Fernie Secondary students have been schooled in ways to protect themselves from child sex traffickers.
Cathy Peters is an expert on the topic and addressed Grade 7-12 students, parents and teachers at Fernie Secondary School last Thursday at the special request of Mayor Mary Giuliano.
“I think it’s an important message for kids to be aware of,” said principal Linda Christenson.
Peters is a former secondary school teacher who has dedicated the past five years to raising awareness about human trafficking, which she describes as “modern day slavery” affecting between 100,000 to 200,000 children across Canada.
“You are an army that can stop this crime that is growing so fast here in Canada and it’s targeting your age group,” Peters told students.
“I’ve learned about the crime of human sex trafficking and child sex trafficking, that is the buying and selling of women and children for sex, and that’s what I want to stop in British Columbia.”
Peters said the digital world made it easier for children to fall victim to traffickers.
“With one click of a device you can end up in very dark places and meet a world of strangers,” she warned.
Students and parents watched two short films about real-life victims of child sexual exploitation in the UK.
They were also given ways to protect themselves.
Peters urged students to be wary of anything that required secrecy and not to get involved in “sexting”.
“Never send nude pictures online, you can never retrieve them,” she said.
“They are also considered child pornography, which is illegal.”
Her second piece of advice was to get help with any issues they were currently dealing with.
“Recruiters look for victims that are struggling, by getting help you reduce your risk,” she said.
Thirdly, students should always come forward with information about traffickers.
“They’re criminals, not you… Find someone you trust to tell,” said Peters.
Pornography goes hand in hand with human trafficking, according to Peters, who warned students not to watch it.
“Porn is highly addictive and will completely twist and destroy your views of men and women’s relationships,” she said.
Peters also presented to delegates at the 2018 Association of Kootenay & Boundary Local Governments Convention on Thursday.
Fernie Secondary students and parents will receive more internet and social media safety training when educators from the Victoria-based company, The White Hatter, visits the school on May 9.