She was trafficked twice in a year
In less than a year, a 24-year-old Sudbury woman was trafficked into the sex trade twice. Now, she’s sharing her story.
“You have no hope,” Jocelyn said of her experience, “Going through a day without attempting suicide, that’s what I was proud of, like I made it another day. Every day I was so suicidal. I didn’t think that I had anything to live for. And how bad it got, I thought that there was no turning back.”
Jocelyn was first trafficked in Sudbury in late 2017, after attending a party where she got drunk and passed out. She woke up in a strange apartment with a strange man. While she was there she was drugged and assaulted.
She managed to escape, but it happened again less than a year later. After not hearing from her daughter for about a week, Jocelyn’s mother Cheryl received a simple yet terrifying text: “I need help.”
After calling Jocelyn, the shelters, and anyone who might have seen her with no success for a week, Cheryl turned to the police, but she says they wouldn’t take her seriously.
“The police basically said, ‘ah, she’s probably just out partying. Don’t worry about it,’” she said, “It’s a real issue because it’s happening with a lot of missing girls. It’s more predominant with missing Indigenous women.”
She says police wouldn’t take a missing person’s report because she didn’t have an address from which they could report her missing.
But Cheryl knew her daughter. “Although she had a pretty risky lifestyle, she always kept in contact with me. Even when she was using.”
The search was delayed as Cheryl convinced police to take her report and start looking.
After a few weeks of searching, Jocelyn was found. She’d been trafficked for a second time.
Due to the ongoing nature of Jocelyn’s case, the full details of her story aren’t included here. The Star also isn’t releasing her last name to protect her case and ensure her safety, even though she was willing to release it.
But Jocelyn and her mom wanted to share her experience to bring awareness to an important fact: trafficking can happen to anyone.
“I could show you pictures of Jocelyn growing up,” Cheryl said, “She had a pony when she was four years old. She’s an accomplished violinist. We didn’t live in low-income housing and she was never exposed to that kind of stuff. It can happen to anybody. I never thought in a million years that it would happen to me.”
Jocelyn was an honour roll pre-law student before all this. She says despite other challenges in her life, she’d been on the right track.
“We were doing really good. It didn’t take that long for me to get pulled into the drug scene.”
Jocelyn said addiction has played a significant role in her experience, as well as her recovery. The trauma she experienced only heightened the issue. Her withdrawal symptoms, along with a lack of support and housing, made it difficult to resist turning to drugs.
She says once you’ve been there, it’s too easy to go back.
“Because you’ve already been there. You know how you can say ‘I’ve never done it, so I’m never going to do that, I’ve never done that before.’ It’s so easy to be like, well, I’ve done that before, so you know, whatever. When no, you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t ever do that.”
Jocelyn is clean now, and with the support of local organizations and her mom, she’s making progress. She is currently accessing services through Angels of Hope.
Ontario is a hotbed for human trafficking, with two-thirds of all cases reported in the province, according to Statistics Canada. Most of those cases involve sex trafficking.
Indigenous women like Jocelyn are especially at risk.
For Cheryl, talking about what happened to her daughter is deeply emotional.
“There’s an innocence that’s been lost with my child and she’ll never get it back,” said Cheryl. “I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. I don’t think my daughter will ever be the same. Like, every day is a struggle to feel peace, because she’s at risk for so many things and I just … every day I wake up thinking about her and every day I go to bed thinking about her.”
Jocelyn is currently on the waiting list for a bed at Deborah’s Gate in B.C., which provides programming and housing with 24/7 support for human trafficking survivors. A few of these long-term programs exist across Canada, but there are none in Northern Ontario, which Jocelyn and Cheryl said makes survivors more vulnerable to relapse.
“The waiting time is too long. And while they’re waiting, they’re more at risk,” said Cheryl.
She said Jocelyn would sometimes go to women’s shelters, but couldn’t bring herself to stay.
“For her, every vehicle that slows down, that had tinted windows and men in the car, was someone trying to get her. So she would bolt. And the only place she could go was these trap house and you know, she’d try to remain clean, and then the things that would happen to her, she would do the drugs to numb out the trauma that she went through.”
Cheryl also said that the language needs to change for missing persons updates that involve trafficking survivors.
She said that when Jocelyn was found after she was trafficked, it was reported that she was found safe. Because of that, people criticized her for making her family worry. But Cheryl said that Jocelyn was never safe.
“Saying stuff like that just leads the public to believe that nothing really happened and what will happen is people will view missing persons notices not really that seriously. Because most of these girls have been found ‘safe’, so to speak.”
Cheryl doesn’t want anyone to go through what her daughter went through, and she hopes sharing her story will help. “For me, it’s literally about raising awareness that it is there, it is real. For parents to talk to their children, to their girls, and boys for that matter, about being safe.”
She added, “It’s so heart-wrenching because there’s so many girls at risk, and there are so many girls right now that are lost, into this system, into that life, you know? I was fortunate enough that I had my family and the support of my community behind me in looking for my daughter. What about the families that don’t? Where are their girls?”
Jocelyn’s journey is far from over, but despite the challenges of her ongoing recovery, she is working hard for a better life.
“Everyone deserves a good life. Or at least a chance to make their life better,” Jocelyn said. “I f–ked up for two years. Some people are in addiction for like, 10, 15 years. I know myself? I’m never going to judge people ever in my life again. Now I’m 110 per cent sure that … I’m not using. I’m just done.”