It’s fine to do something based on free and informed choice. But when someone agrees to sexual acts because they’re being blackmailed or threatened, that’s sexual violence.
When someone profits—for instance, money or prestige—by using another person’s sexuality, without their consent or consideration for their wellbeing, that’s sexual exploitation.
A person may be looking for more independence or to break their isolation, or they may have to get away from a violent home or need money fast. Their needs or desires can then be twisted by someone in order to manipulate them. There’s no single profile of a victim or single type of situation.
An ill-intentioned person can try to convince their victim that their relationship is:
- a business relationship, but will force them to sleep with strangers to pay back a debt;
- an intimate relationship, but will sell the sex tape that they filmed together, without their consent;
- a friendship, but will force them to dance in front of others every night in order to obtain drugs.
These are just a few examples of situations of sexual exploitation. However, they all have one thing is common—the victim is never to blame.
Situations of sexual exploitation are often very complex. In some instances, just one person is exploiting the victim, but in others an entire organized crime network is involved. Victims are blackmailed, manipulated and abused physically and sexually. They can end up cornered, with no money, nowhere to live, and no identity papers.
The victim is trapped in a situation of violence and total control. And trying to get out of it could put them in even greater danger. Their safety is the priority.
It often takes several attempts to escape sexual exploitation. The situation also affects the victim’s family. Although the victim is often isolated, their friends and family may actively try to help them, with the support of specialized organizations.
Exploitation does not discriminate. Anyone can be a victim of sexual exploitation, just like any other form of sexual violence. However, as a result of systemic discrimination, hypersexualized stereotypes, and lack of services in remote communities, Indigenous women are disproportionately at greater risk of sexual exploitation in Quebec and across Canada.
Sexual exploitation also affects migrants due to their precarious status and isolation. Their vulnerability can be used to blackmail or sexually exploit them.
EVERYONE has the right to support that is safe and respectful.