By Jeff Labine
THE CHRONICLE-JOURNAL
Published: March 3, 2016

Teenage girls in Thunder Bay’s sex trade are being exploited for as little as $10.

Cheryl Everall, medical director with Joseph Esquega Health Centre, made that comment during the launch of a pilot project aimed to help at-risk girls and others in need throughout the community.

“We have a large sex trade population on the street with girls as young as 14 years old who are selling themselves for as little as $10,” she said.

Sarah Watt, the addictions medicine co-ordinator as well as a social worker with the clinic, said she hears these stories while trying to provide help and support in a non-judgmental way.

“I walk to and from city hall daily because I take the bus to and from work and people kind of recognize me,” she said.

“It’s fairly common (to see) young girls. I think a lot of young girls are targeted. Their minds aren’t fully molded and more likely to be exploited, especially if they have some drug use. They get offered drugs they are looking for and they don’t have the means to pay for it. That’s where a lot of these girls are falling through the cracks because there’s no peer support and programs out there.”

Bridget Perrier, a former sex trade worker, said there are some girls who are exploited much younger than 14 years old. For her, it started when she was 12 years old.

“I never sold myself for $10,” she said. “I was in high-end prostitution. It was a lot of money by privileged men. I was acceptable due to hereditary and my race. The reason it happened to me was because of inter-generational trauma. It made me the perfect candidate for exploitation.”

Perrier continued to work in the sex trade for eight years until 1998. She said she didn’t like what she was becoming.

“I was exploited but I also coerced a lot of girls into prostitution,” the 39-year-old said. “How I feel is that if I can prevent one girl from entering into prostitution or inspire her to exist, my job is done.”