Angela* left the southern United States with her Canadian husband and children and a dream of settling down in the suburbs of Toronto. But the idyllic life with the white picket fence never materialized.
“He told me that the schools here were better than where we were living,” she explained. “He convinced me to come here, except when he did, he decided to play online poker as a job.”
Angela, a sponsored immigrant through her husband, wasn’t able to legally work for some time. But then when she could, her husband wouldn’t allow it.
“He said to be with me and to stay in the country — because if we’re not together I’m not going to sponsor you and you’re not taking the kids with you — you’re going to do this,” she said from her home near Toronto.
“He showed me explicit videos of gang bangs and said, ‘You’ll do this and I’ll take videos and pictures.’
“He promised that if I tried to leave, he would take the kids away from me.”
That’s how the soft-spoken 30-something mother said she was transformed from a small town Southern girl into a sex worker.
“There was this awful, seedy adult video store in Richmond Hill where he would take me,” she said. “Then he started getting hotel rooms, and that was getting crowded because he kept getting more and more men and couples to come in.
“So he started working with a swinger’s club … to have big event parties. He charged (the participants) and I had to do everything he told me to do. When he wasn’t making enough money, he told me to go out and be a prostitute.”
With two young daughters at home, no family support and few friends, she felt she had no choice but to do as he said.
“He shamed me into not telling anyone,” she said
Angela started working at illicit massage parlours.
“I heard through some girls that massages would be easier because it’s just hand jobs — and that’s where I landed,” she said.
She said for three years, from 2012 to 2015, she supported her family through prostitution until she finally broke.
“I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go back to it. I couldn’t do that work,”
She left and learned that she could stay in the country so long as she could support herself and her girls. And she has. But now she fears that her ex-husband could be setting her daughters up for a similar lifestyle.
‘I’m worried that he’s pushing them in that direction and encouraging promiscuity with my daughters,” she explained. She talks about witnessing him change their six-year-old daughter in front of a swimming class, when a change room was just feet away.
She showed CityNews a printout of questionable text messages she found from her now ex-husband on her daughter’s phone and the “skimpy bikinis” he bought her as a 13–year-old.
“I’m trying to protect the kids from following the same path that I got forced into,” she explained. She currently shares custody of the girls with her ex-husband.
Bruce Rivers, executive director at the Covenant House, said while his organization has witnessed a 300-per-cent increase in human trafficking victims over the past four years, he can’t recall a case where a father or parental figure has been involved.
He said while the perpetrator is most often known to the victim, it’s usually a boyfriend, not a parent.
“Most (common) is the ‘Romeo pimp,’” he said “This is a situation we see repeatedly, where a young woman is befriended, she’s engaged by an individual, she’s engaged in a relationship that involves intimacy, and then it will be put to her that she just needs to do this one favour.
“Then that favour turns into another favour and another favour — and it typically involves other people. That’s how these guys suck these women into the trade — and it’s hideous.”
Angela doesn’t believe her ex-husband is trafficking her daughters, but she is worried about their future.
He has been charged with procuring and living off the avails of prostitution.
His next court date is Nov. 14.
*CityNews has changed the woman’s name to protect her children’s identity.