The Chrysalis Network is a non-governmental organization designed to provide free counselling and emergency support services for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation across Canada. If you or someone you know need to talk, the anti-trafficking hotline number is 1 866 528 7109. I asked Jacqui Linder, the founder and executive director of the Chrysalis Network, to answer some questions about her work.
Early childhood abuse and interpersonal trauma set the stage for exploitation and trafficking by making people vulnerable to predation by traffickers. This is because people with histories of abuse and addiction often have low self-esteem, core shame and a number of other mental health issues that make them particularly easy to control and manipulate.
Why is it important for people to hear the stories in this video?
Typically, the conversation around human trafficking in Canada takes place within the context of statistics and dollar figures. While such numbers are important, they fail to communicate the depths of pain and suffering experienced by victims of trauma in general and human trafficking in particular. Lexi, Diane and Phil’s stories put powerful human faces unto what I believe are Canada’s very own version of the “Disappeared” within our society.
If someone calls The Chrysalis Network, what can they expect?
Chrysalis offers LGBTQA-friendly supportive trauma counselling to trafficked and exploited women and men along with referrals to partner organizations across Canada who can assist them on the ground.
What is it like to talk to someone on the phone who is a victim of sexual exploitation? Is it difficult?
It is both a painful and humbling experience. You’ve never met a braver human being than someone who has been utterly degraded and violated in body and soul yet is determined to hold on to life and hope, even if only by a thread. The callers on the Chrysalis line are some of the most courageous people I have ever met in all my work as a trauma psychologist.
Do you have a story you’d like to share of someone finding help through your work?
I had a beautiful conversation a few weeks ago with a young man in Ontario who is currently in the commercial sex industry. He was trafficked into the industry by his step-mother who sexually abused him. We talked about his loneliness, isolation and shame as well as the fact that he’s not sure he even knows how to live outside this dark Underworld.
He told me about the degradation he has experienced in the business as well as the exhilaration he sometimes feels with certain activities such as stripping. Then we spoke of love and the fact that he has never been in love. He’s been touched by many women but never cherished by them. He knows about physical pleasure but knows nothing of human tenderness. He knows about physical intimacy but knows nothing about emotional trust. As we spoke, he came to the realization that, in many ways, he is still reenacting his early sexual abuse history with women much like his step-mother. He was orphaned after the death of his biological parents and the one adult who was left to protect him preyed on his young body and mind instead. Fifteen years later, the game is still in play . . .
If you could tell people one thing about the Crysalis Network that they might not know, what would it be?
Chrysalis is 100% volunteer run and operated. That means that 95% of all funds raised by or for our organization go directly to victims either by keeping the crisis line going or by going into our tiny victim rescue fund, which can be accessed by partner agencies across Canada. The other 5% of funds goes to pay for our insurance and occasional printing costs.
What do you think is the best way to reduce vulnerability?
Protect kids. Teach them that they are loved and worthwhile. Teach them to believe in themselves. Encourage them to follow their dreams. People with high self-esteem, strong social supports and a deep feeling of empowerment do not tend to become victims of human trafficking. For those adult children that we have already failed as a society, all we can do now is step-up, take responsibility and rescue as many as we can.
You can check out the Chrysalis Network website and support their work by participating in the Freedom Rally in September. Jacqui, thank you for the work that you do, and for your deep compassion for those who are falling through the cracks.