body image and self-esteem. We may begin to feel uncomfortable in our own bodies since we might not look or act like the people in the pornographic material.

In addition to unrealistic expectations, pornography fails to help those who are on the other side of the camera: the victims. Sex trafficking, which was mentioned above, is a method in which individuals are taken captive and forced into sex. Aside from prostitution, pornography is another industry that victims may be pushed into. If you watch porn, there is a chance that the individual(s) you are viewing did not even want to be on camera – they had no say or control over the matter. Violence and control from the trafficker have kept them suppressed.

What you can do to help

In order to fight against sexual exploitation, there are a few things you can do:

  • Refrain from viewing pornographic media
  • Talk to a trusted adult if someone has made you feel uncomfortable, whether it be showing pornography or making sexual advances without consent
  • Pay attention to some of the symptoms of sex trafficking – the victim is without an ID, has a drug/alcohol addiction, avoids eye contact, shows signs of physical violence, has few personal possessions, has no sense of time, etc.
  • Speak to your local police if you believe you are observing sex trafficking
  • Call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a counsellor

Written by Lindsey Locke | SOS Media Corp | Copywriter