EXIT Sex-Trafficking Program (EXploitation Intervention + Transition)

The Cause

The EXploitation Intervention & Transition (EXIT) Program serves victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking by providing supports for women and girls seeking to escape victimization in the sex trade. The program contributes to the healing and recovery of victims of sex trafficking, while preventing further sexual exploitation/violence and involvement in associated criminal activities like drug trafficking and gangs.

The EXIT Program is a proven, trauma-informed model delivered as a wraparound three-phase continuum of services starting with stabilization services to support victims of sexual exploitation, moving to supportive life skills development to ensure victims do not return to exploitative situations or criminal involvement, and concluding with follow-up support in the community to ensure long-term avoidance of sexual exploitation and criminal involvement.
Exploiters such as pimps and gangs often maintain their power over sexually exploited women and girls using violence and fear, and these exploiters stand to lose significant power and money when victims break free (Matthews et al, 2014). Escaping sexual exploitation thus often involves high risk violent situations and significant danger for victims. Currently, the EXIT Program is lacking a key component to confront this reality – rapid-exit safe housing for victims to seek immediate safety, shelter, and support as they exit the sex trade.

We are proposing an intake EXIT program (i-EXIT) that would provide rapid-exit housing and immediate supports for women and girls seeking to escape the victimization of sexual exploitation. The i-EXIT Program would include three beds at a secure location where victims could stay when fleeing the danger, violence, and control of the sex trade. There, victims would be safe from harm and would receive immediate basic needs (e.g. food), medical, mental health, legal, and addictions supports to directly address their most immediate needs.

The i-EXIT Program would seamlessly connect Participants to the established three-phase EXIT Program once their safety and immediate needs are addressed and they have mapped out a plan for restorative action. i-EXIT will add an essential component to our already effective EXIT Program, supporting safe and successful exit from the sex trade, recovery from sexual victimization, reconciliation with the community, and rehabilitation that ensures the avoidance of future victimization and/or criminal involvement.

Who Will it Benefit?

The i-EXIT Program seeks to enable the safety and recovery women and girls age 16+ who are victims of sexual exploitation and to prevent further criminal involvement of women who have been involved in the sex trade by reconciling participants with their communities. Calgary Police Service has estimated that as many as 3,000 women and girls in Calgary are experiencing sexual exploitation (Ramsay, 2014).

Since most women become involved in sexual exploitation at a very young age (13-14) (McIntyre, 2002), sex trade becomes an entrenched mode of survival making exiting very difficult. Survival often involves not only sex trade, but drug trade, theft, and violence. Once entrenched in the trade, victims of sexual exploitation are often driven by their persecutors to take an active part in perpetrating exploitation and other criminal offenses over time (La lacono, 2014). Women often face severe addictions and fear violence from pimps and gangs who use coercive measures to ensure they stay involved in the sex trade and gang activities (Matthews et al, 2014).

RESET Society is the only organization in Calgary currently providing a long-term recovery program for sexually exploited women. The i-EXIT Program will provide a safe and immediate entry point into recovery and rehabilitation services for women and girls fleeing sexual exploitation. The program will include three secure spaces in a safe location and basic needs supports to ensure women and girls are safe from danger and have their immediate needs met when exiting the sex trade, allowing them to focus on recovery and reconciliation with their communities. i-EXIT will be connected to the RESET EXIT Program to ensure seamless entry into a continuum of long-term trauma-informed recovery supports for victims. The program will also act as a rapid response option for police and service providers to ensure the victims of sexual exploitation that they encounter can be immediately protected from danger and connected to effective services that promote their long-term recovery. We will work closely with police to address the complex legal situations of participants while enabling reconciliation with the community.

Many women who enter the sex trade are vulnerable due to racialized marginalisation. On average 30% of our Participants are of Aboriginal descent and we ensure the EXIT program is safe, relevant and empathetic to their unique cultural backgrounds.