Not My Home

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anti-sex-trafficking

 

“I regret not telling anyone I was raped at the age of five because that is what set me up for my lack of worth in my life,” Katarina Macleod says in a low yet firm voice.

At the age of five, Katarina Macleod was sexually abused daily by her older brother’s friend. Sometimes she was raped twice a week and sometimes weekly; this went on for three years until her parents divorced and the family relocated.

The abuse didn’t stop there, she was raped again at the age of nine and maintained unhealthy, abusive relationships. These early events of abuse were the catalyst that led her to a physically and emotionally degrading life, in the sex trade industry.

“I quickly learned that men will take what they want and I figured that was sex. I became very promiscuous,” recalls Katarina.

In a sexual abuse study conducted by the University of Hawaii, it was discovered that the majority of prostitutes have been victims of sexual violence. Additionally, more than 90 per cent suffered childhood sexual abuse. The Australian Centre for the study of sexual assault suggested that an intense fear of death and disassociation are natural physical responses to sexual abuse.

In Katarina’s case she explains how abuse became a normal part of her life and she quickly learned how to disassociate herself. When she serviced clients, she recalls feeling so violated that she again disassociated herself from the situation. In the study “Cycle of child sexual abuse,” Professor Kolvin states, “Child sexual abuse victims are at a higher specific risk of prostitution as adults regardless of gender.”

“Sixty-five per cent to 95 per cent of women who are in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children. Whilst, 85-95 per cent of those in prostitution want to escape, but have no survival options,” according to Prostitution Research & Education.

“When women are abused, they conceptualize the abuse as that being all they’re good for. It’s a reaction to how the person deals with trauma,” says Chicago School of Professional Psychology Masters student, Javano Thompson.

Katarina bitterly recalls her first boyfriend, who continued a pattern of abuse.

“My first boyfriend was 18 and I was 12, he constantly beat me. But what I remember the most was him throwing a screwdriver at me and the screwdriver getting stuck in my head.” Reflecting on her silence, Katarina reminisces about becoming so accustomed to being abused and threatened that she eventually learned to be quiet.

Relationships like this paved the way for an unforgiving life in the sex trade filled with haunting memories that even time cannot erase.

When Katarina was 17 she married an abusive man. Her husband was in and out of jail, so he would ask a friend to keep an eye on Katarina and her two kids. This man would play a pivotal role in her eventual career as a prostitute.

Her husband’s friend, Mike* treated the family as if they were his own and he was genuinely nice to her, a feeling she wasn’t accustomed to. Her husband being in jail proved to be a blessing in disguise as the absence of the abuse rebuilt her confidence and fueled her decision to leave her husband.

This decision however proved to be costly, as her husband constantly stalked her, eventually breaking in her house and raping her.

Afraid to press charges, because of the thought of what he might do to her, Katarina agreed to go on a weekend trip with Mike to clear her head. She left her kids with her mother with promises of returning. When she returned, she discovered that her husband had taken her daughter and refused to bring her back. With the situation quickly escalating the police became involved.

It was then that her story took an even more bizarre turn.

The next morning, Mike took her for a ride to clear her mind. He admitted to killing her husband the night before and explained they were on the way to bury him.  Over the next three years, Mike held her hostage using brutal cruelty.

As part of Mike’s plan to deter the police, Katarina attended a women’s abuse group, where she met a woman, whom she eventually found out was Mike’s father ex-girlfriend.  This woman offered her a job and Katarina accepted believing she could save money and escape. Under the belief she would work to save money and eventually escape, she voluntarily accepted the job. It wasn’t long until she found out that all the events were a part of Mike’s plan to brutally torture and control her.

Studies show that women who “choose” prostitution do so out of immediate necessity – debt, unemployment and poverty. They consider resorting to prostitution as temporary means of making money and assume as soon as the debt is paid or a certain sum is earned, they will go home.

At the age of 21 after being a stay at home mom for several months, Katarina entered the sex trade voluntarily. She remembers feeling worthless, as if the only thing she was capable of doing was sexual deeds. She thought that the sex trade would help her provide for her family.

“I remember my first day working as a prostitute, my first client stunk of cologne and his breath smelled of stale cigarettes. I was so nervous that he asked if I was okay, after explaining to him this was my first day and he was my first client, he told me not to worry as he would be gentle.”

