Strolling Away


In 1991-1992, I interviewed 50 young people involved in the sexual exploitation trade in downtown Calgary. A year was dedicated to understanding the lives of these young people. Many that I knew as small children with histories of abuse were now entering the street trade. However, it was clear that not all young people in the sexual exploitation trade had been sexually abused, nor would those unfortunate enough to be sexually abused end up in the trade.

It was for this reason that I completed in-depth research, entitled, "The Youngest Profession – The Oldest Oppression." It revealed that of the 41 females and nine males interviewed, well over three-quarters had experienced sexual abuse prior to their entrance into the trade. This research impacted social policy in the City of Calgary with the result that youth involvement in prostitution was seen to be a form of sexual abuse. For the vast majority of those in the research, their involvement in prostitution was seen as an extension of the sexual abuse they had already faced.

I observed the acceptance of youth involved in prostitutionas a form of sexual abuse. I watched the City and Province embrace this paradigm shift, which resulted in policy, legislative and program changes. This shift was slowly spreading across the country and the term youth prostitution was replaced with the term sexual exploitation. The terms "youth prostitution" and "sexual exploitation" are used with the same intent.

It was during this time that I was encouraged by many to look at those originally interviewed in my first study to determine what had occurred in their lives. It was this continued desire to close the chapter on the lives of these 50 young people that created the energy for "Strolling Away".

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