Local organizations partner on human trafficking, sexual violence

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington (CSGW) and Victim Services Wellington will join Wellington County OPP in creating and implementing awareness programs and training on human trafficking and sexual violence and harassment.

A recently-announced Community Safety And Policing Grant will have tangible outcomes that residents of the County of Wellington will see throughout the two-year initiative, officials say.

A two-pronged approach will be developed: one for the training of officers that includes trauma-informed training and unconscious bias training; another for community awareness that ranges from workshops on consent and healthy relationships to community education and reporting of these crimes.

A full awareness campaign under the banner of We Stand With You #WSWU will be developed for broadcast and print media, along with social media campaigns and digital engagement.

The three organizations will draw from a variety of community organizations to fully represent the resources within the community and illustrate the supports available to survivors.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to work with our service partners to combat an issue that impacts our community – specifically, human trafficking and sexual violence,” said Wellington County OPP Inspector Paul Richardson. “We appreciate the support from the Province of Ontario to tackle these issues with education and awareness.”

The grant had input from both Victim Services Wellington and Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington, in addition to other community service organizations. The combination of strengths and experiences will make for a well rounded and “Made In Wellington” strategy, officials say.

“The more common strategy in rural areas to lure victims is what police call the ‘Romeo’ traffickers. This is where the traffickers build trust and a relationship with the victims,” said Elizabeth Kent, executive director of Victim Services Wellington.

“This is in contrast to urban centres, which are more likely to see victims forced into human trafficking. This Community Safety and Policing Grant gives us the opportunity to educate police, parents, teachers and children over the next two years.”

CSGW program coordinator Sarah Bowers-Peter. said, “We are proud to work with Wellington County OPP and Victim Services Wellington as an active and engaged organization that prides itself on crime prevention and resolution.

“We have witnessed a shift within the community, and even though human trafficking and sexual violence are vastly under-reported, we know that the initiatives we are developing will help reduce the number of people drawn into these crimes because of lack of knowledge, and aid in stopping these crimes sooner as a result of a community that is understanding of what the crimes actually look like.”

Announcements regarding specific initiatives and awareness opportunities will be made in the coming weeks, states a Feb. 9 press release from CSGW.