Antigone writer Nicole Perry recently interviewed Jacqui Linder, the Founder and Executive Director of The Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network. The Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network offers a national 24-7 trauma counselling line for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. She is an Associate Professor and senior administrator at City University in Edmonton. Jacqui consults for Alberta’s Action Coalition on Human Trafficking as well as other agencies supporting trafficked and exploited victims. Jacqui is also the former Chair of the Community Voices Against Sexual Violence coalition.

According to your website, The Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network is “a non-governmental organization designed to provide free counselling and emergency support services for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation across Canada. Chrysalis also focuses on re/victimization prevention through a variety of youth and community oriented education initiatives”. Can you tell us more about your prevention efforts?

Our prevention efforts are focused on helping to educate youth regarding the techniques that traffickers use to lure young people into the commercial sex industry. For example, gift-giving is a common ploy used by traffickers where they promise ipods, computers, clothing, fun trips etc. to girls in exchange for a few hours of their time. Often they will assume the role of a caring boyfriend to gain the victim’s trust and then force her into the sex industry either through manipulation or physical threats.

Speaking of prevention efforts, Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network, along with Stop the Traffik Canada, is also in the midst of organizing a really exciting event called Freedom Relay Canada. Can you tell us about what you hope to do with this event?

Freedom Relay Canada’s has three main objectives. The first is to raise national public awareness on the issue of human trafficking. Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that Canada is known as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking with approximately two thousand international victims being trafficked into and through Canada each year. Statistics for domestically trafficked victims are currently unknown. We also hope to raise funds on behalf of victims of human trafficking both in Canada and abroad. Forty percent of the funds raised will go towards prevention and recovery initiatives in source countries currently feeding Canada’s human trafficking industry while sixty percent of the funds will be directed towards national and provincial projects. Finally, this is the first human trafficking initiative in Canada to involve multiple provincial partners working together as a national team. The project will strengthen inter-provincial ties with anti-human trafficking organizations across the county and help pave the way for a national action plan on human trafficking which does not currently exist.

I think a lot of people might be surprised to hear that human trafficking is such a large-scale and diverse problem in Canada. What do you think are some of the major myths or outdated ideas that our society is still holding on to around human trafficking?

1) That it doesn’t happen in a nice country like ours.

2) That all women in the commercial sex industry are there by choice.

3) That there’s no real harm being done when, in fact, the mental health fall-out from this profession is tremendous.

What inspired the decision to work in this area?

I am a trauma psychologist specializing in the treatment of complex posttraumatic stress disorder. Victims of human trafficking are trauma survivors that often present with a range of mental health disorders. Unfortunately, they are severely underserved with little or no access to professional counselling. I was inspired to start the Chrysalis Network’s 24-7crisis line after doing a talk on trauma neurobiology at a human trafficking conference organized by law enforcement personnel.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Funding is always a challenge for NGOs but particularly for those of us working in human trafficking which has only recently been officially recognized as a human rights issue in Canada.

What do you think is the role of the community/police/media in preventing human trafficking and/or supporting those affected?

Our primary roles are to protect those at risk, rescue those who are being harmed and then give them the opportunity to heal and fully re-integrate into society. Police are best positioned to do the rescuing, the community is best positioned to provide long-term support, and media is best positioned to keep the issue front and centre in the public consciousness.

What’s the role of the average citizen?

To pay attention to the possible signs of human trafficking in their own communities. Eg notice and report odd things like the house filled with foreign women down the street and different cars coming and going at all hours.

What is your dream for women?

I have the same dream for women that I have for all human beings – that they be safe, well and free from harm with the opportunity to follow their own life dreams and, with any luck, leave the world a kinder, gentler place.