Human trafficking is a reality for hundreds of girls right here in Canada. The truth is, 90% of human trafficking victims in Canada were born here and it was only recognized as a criminal offence back in 2005, because it is so hard to track.
Girls and women who have been sold into the sex industry are now reclaiming their identity from “victim” to “survivor.” Markie Dell, a now 26-year old woman is finally getting to tell her story…
Dell is a human trafficking survivor. She was once just a regular 19-year old Canadian teenager, living in Hamilton and working a minimum wage job. One day her co-workers invited her to Toronto for a night out clubbing. Dell accepted, and all was fine until the next morning. On the way home, one of Dell’s co-workers said she owed her $600. Dell was shocked by the amount and revealed that she did not have the money. It was then that the co-worker dropped Dell off at a strip club and was told to make her the money.
Through a series of threats, Dell entered the club and became one of Canada’s trafficked. She thought, “Ok, I’ll make this money for her and it will be over.’ I went in and told people, ‘I’m new, I don’t want to do this,’ but no one cared.” This was Dell’s life for the next 8 months. She worked all hours, day and night, shipped from strip club to strip club, and all the money she made was given to her pimps.
Dell remembers back to when taking hardcore drugs was a way to help her cope through each shift. “I completely adapted to my situation and I became this girl that was so ashamed of myself that I covered it up with drugs. Like customers would give you drugs, you’re making that money so instead of a customer paying you, you’re like ‘hey I need drugs to get through this,’ and you’re so numb to it.” At the beginning, Dell just stripped but eventually, she learned that she had to bare all and sexually exploit herself to make the said $1000 each day that she was told to make.
One day, Dell worked up the courage to escape her living nightmare. After talking to a client who she thought to be harmless, Dell ran out of the club almost naked and into the awaiting car. Unfortunately, this escape was far from freedom. This man who Dell trusted rented a motel room for a month and kept her there to have sex with her twice a day.
Dell had to work up the courage again to escape. She called an ex-boyfriend from Hamilton to pick her up and she finally felt safe again. Again, this ex-boyfriend dropped Dell off at another strip club in Hamilton to make him money. Her cycle of human trafficking ended with the police rescuing her and taking her away to a safe house.
Finally, Dell’s nightmare was over, but her recovery was a long road ahead. “It took a lot of years trying to rebuild myself. I went back to school but for so many years, I was suicidal, it just, I stopped being suicidal probably like 5 months ago, like it hasn’t been easy. Not at all.”
It took Dell time to realize that the embarrassment and shame she was feeling was not her fault, “Other girls are going through this and I always knew that, but I had so much shame and I was so embarrassed of what I let myself get into and that’s how I looked at it before but now that I’ve grown, and I see it in a different way.”
It’s been 9 years and Dell is finally ready to be a “tool of empowerment for young girls.” The average age of exploitation is 13 years old and when asked what her advice would be for these girls, Dell spoke directly from experience.
“I would say to trust your gut instinct and to never ever let anyone force you to do something if you’re not comfortable like if their telling you, you need to this for them, I’d say don’t let anyone push you to do something because your gut is always, always right.”