The Abbotsford Community Action Team hosts its annual rally on Tuesday, March 10 against the sexual exploitation of children and youth. (Submitted photo)

Rally to be held against sexual exploitation of youth

Abbotsford Community Action Team holds event on Tuesday, March 10

The Abbotsford Community Action Team (ACAT) hosts their annual public rally on Tuesday, March 10 against the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

The rally begins at 3:30 p.m. with remarks by Wanda Phillips – a youth services team lead at Archway Community Services and ACAT member – and Const. Mary Boonstra with the Abbotsford Police Department.

Those who would like to join the rally are invited to meet at Archway’s office at 32700 George Ferguson Way. Participants will walk down to Gladwin Road and up to South Fraser Way. The event will conclude with refreshments.

“The rally is an opportunity to raise continued awareness that exploitation of youth is happening right here in our community,” Phillips said.

“Our hope with the rally is to increase understanding and promote community mobilization to address the issue.”

The public can also show their support by wearing fuchsia ribbons, which are available at the front desk of Archway at 2420 Montrose Ave. while supplies last.

ALSO READ: ‘I hate you’: Student tells former B.C. teacher who sexually exploited her

The colour fuchsia was chosen because it is a combination of red – representing red-light districts – and purple, which is the provincial colour for violence prevention.

March 9 to 15 is provincially recognized as the Stop the Exploitation of Children and Youth Awareness Week.

Now in its 22nd year, the week recognizes the importance of supporting communities to develop prevention, education, enforcement, and intervention strategies to address the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

Sexual exploitation is the exchange of a sexual act for money, drugs, food, shelter, transportation, love, acceptance or any other consideration.

According to a report by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, “victims of sexual exploitation include children and youth of different ages, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and cultural and economic backgrounds in both rural and urban areas.”

The report also shares that the average age when youth are first exploited is 13 to 15.

ALSO READ: Ottawa details $22 million plan to combat online child exploitation

“The face of exploitation has changed over the past number of years with the net being cast wider and affecting even younger youth,” Phillips said. “What’s scary is that most often young people aren’t even aware they are being exploited.”

She urges parents, teachers and friends to be on the lookout for youth who have unexplained money, cellphones, or gifts. They may have bruises, become withdrawn or moody, or be protective about relationships.

Anyone who suspects someone is being sexually exploited is asked to contact the Abbotsford Police. The Archway Youth Resource Centre can also provide support and resources.

For more information on the rally or ACAT, contact Wanda Phillips at wanda.phillips@archway.ca or visit saferself.ca.

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