A single mother struggling to survive, she could not have known that this life wasn’t something you get out of easily.  No one prepared her for the amount of abuse she took and witnessed, even if they did, everything she had experienced in life reestablished the thought that she belonged in the trade.

 

The Industry

“When you work in a brothel, they accommodate you but you are responsible for cleaning and your condoms,” said Katarina.

The brothel Katarina describes was low end and dirty, there was a waiting room for clients and five or six rooms for services. There were no showers or sinks and sometimes the girls had to sleep in the same bed they serviced clients in.

Working as a prostitute proved to be no easier. “I always felt violated, it truly felt like rape again and again. I learned to disassociate myself from the situation by counting the holes in the ceiling or dreaming that I was somewhere else.”

For workers of the sex trade, prostitution is much like sex trafficking. Public Safety Canada defines human trafficking as the act of depriving people from their normal lives and forcing them to provide their labour or sexual services through a variety of coercive practices, all for the direct profit of their perpetrators.

Human sex trafficking is modern slavery in the form of manipulation. The victims are all robbed of their basic human rights and exploited for profits.  A prostitute generates between $300 and $1500 daily for her john, only receiving 5 per cent of the profits, according to the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.

“I was moved around by my pimp to a lot of different cities and cheap hotels. It was tiring and I was forced to sleep in the same bed I serviced customers in,” recalls Katarina.

Manipulation is just one method of coercion to keep these women working in a trade that is neither profitable to them nor their bodies. Continued abuse also plays a role in the manipulation process of these women. Women are severely beaten and abused as a control mechanism.

“My first two weeks in the sex trade, I was anally raped – I had been punched, choked, had my hair pulled out, spat upon and my jaw was dislocated. All because I had refused to do certain things, “Katarina bitterly recalls the memories.

The Victims

Victims are chosen for various reasons. However, studies show that women and girls who are poor, uneducated and naïve are targeted more because they are easy to control. In addition, girls from the middle class who have been sexually abused until they no longer have the will to resist abuse and exploitation are also targeted.

“Traffickers and pimps search for vulnerabilities such as low self-esteem, lonely women and girls that crave attention. They hang around group homes, shopping malls, bus stops and use Facebook and dating websites,” says Katarina.

It is almost as if abusers can sense the insecurities and self-hatred of these women to use it for their gain. Women that are subjected to sexual abuse are so accustomed to disassociating themselves that it becomes a routine, never allowing themselves to separate from the constant abuse and shame.

A study on Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries states that 95 per cent of women in the sex trade business in Canada want to leave prostitution; whilst 82 per cent want treatment for drug or alcohol addictions.

There’s a continued representation that the sex trade is volunteer and women are free to go at any time. As this may be the case for some women, the abuse received by the majority of women suggests that the ability to leave is lost within the feelings of self-worth.

While there are no statistics to suggest how many women leave the sex trade, it is clear that attempting to leave the industry results in a number of formidable barriers. Women who have been abused and mistreated by people who they once trusted will have a hard time trusting anything that anyone says about exiting. These women require intensive support and encouragement to break free from prostitution.

Katarina recalls getting out as being the hardest thing she ever did. “The money was the biggest hold and having to live below the poverty line was tough.”

“The mental and emotional damage it has caused me is unbelievable. I suffer from Collective Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something I will have forever,” says Katarina.

Names were changed at the request of Katarina

Photo Credit: Patheos,

Has Downtown Oakville lost its appeal?

A spring day in Oakville
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The recession has officially hit Oakville, with downtown businesses feeling the pressure the most.

Some of the treats available in SweetBites

Some of the treats available in SweetBites

A walk on Lakeshore Rd, shows just how much businesses are feeling the pinch, as most of the buildings are for rent or a closing down sign adorns the buildings as an indicator that an operation is shutting its doors.

Yet a walk through the side corners indicate a different picture; business is slow, but it’s enough to get by.

According to Kathy Tang, owner and chief baking officer of Sweetbites, her business managed to maintain itself through one of the worst winters Oakville has ever seen, yet there was an obvious downturn in business on the downtown strip.

