*Trigger warning* The following stories may be triggering for some readers. Discretion is advised.
Here are a few examples to illustrate how this can happen:
I was 15 when Sean first messaged me on Facebook. I was flattered when he told me how pretty I was. He was good looking, and older, which I thought was exciting.
Two weeks later, we met at the mall, and I was surprised that he didn’t look much like his picture, and that he was a lot older. I didn’t want to say anything in case it upset him, and there was no way I was going to tell my parents.
Despite feeling weird, I kept seeing Sean. He really liked me and wanted to be together all the time. He wanted me to skip school and stop seeing my friends. He even wanted me to call him every hour when we were apart. It started making me uncomfortable, but he was so nice, buying me presents all the time and telling me he loved me.
The first time Sean became really angry was when I forgot to call him on time, and things only got worse. One night, he told me that if I really loved him, I would sleep with his friend. He said the guy would pay us money, and I owed him for all the nice things he bought me.
I felt like I had no choice – I was scared, but I loved Sean, and he did buy me all those gifts.
I was so nervous and scared about having sex with some strange guy, so Sean gave me some pills to make things easier. Afterwards, I was so upset I told him it was over. That was the first time Sean hit me. He said that I was his, and I would do exactly what he told me to.
I felt like I had nowhere to turn – I was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell my family or my friends or ask for help. So I stayed with Sean for another two years. I had no idea that my family had reported me missing and were searching for me. I was forced into sex work, and I became addicted to drugs and alcohol.
I was finally able to escape and rebuild my life after I spoke to a doctor at the clinic. She referred me to a shelter and some organizations that helped me, and I reunited with my family.
Looking back, I wished I had trusted my instincts when I first met Sean and felt uncomfortable, and that I had reached out for help earlier.
I met him at a bus stop. I thought it was weird because he started talking to me, which doesn’t happen in Vancouver. It was like being back in my home town, except for the bus stop – my town was way too small for buses.
So we talked and we ended up exchanging snap accounts. He told me I was pretty and that I was his girlfriend. I believed him. He bought me nice clothes, designer bags, booze, and he even got me high. I finally felt like I belonged and I was so in love.
One day, he said he was out of money and that if we were going to have a life together, I had to work. He wanted me to have sex for money. I thought it would be just a few times, but he started keeping all my money and told me I couldn’t stop. He knew everything about me and threatened my family – and worse: to tell them what I was doing for money.
Eventually, he was arrested for something and I took my chance and ran away. I got help and now I’m rebuilding my life.
I was introduced to these guys by a friend, who said they were offering a job making easy money. All I had to do was send photos of myself. I did and they paid me.
At first the photos were innocent, but then they asked me to do sexier shots. I hid my face and got my money.
This went on for a while, but I wanted to make some quick cash. We decided to meet, as they had another job offer for me. They said I could make a lot more money – that I was sexy and I could make a killing. I could set my own schedule and only work when I wanted, and I would be protected.
That’s when they started giving me booze and drugs to make it easier. They posted ads of me and determined when I worked and who I saw. They took a cut of my pay, and then took almost the rest, claiming they would save it for me. They didn’t care if I didn’t want to do something – they controlled what I did or didn’t do. I needed permission to buy new clothes or go to the corner store. All they cared about was money.
When I asked for my savings, they said I did not deserve it. When I wanted to leave, they said I needed to pay an exiting fee. I’m still struggling to get by, but I’m finally out.