Educate yourself and your children

Think human trafficking isn’t happening in Atlantic Canada? Think again




SaltWire Network


Looking back, I believe that I can identify a handful of red flags. Why didn’t I see them sooner? My best guess today would be a lack of education about what was actually happening. I do believe things came into fruition after she moved to Alberta. I received photos from one of Maddison’s friends that were posted on “Backpage.” This website was a gateway to prostitution, primarily used by young girls to advertise themselves for sexual services. Little do they know they could soon lose any semblance of control over their own lives. Maddison used a different alias often and never showed her face, but I knew it was her. It was my child. I recognized tattoos in later pictures. I was mortified. When I initially called her out on what it was she was doing, she immediately shut me down. I don’t remember how long I lost contact, but it was too long. At the time, she had my granddaughter with her, and I couldn’t take the chance that I would lose contact with her. So, as difficult as it was for me to do it, I had to act as though I accepted what it was that she was doing. I found myself having daily conversations with her about her safety and well-being, the clients that she had, some of the things that she had done and seen; some were not so hard to listen to, while others were mind-boggling. Maddison worked her way across the country on more than one occasion. She was trafficked in Halifax, Moncton, Brampton, Mississauga, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grand Prairie. I’m certain there’s more. When she wasn’t selling her body, she was stripping. Mother’s Day weekend of 2013, two years before her death, I flew to Grand Prairie, Alta., at Maddison’s request, to pick up Cali Mae and bring her home. She said, “If you don’t come and get her, someone else will take her.” I booked a ticket that night. June 18, 2015, was my last conversation with Maddison. Sadly, it was my choice to make that a conversation of tough love with the hopes that Maddison would put all of the right things into perspective and come home. She never did. On July 8, 2015, Maddison was killed in a horrific car accident in Edmonton. The man driving the car was intoxicated. The man driving the car was a john. BE INFORMED What can I tell you? I don’t know everything about this heinous crime, but what I do know is how it has changed my life and how it destroyed my family. Educate yourself and your children. Maintain an open relationship with your kids and always remember that as difficult as they sometimes can be, communication is so very important. Keep up on their social media. The internet can be a gateway to a life of prostitution without you even realizing it. Lastly, observe the facts, but as you do keep this in mind. The statistics for human trafficking will forever be very far from correct. I’d guess that well over 60 per cent of the young women and boys who are victimized in this way never come forward. Their lives will forever be changed whether they find justice or not. Our capital city of Halifax reported the second highest number of incidents of human trafficking of all Canadian cities. This is 7.5 times higher than the While no single indicator proves that a girl or boy is being trafficked, a combination of these signs should raise red flags: Exhibits a sudden change in behaviour (such as acts in a fearful, anxious, submission or nervous manner and is excessively concerned about displeasing a partner). Is being isolated by a new romantic interest or friend with less and less contact with friends and family. Rarely responds to phone calls and/or messages and disappears for long periods of time. Suddenly has expensive clothing, shoes, nail services, etc. Is involved in a fastmoving relationship where there is a large difference in age or financial status. Is in possession of excess cash outside their financial means. Is dressed in age-inappropriate clothing. Does not have control over their own money, cellphone, or ID. Has visible scars or injuries, such as bruises around the wrists or cigarette burns on their arms or legs. Avoids eye contact; has another person speak for them. national average. If you have young children, they are vulnerable. And it is going on in your community. Read that again and then let it sink in. Still unsure? Ask a mom like me. I’ll tell you all about it. Jennifer Holleman has become passionate about educating the public about human trafficking. She is writing a book about her experience as Maddison’s mother. She lives in the beautiful Annapolis Valley. Email j.holleman@