“Most businesses in the area have closed down because of the slower pedestrian traffic, they weren’t getting as much customers as they used to in the past.”

“Their rent was also higher and they weren’t able to meet the demands of the business,” said Tang.

Tang repeats the sentiment that is shared by many; although Oakville is an affluent town, the cost of living combined with rent has finally taken a toll on some business owners.

A delicious display of cupcakes in SweetBites.

A delicious display of cupcakes in SweetBites.

Although for Tang, business hasn’t changed much as she isn’t located on the main strip but rather on Trafalgar Road; she has still felt the sting of what she describes as a lack of shopping options in the area.

“My rent is quite reasonable because I’m off the main strip, it’s not as astronomically priced as the ones down on Lakeshore. I’m actually in a pretty good position,” says Tang.

Life as a downtown Oakville business owner 

As consumers are exploring their options when it comes to shopping in downtown Oakville, the streets reflect the status quo. Roads are empty and many stores are deserted, but does this correctly reflect life as a business owner in Oakville?

According to the Oakville’s Chamber of Commerce website, “Businesses in Oakville currently pay between 2.4 and 3.6 times the tax rate of residential property even though they use less than half the municipal services used by a typical resident and pay for services they don’t even receive.”

In addition, on June. 1, 2014 all small business owners in Oakville will have to adhere to a 7.3 per cent increase in minimum wage. Which means that either owners will have to make adjustments in their business operations or they will simply have to shut down.

With all of this controlling their financial schedules, business owners also have to deal with commercial rent which sometimes includes tax. Unlike many other business expenses, rent is inflexible, as there are different types of leases that tenants are bound to. Some of these leases are:

  • Gross Lease: This is where the tenant pays a flat monthly amount. The landlord is responsible for all the expenses of operating a building, including taxes, insurance and repairs. With rising energy costs, many landlords are now including heat and electricity in the gross rent.
  • Net Lease: This type of lease requires tenants to pay for some or all of the real estate taxes on a property in addition to the base rent.
  • Net-Net Leases: These leases go one step further than the net lease. With base rent and taxes, the tenant also pays for insurance on the space that he is occupying.
  • Percentage Leases: This lease is a special arrangement that applies to retailers. In a percentage lease, the tenant pays a fixed rate with the per cent of gross income.

With the different types of leases and the fact that Canadians are still feeling the affliction from the recession; there is no wonder that the businesses on Oakville main strip are finally feeling the pinch.

The view of downtown Oakville on a Saturday is certainly bleak.

The view of downtown Oakville on a Saturday is certainly bleak.

What’s being done?

According to Mayor Rob Burton in an interview done with Inside Halton, businesses downtown have more competition than they have had in the past. He cites numerous factors that affect the decline in business such as; online shopping and the recent opening of an outlet mall in Halton Hills.

To ensure that the town is armed with the tools to combat competition and to continuously draw investment to the area, two studies have been launched by the Town of Oakville’s Economic Development department; the Downtown Cultural Hub and the Downtown Transportation and Streetscape study.

These studies are being designed to give downtown a face-lift whilst ensuring that downtown continues to be a place for everyone.

According to Downtown Oakville Business Improvement Area (BIA) Executive Director Sharlene Plewman, there are ongoing efforts to make downtown Oakville an appealing scene.

“There’s a continued focus to make downtown Oakville an inviting place both for customers and businesses alike, alongside an ongoing awareness program to ensure that people can easily learn about the diversity and inclusive mix of retail, cuisine, service and cultural options downtown.”

“We also continue to grow our partnerships with those who share the same goal of maintaining our vibrant downtown, including property owners, managers, residents and outside business,” says Plewman.

Whilst Plewman was careful not to leak any initiatives that may presently be in the making, she hinted that pending initiatives are being designed to enhance the customers’s experience.

 


View Downtown Oakville BIA Business Directory in a larger map

Commercial lease information was found at Canada Business.

Fort Hood Gunman was being treated for PTSD

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An Iraq war veteran at Fort Hood who killed four people and wounded 16 others at the post on Apr. 2, before taking his own life was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to military officials.

According to reports, the suspect Ivan Lopez was an active-duty enlisted soldier who served four months in Iraq.

