Sexual exploitation continues to be a major concern in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada:
- 72% of worldwide human trafficking is done to supply and sustain the sex industry (UNODC, 2016);
- 71% of victims are women and girls (UNODC, 2016);
- Canada is a country of recruitment, transit, as well as a destination for sexual tourism (GRC, 2013);
- The majority of trafficking victims in Canada are used for the purposes of sexual exploitation;
- 1500 to 2200 people are trafficked from Canada to the United States every year; of these, around 1300 are children who are used for the sex industry (RCMP, 2010).
- Researchers estimate that in Montreal alone, 4000 boys and girls (aged 12 to 25) were offering sexual services (Durocher, 2002).
- A minimum of 1500 pimps have actively been conducting business over the past few years (Criminal Intelligence Service of Quebec, 2013).
- In 2011, over 2.6 million transactions linked to prostitution took place (Criminal Intelligence Service of Quebec, 2013).
- 200 massage parlours, 65 strip clubs, and 38 escort agencies are currently operating in the city of Montreal (Criminal Intelligence Service of Quebec, 2013).
- The average age of initial entry into prostitution in Canada is 14 years (Poulin, 2007).
Montreal was identified as a major destination for sexual tourism by the United States’ Department of State; a reflection of the particularly high prevalence of sexual exploitation and prostitution in the province (U.S. Department of State, 2016).
Despite the existence of numerous studies about victims of sexual exploitation, few of these have addressed their practical needs and preferences regarding housing. Consequently, published works note a high correlation between sexual exploitation and lack of proper housing (McNaughton and Sanders, 2007; Baker and Glover, 2013). Furthermore, victims of such exploitation often experience social isolation or stigmatization once they leave prostitution. This can hinder their opportunity for housing stability and therefore be a major cause of successive entries and exits of sex industry (Sagar, 2010). Many women also express that even after leaving the industry and no longer living in situations of sexual exploitation, they fell like have very little control over their lives. Such a feeling of helplessness stems from the control and restrictions implemented by the various social programs that aim to help them (Dewey, 2014).
Therefore, this study aims to better understand the needs relating to housing for girls and women seeking a way out of the sex industry. The results could help with the creation and development of housing models, which could then appropriately be implemented by various organizations and agencies. To that point, a growing number of organizations want to provide housing services to people wanting to leave the sex industry. They hope to receive public and private funding for such a purpose. A better understanding of the needs of those served by these organizations could help guide the services that are provided more effectively.