Editor’s Note: Join the CNN Freedom Project on March 14 2017 for #MyFreedomDay – a day-long event when students around the world will be holding events to raise awareness of modern slavery.
More than half of all sex trafficking victims in Canada are indigenous people
The reasons are rooted in a legacy of poverty, racism and abuse
"A whole society is targeting indigenous women and girls," says an indigenous rights advocate
As Lauren Chopek painfully details her story, she does so with the reticence of a survivor, as if somehow remaining silent would have been better.
“I used to blame myself for everything. But, like I, I would say I let them do that to me. I am dirty. It’s my fault,” says Chopek through tears.
But Chopek is finally speaking out, determined to shake the guilt and shame that she knows should stalk her perpetrators instead of her.
“Now I see that I was just a child,” says Chopek, now sitting serenely in a safe house, a healing lodge in rural Manitoba that cradled her in the love and protection she so needed when she escaped her life on the streets.
Now 19, Lauren was just 14 when she was sexually exploited and trafficked for sex in her hometown of Winnipeg. But as an indigenous girl in Canada, her story is hardly rare.
Canada’s indigenous population is very small – just 4% of the population – yet more than 50% of all sex trafficking victims in Canada are indigenous. The reasons are complicated and varied but are ultimately rooted in a legacy of poverty, racism and abuse.
“I was actually making these bad choices for a reason,” explains Chopek. “You know when you experience sexual abuse it’s really confusing. You never know if it’s your fault or is it theirs.”