Officials said he was being treated for depression, anxiety and other behavior and mental issues but had not yet been officially diagnosed with PTSD.

Lopez had also been examined by a psychiatrist within the last month, but showed no signs that he might commit a violent act. He was prescribed Ambien, a sleep aid, and other medications to treat depression and anxiety.

On Apr. 2, Lopez walked into a building that afternoon and began firing a .45-calibre semi-automatic pistol,according to reports.

Out of the 16 that were wounded, nine remain in hospital.

Hawaiian Police barred from having sex with prostitutes

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Hawaiian lawmakers are determined to restore a line in a bill that would make it illegal for police to have sex with prostitutes.

A controversial exemption in Hawaiian law that allows police to have sex with prostitutes during investigations is currently being changed to make the practice illegal. Currently in Hawaii, police working within investigations are exempt from all prostitution laws.

Despite previous protests to retain the exemption, Honolulu police officials came to an agreement with legislators to have the law changed on Mar. 25.

The law was put in place in the 1970s to protect police from prosecution after undercover prostitution stings. But there are concerns that police are abusing the exemption and raping prostitutes.

Reports say that Honolulu police are okay with making it illegal for officers to have sex with prostitutes as long as undercover officers are still willing to have sex with prostitutes to make arrests.

If the revised bill is passed, police will still be allowed to verbally solicit sex as part of an investigation.

UN General Assembly votes in symbolic non-binding resolution

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The United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution, declaring Crimea’s referendum on independence illegal.

Ukraine proposed the resolution, which was backed by the United States and the European Union. It passed with 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 abstentions.

According to reports, the resolution does not identify Russia by name. It describes the referendum as having no legitimacy and encourages countries not to recognize the redrawing of Ukraine’s borders.

The report also calls on states involved in the Crimea situation to abstain from actions aimed at the disruption of Ukraine’s national unity.

Russian diplomats argued that the referendum simply recognized Crimeans’ desire to rejoin Russia.

As it stands, the resolution has no enforcement power, but it is significant in the history of General Assembly votes.

In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, Crimea sought reunification with Russia, a move backed by over 96 per cent of voters in the referendum.

Halton Region and its ever-changing boundaries

Photo Courtesy of Google.
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The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario has submitted its proposals with consultations for the new boundaries for Halton Region.

Under the Constitution of Canada, federal electoral districts must be reviewed every 10 years to reflect Canada’s increasing population. The federal redistribution process was officially started in February 2012 and the proposal for future electoral districts was completed in October 2013.

The number of substantial changes includes 15 new electoral districts in the regions of Kitchener, Hamilton, Halton, Brampton, Mississauga, Simcoe, York, Toronto Ottawa, Belleville and Durham.

In particular, because the population of Oakville has been steadily increasing, it is necessary to maintain some level of similarity of representation by population.

According to Eric Belanger – a political science professor at McGill University, “Some areas get more or less populated over time, and so the balance of representation gets skewed in the long term. Hence the need to redraw boundaries or add ridings so as to make sure that the number of electors is more or less the same in each riding.”

With the proposal from the Ontario Commission proposal, an electoral district named “Oakville North – Burlington” will be added. This boundary will comprise of the balance of the Town of Oakville lying north of Upper Middle Road and part of the City of Burlington that lies north of the Queen Elizabeth Way, east of Walkers Line to Upper Middle Road. In addition, recommendations were also made for a new electoral district to be named “Burlington North – Milton South” and “Halton Hills – Milton”.

Photo Courtesy of Natalia Lishchyna

Here we see a photo of Oakville – North Burlington federal riding. Photo Courtesy of Natalia Lishchyna

How does this affect Oakville?

Prior to the decision, Halton Region held four electoral districts which were; Halton, Burlington, Wellington – Halton Hills and Oakville. With the new changes, Halton is now split in two districts, Oakville North-Burlington and Milton. Wellington – Halton Hills remains the same, whilst the electoral district of Oakville will be renamed Oakville South with the boundaries unchanged. See the electoral redistribution decisions here.

While the boundary modifications has no dire changes for residents, some Oakville residents which reside in Northeast Oakville will find themselves voting for Halton candidates in the next general elections.

