Youth support organization says it needs more government help to fight sexual exploitation

Thrive executive director Angela Crockwell says there's a lot of work to do in Newfoundland and Labrador to stop youth sexual exploitation.  (Katie Breen/CBC - image credit)
Thrive executive director Angela Crockwell says there's a lot of work to do in Newfoundland and Labrador to stop youth sexual exploitation. (Katie Breen/CBC - image credit)
Katie Breen/CBC
Katie Breen/CBC

Youth support organization Thrive is calling on the Newfoundland and Labrador government for more funding to help combat youth sexual exploitation in the province.

In a new report, released Tuesday by its Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Youth, the organization examined the prevalence of youth sexual exploitation in the province and outlined its concerns.

"There is a recognition, particularly of community-based agencies that are working on the ground that are engaging with young people in their communities, that this is a significant issue," said Thrive executive director Angela Crockwell.

"We have a lot of work to do in this province on this issue."

The report compiles information from discussions with service providers and people who have experienced exploitation as well as online surveys for the general public and those who work with youth.

Crockwell said she wants to see the provincial government take a leadership role in dealing with the issue and also boost funding to front-line groups.

Katie Breen/CBC
Katie Breen/CBC

"We're asking specifically for them to create a cross-departmental committee that also engages folks with lived experience, Indigenous communities, racialized communities, folks with disabilities, rural and remote, and have really broad representation and create some kind of mandate and strategy to move forward," she said.

"Right now, there really isn't any at the provincial level and communities are really trying to do their very best that they can but we're stretched as thin as you can only imagine."

Some respondents said a culture of silence is one of the biggest problems in dealing with youth sexual exploitation, with some people afraid to speak up about an experience or even to discuss the problem.

"We've heard repeatedly of a 'don't ask, don't tell' mindset and the significant denialism about the exploitation of young people in our province," she said.

"It's my hope that this report creates meaningful change and we start to have open and honest conversations about the sexual exploitation that is occurring throughout our province."

Some respondents said there's a lack of resources within their communities to handle exploitation cases.

"People spoke about the lack of support available to them in their time of need, especially in rural and remote communities," said Crockwell.

The CASEY report listed recommendations for the government, including additional funding, training and staff, and long-term poverty reduction measures.

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