REACH Edmonton

April 20 to 24 marked Edmonton's annual Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness.

Sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and its related factors remain an ongoing, complex social issue within Edmonton.

"The action of remembering those who have passed or are missing compels us to work even harder to prevent sexual exploitation and its consequences," said Kathleen Quinn, chair of the Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG).

This year, the SEWG partnered with the Inner City High School Leadership Program to develop two short, documentary films on youth perspectives of sexual exploitation.

The first film, Grace, captures the myths that youth hear about sexual exploitation as well as highlights how youth may become involved in sexual exploitation.

The second film, Man Up, speaks to males and encourages them to play a role in ending sexual exploitation.

"We often forget how powerful our youth voices can be. When they speak up we need to listen," said Councillor Scott McKeen. "These films are their voice and the message is loud and clear, we need to work together to put an end to sexual exploitation."

A series of events including a proclamation ceremony, online film screenings and public event were hosted throughout the week.

More than 120 Edmontonians attended the Wednesday evening public event, Shaping the Future Together: Youth Film & Panel Discussion, at City Hall. Councillor Scott McKeen moderated the event.

Panelists included Erin Harding and Kim York from PSECA, Detective Kurt Phulmann from the Edmonton Police Service Vice Unit, Rachelle Venne from the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, and two youth who were involved in the creation of the films.

This week of awareness was organized and hosted by the Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG) - a collaborative of community partners, law enforcement, municipal and provincial government, and REACH Edmonton.