Politically, residents might find themselves in an area where the political spectrum is different from their usual choices.

But this can go both ways as political candidates may discover their support is in another boundary. For example, if a mostly Conservative riding is split in two and the Conservative voters are all in one region, the definite Conservative votes no longer exists and it becomes anyone’s race . According to Ian Stewart, political science professor at Acadia University, “Candidates may discover that their domiciles are now located outside the boundaries of the constituencies in which they wish to run (no legal prohibition, but there are cultural norms against carpet-baggers).”

“Sometimes constituency associations need to be merged or re-structured to account for the new boundaries and this can cause problems among the members and the local executives”, said Stewart.

Candidates Transitioning

Some candidates are out of their comfort zone and facing a challenge of familiarizing themselves with new citizens, while some candidates feel at home in these new boundaries.

Dr. Natalia LIshchyna

Hopeful Conservative Candidate for Oakville – North Burlington federal riding.

Natalia Lishchyna, a Conservative candidate seeking a nomination, says that although Oakville – North Burlington is a new boundary, it isn’t new for her. She has volunteered in the last three of Oakville elections and looks forward to meeting as many people as she can.

“I think that it is a great opportunity to listen to issues important to constituents”, said Lishcyna.

Lishcyna doesn’t see any issues out of the ordinary with the new boundaries, as these questions will always arise when there are different levels of government.

“From a federal perspective, the constituents of Oakville North – Burlington like many across Canada have the economy and jobs as top of mind.”

“Strong, proven leadership in steering the economy by a Conservative government is the only way that we all will continue to enjoy our prosperity collectively and individually”, said Lischyna.

For more on the Oakville riding and its candidates, visit Oakville Riding Twitter & Social Media

US trucker accused of keeping sex slaves

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A U.S. truck driver is accused of keeping two women as sex slaves while beating them regularly, filing down their teeth and forcing them to alter their appearances.

Timothy Jay Vafeades, 54, is charged with kidnapping, transportation for illegal sex activity and possession of child pornography. If convicted he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

According to reports, Vafeades kidnapped a 19-year-old female relative who had come from Florida to work with him in May 2013. After a week she had asked to go home and Vafeades strangled her until she reportedly blacked out. He also used threats and violence to keep her with him for six months.

Vafeades was arrested Nov. 26 in Minnesota, shortly after his arrest a second victim came forward reporting she had been held captive for about three months.

Vafeades made his first appearance in the U.S. District Court on Mar. 12.

Women opportunities are declining in the GTA

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A new report reveals that women in the Greater Toronto Area have lost substantial ground in the workplace and are now attempting to cope with insecure jobs and uncertain futures.

Working Women, Working Poor is a study done by Prabha Khosla for the Women and Work Research Group, which highlights the struggles of diverse working women in the GTA.

Forty-four women participated in the research; 27 participated in three focus discussions and 17 in key informant interviews.

Women at opposite ends of the age spectrum share the sentiment of feeling disposable. Older women expressed being squeezed out of the workplace because the labour market no longer values their skills or experiences.

Younger women expressed the experience of being in a never-ending cycle of temporary jobs, despite the number of years they spent in securing degrees.

According to Khosla, there are two major things happening to women in the GTA.

“On the one hand, women who are slightly older and have been working for many years have gotten laid off. Hardly any of them have been able to get comparable work since then.”

“At the same time, the younger women who have graduated from college or university are also not able to get work,” said Khosla.

Even if they are hired, the report notes that there is a noticeable gender wage gap. In Ontario, the gender wage gap is 28 per cent, which means for every $1.00 earned by a male worker, a female worker earns 72 cents.

In Ontario, more women than men are likely to be working for the minimum wage, and the majority of them are racialized and immigrant.

“We found that these students of the demographic profiles are women that are having the hardest time finding work that they are qualified for, have the education for or have studied for,” said Khosla.

“The only option that seems to be available for many different kinds of women from many different sectors is precarious work.”

Fair and equal opportunities

According to the report, employment standards should be used to narrow the wage disparities among workers in  precarious work arrangements.

The report suggests that the community should continue to campaign for a $14 per hour minimum wage in Ontario. Unions and committees need to continue to be vigilant to ensure that women are paid a fair wage.